No one expected the defense to come on strong and stave off a ferocious comeback from the Atlanta Falcons, but the Bucs persevered, winning 16-13 at Raymond James Stadium.
It looked like the Bucs of the late '90s: solid defense, pound the rock and play to win.
While many may call it an "ugly" win, the Buccaneers now improve to 2-1 on the season and are riding high after defeating a division rival.
What were the good, the bad and the ugly during Sunday's victory?
It's about time someone other than a linebacker or a safety registered a sack for the Buccaneers' defense.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn snapped Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in half, forcing a fumble in the second quarter. That was the first time–yes, the first time—this season that a defensive lineman caused a sack.
And who got the assist on Clayborn's sack? Gerald McCoy, who was a man possessed against Atlanta's offensive line.
Before Bucs fans get too hyped up, just remember that the Falcons' o-line may be the worst in the NFL. Not to bring you down, but it's true.
Hey, it's a start and an ego boost.
Dekoda Watson/Mason Foster:
Watson was everywhere, registering a sack and forcing a fumble on Atlanta's first possession. The rest of his stats don't look like the greatest, but the former Florida State standout didn't contribute after the half because the Falcons were playing catch-up, and Watson's not in on nickel situations.
Foster looked like a vet. You saw him barking orders, staying with his assignments and tallying five solo tackles with a sack.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris must have had Foster in the film room a lot more than usual this week, because the middle linebacker seemingly knew where to go at all times and played an excellent game.
Not bad, rook. Not bad.
Honorable Mention: Ronde Barber
The old man still has it, intercepting Ryan and registering four tackles and three passes defended.
The Bucs had a couple of brilliant opportunities to put the game away early, but struggled to punch the ball in when inside the 20-yard line.
Finishing 1-for-4 in the red zone with an interception, and settling for field goals, will not win many games. Trading blows like that with the Saints or Texans will equal an automatic L on the record sheet.
Greg Olsen has to take a lot of the blame there, especially for not handing the ball off to LeGarrette Blount on that opening series.
Face it, he had a bad game.
Multiple overthrows, an ill-advised interception in the end zone and snail-like decision-making puts Freeman in this category.
Freeman receives all of the credit when rallying his team in the fourth quarter, but never takes the brunt of the blame when the offense struggles.
We all know he's a tremendous leader with intangibles that fly off the charts, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio is awful, and the overthrown ball are worrisome.
Honorable Mention: LeGarrette Blount
He certainly would've made the "good" list, except for one major flaw: his pass protection.
Blount ran the ball well and even caught a pass for a first down, but nearly got Freeman killed. Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards came unblocked and Blount dove at his feet, allowing Edwards to jump over him and pressure Freeman.
Blount wants to be an "every-down" back? Pass protect!
Someone want to explain to me why E.J.Biggers was covering arguably one of the best wide receivers in the league?
Roddy White caught nine passes for 140 yards—the majority was while Biggers covered him.
Was Aqib Talib unavailable or intimidated by White? Is rookie wide receiver Julio Jones so explosive that it garners the Bucs' best defender to cover him?
Morris made a horrible personnel move, and it nearly cost Tampa Bay the game.
Second-Half Offensive Intensity
A 16-play, 65-yard drive ending in a field goal, elapsing eight minutes to start the third quarter was promising.
After that, only 13 plays on three drives with zero points, before icing the game on the last possession, a 10-play drive—not promising.
Honorable Mention: Brian Van Gorder's 'stache
Someone want to explain to me why Falcons defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder is allowed to have such a ridiculous looking mustache?
A win's a win, no matter how ugly or discouraging it is. "Buc Ball" was built on being unattractive.
The "lack of offseason preparation" excuses are getting stale, and the Bucs have to quickly iron out their issues, while learning to build a balance between offense and defense.
What better time than on the big stage against the reeling Indianapolis Colts?