-With the bye week in the rearview mirror, the focus shifts to where the Buccaneers can improve going forward in the second half of their season. One of the most glaring issues that have plagued Tampa Bay has been penalties & cutting down on them seems to be a priority as the Bucs get back in the swing of things.
"Coach [Bruce] Arians preaches it every day," said Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles on Thursday. "We practice and we work at it every day. There has to be even more focus and we focus on it all the time. Some of them are going to happen and are inadvertent, but we can cut down on a bunch of those, so that'll be a big focus especially going into the second half of the year. Just like the first half, we just can't have them because we understand that helps us beat ourselves."
-Another thing the Bucs are hoping to improve, though they don't have as much control over, is the health of the team. They have been marred with injury mostly on the defensive side of the ball (ahem, cornerbacks) but headed into Week 10, there have been some sneaky injuries to offensive skill players. Still, it seems the Bucs and their number one scoring offense haven't missed a beat.
"Well, it's just having good players to be ready to step in and play," said Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. "I tell you guys all the time I believe and trust in all of the guys that are here. Any guy that I put out there I have the ultimate belief in, so that's part of it. We know we play the game of football. We really have been underhanded for a while now, really since the Rams game I believe. We kind of have been shorthanded everywhere, but that's football, right? I believe in the guys that have come in and played and had to play and step up. They put that work in for these moments and to have these opportunities so when they do come in, they can showcase what they can do and be good at what they do. It's just my job to put them in position to be at their best."
That mentality has permeated down from the top for years now, ever since Arians was a head coach in Arizona.
"B.A. (Bruce Arians) has always been the type where it's next man up," said tight end Darren Fells, who was recently signed by the Buccaneers and played for Arians at the Cardinals for three seasons. "Any guy can be called up at any point, so every guy knows that they're important to the team. And I feel like every guy here [takes] that to heart. Everybody comes in here ready to work and are happy to help each other. It's a true team."
One of those guys that's had to step up in the wake of injuries to the receiving corps has been 2020 fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson and in his second year with the team, already has the trust from his coaches and teammates.
"Very, very steady and I think Tom [Brady] has got all the confidence in the world, I've got all the confidence in the world in Tyler," said Arians. "He steps up, he plays big every time. It took him a while to get in shape, but he got there."
-Speaking of Brady, he faces an opponent this week that he's played a total of six times in the regular and postseason. Last time around, Brady completed 22 of 40 pass attempts for 381 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a 104.3 passer rating.
"It was a tough game," he recalled. "They were down but never out, and they made a lot of really clutch plays. A lot of guys really played good football for them. It's a really great defensive front. There are some young players, but it's all like fourth year, fifth year, sixth year. It's a very young defense in that aspect, there are no 12-year guys and they've got some young guys that are really talented players. It's going to be a great football environment. We've got to go on the road, the road's going to be colder than we're used to. We've got to go play great football and see if we can come off the Bye and start playing better than the way we've played."
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