The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were trailing the Dallas Cowboys, 29-28, with 1:24 left in last Thursday's season opener when Tom Brady and the offense got the ball back. The Buccaneers were understandably confident that Brady would deliver the needed drive to get into field goal range, and in fact he did.
After a 24-yard Brady completion to Chris Godwin and three clock-killing throws out of bounds, the Buccaneers sent out Ryan Succop with seven seconds remaining. They needed Succop to nail a 36-yard field goal to win the game, but also because they needed to get to 31 points. That's kind of the Buccaneers' thing.
Tampa Bay has now won nine straight, playoffs included, and in the last eight they've scored 30 or more points each time. Weirdly, they've scored exactly 31 points in each of their last three games, and in four of their last five and five of those eight overall. Warren Sapp used to tell the Bucs' offense, "Give us 17 points and we'll win the game for you." He would have loved this team.
You've likely heard that nine straight wins is a Buccaneer franchise record; that was actually true by the time it reached eight in Super Bowl LV. Well, this is also the first time the Bucs have scored at least 30 points in eight straight contests. That's not surprising, given that such a streak had only been accomplished four other times in NFL history.
The Denver Broncos of 2012-13 hold the record with 12 straight games with 30 or more points. The 2007 New England Patriots are next with a nine-game streak…actually eight in a row to open that season after a 38-34 loss to Peyton Manning's Colts in the 2006 playoffs. The Bucs' run of eight such games ties for third with the 2000 St. Louis Rams and the 2010 New England Patriots. It doesn't take an NFL historian to see what those teams have in common: Legendary quarterbacks. Those Broncos had Manning, the Rams had Kurt Warner and, well, you know who the quarterback of the other three teams on this list is. I may have mentioned his name in the first sentence of this mailbag.
But here's where it gets even cooler, and this note is courtesy of the Buccaneers' communications department, who did the research:
Only three teams have ever scored 30 or more points in eight straight victories. Wins, not just games. One man has been at the helm of all three of those offenses.
Yes, only Brady has done that. Manning's Broncos lost twice in their 12-game streak, including once to Baltimore in the 2012 playoffs, with a run of six wins in the middle. Warner's Rams dropped the seventh game of their eight-game run to the Chiefs, 54-34 (!).
But Brady's 2010 Patriots won all eight games in their run of 30-plus games, and his 2007 team won those first eight games noted above after their 2006 playoff loss.
The Buccaneers will try to make it nine in a row this Sunday against the Falcons, who lost their season opener to Philadelphia, 32-6 and gave up just under 26 points per game last year. If that happens, Brady will be the only man ever to lead an NFL team to nine straight wins in which it scored 30 points every time out. Of course, he already stands alone, so the record is his no matter happens on Sunday.
And now on to your questions.
A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who's the starting long snapper after Triner's injury?
- @cb_photography66 (via Instagram)
Well, let's start with an easy one since this is basically just reporting on transactions.
Long-snapper Zach Triner suffered a finger injury in the season-opening win over Dallas and has been placed on injured reserve. He is likely to miss the majority of the regular season after surgery was required but could possibly return near the end.
Since long-snapper is a position that is always just one-deep on the depth chart, that meant Tampa Bay had to find one that was currently not on an NFL roster. They tried out a handful of snappers on Monday and settled on Carson Tinker, who has good experience, having played in 69 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2013-18. Jeff Ryan and I had punter Bradley Pinion on our Salty Dogs podcast on Wednesday and Pinion said that Tinker quickly fit in during his first Buccaneers practice on Monday and that the whole punting and place-kicking operation should continue to run smoothly.
Since this is such a quick and easy answer, let's also use this space to give some much-deserved praise to Triner, who apparently suffered the injury early in the game but kept it mostly to himself and finished the night out. That included snapping on what would be Ryan Succop's do-or-die kick at the end of regulation. Triner's teammates and coaches were very impressed with his toughness and credit him with setting a tone for the guys on special teams.
"Those guys don't have the reputation of being really, really tough guys," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "Nobody knows their names until somebody screws it up. He exemplifies everything that we talk about. Obviously, finishing that ball game was huge for us."
Arians said starting center Ryan Jensen is the team's emergency long-snapper if one was needed in a game, so that's who would have been snapping at the end if Triner hasn't toughed it out. As a center, Jensen is a logical choice and he's probably 10,000 times better at it than you or me. Still, he certainly wouldn't have been as sure of a thing there at the end as Triner, a man who long snaps as his sole profession, was.
How many records did the victory over the Cowboys break?
- @bus_uk (via Instagram)
That's kind of a vague question, and I'm not sure there were any records of note broken on Thursday night.
