There was royalty all over Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night. The guests of honor were New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the GOAT himself, Tom Brady. And Tony Dungy. And: Deion! And several Bucs Ring of Honor inductees on hand for the induction of the late Malcolm Glazer. The Bucs wore red. The Patriots wore white. Michael Irvin wore plaid. But Tom Petty music blared from the sound systems during a replay. How bad a night could it have been?
For Jameis Winston: bad. Never mind that New England entered the game with the worst defense in the league, by far the worst pass defense, having allowed 128 points in four games. You wouldn't have known it by Winston and the Bucs' offense. Jameis rallied the Bucs in the fourth quarter, even found DeSean Jackson at last, but the Bucs came up short, losing 19-14. They wasted a very good defensive effort against Brady. And they wasted their time with Nick Folk.
In other news, good news, Doug Martin showed promising signs in his return. The Bucs' defense stepped up and kept holding the Patriots to field goals. The pass rush doubled its season sack total in the first half alone, getting sacks by Clinton McDonald and Gerald McCoy, and a quick pick for rookie Justin Evans. Michael Irvin wore plaid.
One for the beard
G The Bucs inducted late owner Malcolm Glazer into their Ring of Honor at halftime, a nice tribute to the man who helped make the Bucs into Super Bowl champions. A large gathering of former Bucs, grateful Bucs, joined the Glazer family on the field for the ceremony.
D Winston looked a little up and down, meaning he looked a lot like Jameis always looks. Too many short drives in the first half, too much watching Brady. Winston went deep for an open DeSean Jackson early in the third quarter. Guess what happened. But they connected late, and Winston woke up and was 14-for-21 for 225 yards in the fourth quarter.
A- Win or lose, the sight of Doug Martin gaining ground again was a good sign for the Bucs. Martin, fresh from a four-game suspension, looked pretty good considering, or even not considering. He had 55 yards at the half and broke off two big runs on the Bucs' first-half touchdown drive, and he went up and over for the score. If the Bucs are going to amount to anything, they'll need Martin.
And how was your night?
A The defense played well. And one day Justin Evans will have one of his grandchildren on his knee and he'll tell the story: "Yeah, I just read his eyes — picked Brady." The Bucs' rookie defensive back got his first NFL start, replacing injured safety Keith Tandy. So naturally, within a minute, Evans intercepted an errant pass by the greatest of them all, reaching back to make it grab.
A Before the national anthem, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Las Vegas shootings. Thousands of fans held up the lights on their cellphones. It was a simple moment, a majestic one, and it reminded us that for all our differences, we're closer than we think.
D Okay, the Bucs' red uniforms are a bit much. Let's just leave it at that. The only consolation was that it wasn't Michael Irvin's plaid threads. The Hall of Fame receiver went as his grandmother's couch. Several fans were later admitted to area hospitals, where they received transfusions of beige.
Nick back to his tricks
F A missed 49-yard field goal and a missed 31-yarder sealed Nick Folk's fate. Today, if not sooner.
Not To Be Confused With Jon Grudon …
F Cameras caught former Bucs coach Tony Dungy sitting in one of the boxes at the game. His name was flashed on the big boards. Tony Dungey. Nice.