Being the defending Super Bowl champions comes with the danger of complacency. It may be the biggest challenge teams face as they get their opponents' best shots in their quest to repeat their result from the year before. What we've consistently heard from this Buccaneers' team though, is that last year doesn't mean, well, you know what. They have a coach who preaches accountability and a quarterback who has been here before. They aren't resting on their laurels and Sunday's 48-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons, though convincing in the end, was a microcosm of that mentality.
"What I think – and I'm sure other guys feel the same way – is I think we could do better. I really do," said quarterback Tom Brady following a game where he threw for five touchdowns and the Bucs put up 48 points. "I think we have the opportunity, the way that the games are flowing and the opportunities we're getting with the ball, we have even more opportunities. We're a little loose with the ball – some penalties at different times that have knocked us out of some scoring drives – some missed throws that I've had, some missed reads – certainly wish that I made a few better throws tonight. But again, good to get the win – 2-0 and there's a lot to build on and just good to beat a division opponent."
Let's examine what exactly there is to build on then with three main takeaways from the game.
1. Defensive pressure paying off – even if it's not in the form of sacks.
Yes, it's true the Buccaneers only have two sacks through the first two weeks of the season. Was the lack of production a little shocking to see against a pocket passer like Atlanta's Matt Ryan? Maybe so. But just because the Buccaneers aren't racking up quarterback takedowns, doesn't mean they aren't getting to him – including knockdowns.
"They're winning a bunch," Arians said of the defense. "Vita [Vea] is killing his guys, it's just he's knocking them into the quarterback and not sacking them. I think we're getting a ton of pressure. We knocked Dak [Prescott] down a bunch of times. Knocking them down sometimes is as good as sacking them. They feel it, too, but yeah, I'd like to see some more sacks."
The Bucs recorded seven quarterback hits in Sunday's game. They pressured Ryan 11 times, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. And though the Bucs only sacked Ryan once, the pressure, and more specifically the blitz, affected Ryan's passing game most of all. Tampa Bay blitzed, meaning they brought five or more players, on 36.7% of dropbacks on Sunday. Against five pass rushers, Ryan had a quarterback rating of 60.7 Against six rushers, that went down to 58.3. All three of Ryan's interceptions came when the Bucs rushed five or more. All three of those turnovers resulted in points on the board for Tampa Bay.
I don't know about you but I'd take points on the board over sack numbers all day.
2. The number of the day is TWO.
So I had to make this the second point, of course.
Let's run down the list of twos, shall we?
-Two different Mikes scored touchdowns for the Bucs.
-Mike Evans had two touchdowns after being quiet in Week 1 and subsequently causing every fantasy football player to freak out at his lack of production. He's fine. You fantasy team is fine. Quit whining.
-Mike Edwards had two defensive touchdowns in the form of pick sixes. It was his first interception returned for a touchdown since his college days at Kentucky when he took one to the house against Middle Tennessee State for his last collegiate interception. Edwards has never had two pick sixes in a game… until now. He's the first player to return two interceptions for touchdowns since 2012 and the first player to record two pick sixes in a single quarter since 1997. That feat has shockingly been done 10 times in NFL history… guess turnovers really do come in bunches. Edwards is now tied for the league lead in INTs, no second place here.
-Rob Gronkowski had two touchdowns. That marks his third-straight game with two or more 'tuddies,' which ties a league record for tight ends. He's the first Buccaneer to do that, ever. Gronk now has the second-most games with multiple touchdown receptions as a tight end with 19, trailing only Antonio Gates, who had 21. More than that, Gronkowski's four touchdown receptions through the first two games of a season are a first for a Buccaneer player, period. Gronk's 11 touchdowns since he arrived in Tampa are tied for the second-most by a tight end in that span. Lotta twos.
-Quarterback Tom Brady was nominated for FedEx Air Player of the Week for the second week in a row. It may have something to do with the fact that he has nine touchdowns through the first two games and while that isn't a two, that's the second-most in league history behind only Patrick Mahomes in 2018. Brady also now moves into the second spot, tying with Peyton Manning, in career games with four or more touchdowns thanks to his last two performances. Brady and Manning have 35 such games. Only Drew Brees has more with 37. Brady is also listed second on the career list for three or more passing touchdown games. He has 95 of those to Brees' 97. Brady is making a little bit more Bucs history, too. Including the postseason, he now has five games with at least four touchdown passes, which is the second-most by any Buccaneer in franchise history.
View the top photos of Tampa Bay's week two matchup vs. Atlanta Falcons.
3. Too many penalties.
There was a slight improvement in penalties from Week One where the Bucs had 11 penalties for over 100 yards. Against Atlanta, they had nine penalties for 83 yards. The issue becomes when the opponent capitalizes off of those situations – which Atlanta did. That's how they were able to close the gap in the third quarter. After Ryan connected with Calvin Ridley to make the score 28-17 halfway through the quarter, the Bucs ended up punting thanks in part to a sack and then to a false start penalty. Pre-snap penalties are a special kind of disappointment. Atlanta's next series was then helped by a face mask penalty on Carlton Davis that set the Falcons up with first and goal at the seven-yard line. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta scored and after a successful two-point conversion, pulled within three points. This came after the Bucs had a 21-10 lead at the half. You can't always count on two pick-sixes to put you back up.
The good news is, the players know that.
"Our offense sometimes has to lean us and we have to step up and make plays," said Edwards. "We took a step off the gas a little bit and [weren't] playing our brand of football. We let them get a couple explosive plays out there and not executing our defense. But we stepped up and got turnovers that led to points. [We were] just playing our brand of football. We definitely have to play better next week, but for sure we definitely will."