I mean, there were tons of notable accomplishments but none that I think qualify as broken records. Tom Brady became the first quarterback to start 300 regular-season games, but he already had the all-time record at 299. Brady also threw for 300 yards in the game, the 100th time he's done that, but he's the second player to do so. Drew Brees has 123. He's closing in on Brees in several other categories, including games with at least three touchdown passes (he had four). He now has 94, just three back of Brees's 97.
As I noted in the intro, the Buccaneers won their ninth straight game, but eight was already the franchise record. They won their eighth straight game with at least 30 points scored but the record is nine.
You can smash some numbers together to get first-time achievements, which I suppose you could call a record if you wanted to. The Buccaneers gave up more than 450 yards of offense to the Cowboys and also committed four turnovers. That's the first time they've ever done those two things in the same game and still won. So I guess that's the team record for "most-wins-in-a-game-while-allowing-450-yards-and-committing-four-turnovers." That's kind of unwieldy. Not going to look good in the official record section in the media guide.
Um, Brady and Rob Gronkowski hooked up on their 85th and 86th touchdown passes together, which allowed them to pass Steve Young and Jerry Rice for the third most ever. Only Peyton Manning-and-Marvin Harrison (112) and Philip Rivers-and-Antonio Gates (89) had more. Still, not actually a record yet.
Lavonte David made his 137th career start as a Buccaneer. Only Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Paul Gruber and Tony Mayberry had more. That's a record for linebackers not named Derrick Brooks.
I think you get the point. It was a cool and exciting game that generated a lot of interesting notes, but it wasn't full of broken records.
why is no one talking about Vita?
@chandra19 (via Instagram)
Is that really true? Is no one talking about Vita Vea after his dominant performance on Thursday against the Cowboys? I feel like I've heard people talking about him. I, uh, wrote a whole story about it earlier in the week using NFL Next Gen Stats.
This former Buccaneer who had some pretty dominant games from the interior line was talking about Vita on Thursday night:
In fact, a quick little tour through Twitter turned up a lot of Vea-related chatter. Here were a few of my favorites:
If the NFL world is sleeping a little bit on Vea, well that won't last long. I think one reason he may not get quite as much attention as he deserves is that his dominant performances don't always produce statistics. They don't give the game's broadcasters an opportunity to shout, "Vita Vea with the sack and the forced fumble!" I mean, sometimes he does those things but in general he is affecting the game immensely without putting up any numbers or giving the announcers an obvious thing to shout about.
The recognition is coming. Those who follow the team closely are having more and more reasons to write or talk about him, and that's going to gradually raise his profile. Here are a couple recent articles, local and national, about Vea's dominant play. Expect more to follow.
Is Rojo gonna be able to keep his sgarting job now that he has it back?
- @theboss924 (via Instagram)
I know what you're getting at here, boss, but I think we need to clean up the timeline a little bit.
Ronald Jones never really lost his starting job and so he is not really 'getting it back' this week. I'm sure that notion comes from Bruce Arians saying on Tuesday that Jones would start in Week Two against. This was essentially part of Arians' overall point that he has not lost confidence in Jones after the running back's costly lost fumble against Dallas.
I think the way we're going to have to look at this situation is to accept that Arians means it literally when he says he views both Jones and Leonard Fournette as starters. Barring an unusual two-tailback set-up, only one of those two guys is technically going to start each game, but who gets the first snap isn't going to have much impact on how many touches each guy gets.
In the preseason, Arians started Fournette in the first game with the first-team offense. The starters didn't play in the second game but in game three the first snap with the first team went to Jones. Against Dallas, in the first game of the regular season, Fournette was on the field for the first series and Jones for the second. Now Arians is saying that he plans to start Jones in the next game. Sounds like a pattern to me. If you consider both backs to be starters, one way to prove it is to give them alternating starts.
So basically Jones (and Fournette) started the season with half of a starting job, and while his fumble in the second quarter surely contributed in him getting no more snaps the rest of the way, it was not something that affects Arians plans for subsequent games. Fournette also had a hand in a turnover right after Jones's fumble, as a screen pass meant for him bounced off his hands and straight to those of Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons. Arians has not lost confidence in either back after those isolated plays.
I do believe that Jones can hold onto a very prominent role in the Bucs' backfield. He was actually looking quite good as a runner against Dallas before his fumble. Last year, he broke a Tampa Bay single-season record by averaging 5.1 yards per carry. While Fournette emerged as the star in the playoffs, Jones still added 139 rushing yards and gained 4.0 yards per carry.
Jones has three fumbles since the start of the 2020 season, all of them recovered by the defense. That's not great but I don't think it quite qualifies as a worrisome problem just yet. Assuming he displays good ball security the rest of the way, Jones should remain a significant part of the offense.