-First things first, the Buccaneers matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders has been switched from Sunday Night Football to 4:05 p.m. ET and will now be aired on FOX. The reason for the change stems from a positive COVID test in Las Vegas that adds a question mark to the game itself. So far, the positive has been isolated and multiple players were sent home under the NFL's contact tracing guidelines but no new positives have surfaced. Should that remain the case, the game will now be on Sunday afternoon.
-The Buccaneers are riding high after shutting down the Green Bay Packers but that doesn't mean they're taking their foot off the gas at all. In fact, quarterback Tom Brady said that he wants to do the opposite.
"I think a lot of it is continued chemistry and attitude, and a lot of it is a feeling out there in practice," he said. "Confidence, are we improving? You can measure yourself week-to-week and, 'How does this day compare to last Thursday? How can we improve our process?' Every year is a little bit different. For me, it's been that way every year. You may think going into the year that this is going to be the focal point of the offense, and then it's just not. For one reason or another it's not and then you have to transition and change it. We've got to get everyone out there together consistently at practice and improve through practice so that in the game, we can play with confidence and anticipation, so the execution is at a higher level. A lot of people take their foot off the gas. For me, I think that it's been important to put even more pressure on the gas pedal. It's just more. Every week you just empty the tank. I don't know what it looks like on Monday. If you empty the tank through your preparation [and] through all the work that you're doing and then you play the game on Sunday, Monday you wake up and you're exhausted. But, you know what? You've got to ramp it back up [on] Monday and Tuesday. You've got to fill the tank, be ready for Wednesday and empty the tank again that week. There's no shortcut. It's a long year and that's where mental toughness comes into play. Guys are very physically tough – there's no doubt about it. Mental toughness is a very important part of football because this is a marathon. You don't wake up in Week 7 or 8 and say, 'Man, I feel so fresh. This is a piece of cake.' NFL football is just not like that. It's demolition derby out there. There's a lot of guys with a lot of bumps and bruises. It's less sleep, then it's travel, it's frustration for different things. You lose the game, you're frustrated. You don't play as well as you're capable of playing [and] you're frustrated. You've got to deal with those emotions. There's a constant challenge in there and everyone's got to find the way that they deal with that the best. But, you've got to embrace that about yourself and then be open about that with your teammates so that when you come in, you accept the coaching, you understand the responsibility as a player to your teammates and you try to make it better every day. When players see your commitment to it, they believe in you. Even if it doesn't go right, they still believe that you care enough to make the commitment to make it better. I think that's very important, too."
Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich knows there are still improvements to be made on offense, too. But he has said the same thing each week this season, the talent is there, they just need to put it all together and correct the self-inflicted mistakes. Head Coach Bruce Arians said leading up to the Packers game, the team bounced back with some of their best practices all season. It was a response to a loss in Chicago against the Bears and it was a statement.
"I trust in the guys, so I trust in them that if we're telling them that there's things we have to correct and things we've got to do for us to win football games, this group has always tried their best to get that done," said Leftwich. "I don't think it was so much about being undisciplined – I just think it was one of those games where it happened that way. We came to work the next week trying to work on it and trying to get better at it, and we showcased it on Sunday. These guys do a heck of a job when you come in. It's great when you come in as a coach, get with your guys and you tell them what we need to do moving forward to get better as a football team, and everybody puts their hand in the pile and does what they can to make sure we try to accomplish that. You don't always get it done – you're not going to go through games having zero penalties week in and week out. But, I do like the way that we approached the week [and] I liked the way we approached the situations of football – the in-game situations, that's part of it [and] penalties. I think we did a good job of just responding to that."
The defensive side of the ball was especially effective on Sunday, but we've been over that. They've been having success for a majority of the year. With such a young group, especially in the secondary, what does Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles attribute their improvement to?
"They're football players and they have a year under their belts, so they're obviously a lot smarter coming into the second year [and] have a lot more experience," said Bowles. "Last year they were trying to learn the defense [and] what we were trying to do. This year they know the defense, so they're starting to understand what offenses are trying to do to them. They're starting to apply that, and they've done a lot of film study, so they're starting to play very well."
The system is a complex one, but once you get an understanding of it, it's a fun one. Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross knows that, and says this defense isn't even firing on all cylinders quite yet.
"I'm used to it under Todd," Ross said of the defensive complexity. "Todd has a hell of a system. You just have to be able to teach a lot of techniques. They're not there yet. We're not there completely yet, but we are getting better at what we're doing. We should start peaking in the middle of next month or the end of next month. We hope to be peaking at that particular time. The confidence is growing in the back end, which is really good because they allow us to do a lot of things. The more they can do, the more we can dial up."
And the more they can dial up, the more fun it is. Just ask defensive lineman Will Gholston.
"It's amazing – it's a lot of fun," he said. "[There are] ups and downs just like anything in life, but I'm having the most fun I've ever had playing football since I've been in high school. So, whatever is going on, I hope it keeps going on. Whatever I can do, I'm going to do."
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