View photos of the Week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
-It was a record-setting day on offense both for the team and individuals. The team itself had 576 yards of total offense, a new team record that the Bucs accomplished on their game-tying drive at the end. Tampa Bay's 450 passing yards in particular, were the second-most in a single game in team history. The Bucs now have the second-most passing yards through first seven games in NFL history with 2,634. Again, in NFL history, not just franchise history, ranking them behind only the 2000 St. Louis Rams of the 'Greatest Show on Turf' variety.
Individually speaking, wide receiver DeSean Jackson broke Hall of Famer Jerry Rice's record of most 60+ yard touchdowns, scoring the 24th of his career on a 60-yard-on-the-dot bomb from quarterback Jameis Winston in the second quarter of Sunday's game. It marked the first touchdown of the day for the Bucs. Jackson has been breaking records left and right this season. Just last week, he eclipsed 10,000 career yards receiving, becoming just the fifth active player in the league to do so. Wide receiver Mike Evans recorded a career-long reception when he connected with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter for a 72-yard touchdown that pulled the Bucs within one score of the Bengals. Evans had 179 yards on six catches during the game and now ranks fifth in receiving yards since he entered the league. He also ranks fifth among all NFL receivers this season with 770 receiving yards.
-The Bucs are the only team in the league that has made 100% of their fourth down attempts this season. Yes, the team has only attempted six, which puts them middle of the pack, but the fact that they've actually converted six ties them for fifth-most, with a four-way tie at seven ahead of them. Tampa Bay's number of attempted fourth downs puts them on the same level of aggressiveness in such situations as teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and NFC South-rival Carolina Panthers, to give you some context. That's attempts. Not conversions. Their number of conversions puts them just one behind the notoriously aggressive and analytics-driven Philadelphia Eagles. Stats like this could suggest that the Bucs' offense is evolving with the league and perhaps buying into said analytics. It also suggests confidence in the offense to be successful in that extra attempt and even confidence on the other side of the ball that if they don't get it, the defense can still stop the opposition.
-This offensive explosion didn't come out of nowhere. Did you know the Bucs had the most first downs of any team besides the New England Patriots last season? They had the most passing first downs of any team, just like they do this season. They have 162 first downs, 131 of which have come via the air. The Bucs' offense is incredibly high-powered and yes, is rivaling that of the early 2000's St. Louis teams, statistically speaking. But any coach or player will be the first to tell you that the only stat that matters is that in the 'W' column. They had 10 contests last season decided by one score. So far this season, that's been true in all but one contest. After going 3-7 in such games last year, the Bucs are 3-3 this year, which is an encouraging sign. The Bucs proved in Week One that they can fight for a win, going back and forth with the division-leading New Orleans Saints before getting ahead – and staying ahead. The Week Seven matchup with the Browns was extremely hard fought and the Bucs came out victorious on the other side. It may have taken a stutter step in the narrow loss to the Bengals, but it seems like this team is starting to figure out ways to win these close games.
-The absence of linebacker Kwon Alexander and the subsequent shifting of the Bucs' linebacking corps was notable. Cincinnati seemed to be going after the linebackers in particular, with screens and short passes to the middle level. Running back Joe Mixon had a career day unfortunately, but that could also have been due to both Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry's absence up front. Curry is a sneaky-good run stuffer and McCoy eats up blocks in the trenches, often drawing a double team that tilts the matchups in his line's favor. Even with all those injuries, the Bucs held the Bengals to converting just five of their 13 third-down attempts. That's a 38 percent conversion rate. They converted just one of their two attempted fourth downs. Their first attempt came on their first drive and rookie safety Jordan Whitehead came down to stop running back Joe Mixon cold on fourth-and-one to force a turnover on downs and Cincinnati to come up empty. The defense made some halftime adjustments that saw the Bengals start the second half with four three-and-outs and five consecutive punts. The thing is, with Tampa Bay's high-powered offense, the defense doesn't need to break records. The Bucs are on the cusp of putting it all together and they'll have the chance and the challenge to do so in a game that could really help their NFC South positioning against the Carolina Panthers this coming weekend.