TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a recreation that a number of Tampa Bay Buccaneers gamers and coaches have replayed of their minds time and again and over.
Quarterback Tom Brady even stated it performed an enormous function in his determination to come back out of retirement.
Final season’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams within the divisional spherical doesn’t sting any much less 9 months later. It was talked about all offseason, much more as soon as a rematch date was set for Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) in Tampa.
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It’s simply been tucked apart as extra urgent points have arisen this season — mainly accidents and a 3-5 gap they’re desperately attempting to climb out of, and within the case of Brady, a extremely publicized divorce that was finalized final week.
“I nonetheless bought a chip on my shoulder from the Rams,” cornerback Carlton Davis III stated.
Final season, the Bucs turned the primary group to convey again all of its starters after successful the Tremendous Bowl the prior season. That they had an offense placing up 30 factors per recreation and residential benefit all through the playoffs, a luxurious they didn’t have the 12 months earlier than.
However the lack of All-Professional proper sort out Tristan Wirfs, a receiving corps decimated by accidents, together with the lack of Chris Godwin, and a defensive entrance unable to get to quarterback Matthew Stafford on the ultimate drive doomed them on Jan. 23. A final-second area aim propelled the Rams to a 30-27 victory, and so they’d go on to win the Tremendous Bowl.
“We blew it,” coach Todd Bowles stated, who was the defensive coordinator final season.
Bowles’ much-criticized cover-0 name noticed six defenders rush Stafford as he fired a 44-yard move to extensive receiver Cooper Kupp, establishing Matt Homosexual’s successful kick.
“It’s a must to be taught to make peace and stay with it,” Bowles stated. “Do you overlook it? By no means in life. I can keep in mind quite a lot of unhealthy performs, as a participant and as a coach. … This play can be one other a type of issues, however that can’t cease you from being you.”
One play earlier than that, on second-and-11, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting slipped whereas attempting to sort out Kupp, surrendering a 20-yard acquire. It is one thing he too has needed to be taught to make peace with.
“He went out on a breaking route, and I simply slipped,” Murphy-Bunting stated. “That is simply the way it was. If I do not slip, I most likely make that play and that recreation is a complete totally different recreation.”
However he would not dwell on it.
“It was nothing I may return and type of unwind or rewind from it. It is simply one thing I’ve gotta stay with. And I simply gotta play higher and be beneath my toes extra, simply staying attentive to the main points and what I’ve to do,” Murphy-Bunting stated.
Brady, who introduced his retirement 9 days after the loss, watched the Rams Tremendous Bowl at residence and commenced texting normal supervisor Jason Licht — a precursor to Brady popping out of retirement.
“I simply advised [my wife], Blair, ‘He’s actually into this recreation,’” Licht stated. “‘You may inform he needs he was taking part in on this recreation. I do not — I do not assume the fireplace is out.’”
Defensive again Antoine Winfield Jr., who was in protection with Kupp on that closing play stated, “Each time I give it some thought, I’ve bought a nasty style in my mouth. … It was robust.”
Mike Evans caught glimpses of the sport whereas he and his spouse went out for his or her anniversary dinner.
“It was bittersweet,” Evans stated. “I bought pals on that group that I [wanted] to see win, however they beat us, so I kinda [didn’t] need them to win. It was simply robust.”
It was a helpless feeling for Wirfs, and likewise Godwin — who had been positioned on injured reserve after tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 15.
“I couldn’t get it out of my head. I used to be simply going by means of these situations — what if I may have accomplished one thing?” Wirfs stated.
Godwin added, “I couldn’t assist however really feel that I may’ve had an influence to assist change the result of that.”
The Bucs are a a lot totally different group now. Lots of the strikes they made this offseason had been in response to what they lacked in that recreation — wholesome receivers, a greater push up the center, higher disguises and higher tackling.
“We gave up two passes to Cooper Kupp,” cornerback Jamel Dean stated of the ultimate collection. “That stayed with me the entire offseason. That’s the very last thing you keep in mind. So now it’s identical to, ‘How can I higher myself to make sure I might help out much more?’”
Even Bowles stated he wouldn’t change his aggressive fashion after that closing name. However Bowles has known as cowl 0 solely 4 instances this season — all within the loss in opposition to the Baltimore Ravens final week. He known as it 13 instances by means of the primary eight video games final season.
To date, the advantages of their personnel strikes haven’t been felt. In actual fact, they’ve gone from “Unfinished Enterprise” — which is what Brady used as a hashtag when he introduced his unretirement after solely 40 days — to virtually completed.
They’re with out Professional Bowl heart Ryan Jensen, who suffered a devastating knee damage to open coaching camp. Newcomers Julio Jones and Russell Gage have been hobbled by accidents since being added to the roster by way of free company for extensive receiver depth, with Jones lacking 5 video games.
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who was signed to exchange Ndamukong Suh, has been sidelined since struggling a foot damage in Week 2 however was in a position to return to apply final week. His presence, when paired with defensive sort out Vita Vea, may dramatically shift the Bucs’ run protection, which has taken a nosedive this 12 months.
Veteran security Logan Ryan, who’s given them extra versatility of their coverages, has been out since additionally struggling a foot damage in Week 4 and was positioned on injured reserve.
The Bucs’ newest damage could be the worst of all. Outdoors linebacker Shaquil Barrett, their high edge rusher is now out for the season after tearing his Achilles final week. And Winfield, who suffered a concussion in Week 7, was dominated out on Friday.
Sitting in third place within the NFC West, with probably even worse safety points, the Rams (3-4) aren’t the place they had been hoping to be both.
Stafford has greater than taken his share of hits, however the Bucs aren’t overlooking a group that ended their quest for back-to-back Tremendous Bowls final season.
“This can be a good soccer group, and it is a group we’ve not performed very properly in opposition to the final couple years,” Brady stated. “They run a very good program. … They play properly beneath strain. A variety of guys step up for them. They have a number of the elite gamers within the NFL. It is good competitors, and we have had that. We simply have not matched it.”
None of these issues are misplaced on Bowles both, whose emphasis after coming off a Thursday recreation was to hit the reset button by getting again to fundamentals. However the feeling round this recreation has actually modified.
“It actually doesn’t matter who we play this week,” Bowles stated. “We have to work on ourselves.”
So, no, the Bucs will not be utilizing this recreation as a barometer to check the place they stand amongst Tremendous Bowl contenders, having spent the final three weeks calling video games “must-win,” and nonetheless shedding.
However forgetting what occurred the final time these two groups met will not be simply missed both.
“We’re a very totally different group,” security Mike Edwards stated, “however on the finish of the day, we all know a few of these guys stepped in and stopped us from successful a championship. So we positively nonetheless take into consideration that.”