TAMPA — This is not going to be boring.
The Rays are heading to the playoffs for the first time in six years. Those regular-season wonders, the Lightning, are about to hit the ice.
Lost in that shuffle were the Bucs, especially after a disastrous home loss to the Giants that presumably sealed 2019’s fate.
Only someone forgot to tell Bruce Arians and his team.
Along came Sunday and Cousin Brucie and the Bucs pulled off one of the biggest wins in franchise history, at least in September, a 55-40 shocker at the defending NFC champion Rams.
No Bucs team had ever scored so many points in a single day. No Bucs team had ever turned the tables like this, with Arians, who turns 67 this week, outsmarting twice-as-young Sean McVay, complete with Hollywood ending, Ndamukong Suh running a recovered fumble back the final touchdown.
The world’s longest road trip is off to an audacious start.
Repeating: This is not going to be boring.
“It’s going to be interesting to the end,” he said.
We’re at the quarter pole in this season.
The Bucs could be 4-0.
The Bucs could be 0-4.
But has it ever been boring?
They’re 2-2 with a chance to tie for the lead in the NFC South if they win Sunday at New Orleans. The Saints will be on alert, even more without Drew Brees. The Bucs punched the Saints in the mouth to open last season. The Saints will be ready.
Then again, how would I know?
These Bucs keep us on our toes. They did even when The Rams got a late pick-six off Jameis Winston. The game could have fallen away right there.
“And nobody blinked,” Arians said.
And nobody blinked.
That’s the story of these Bucs. They don’t always win. They don’t always lose. But they are beginning to not blink a lot. They’re too focused on riding the roller coaster.
Note: Roller coasters are never boring.
There were career days all over the Los Angeles Coliseum. Winston threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Ronald Jones easily could have finished with more than 100 yards. Chris Godwin grabbed 12 balls for 172 and two TDs. The defense, as shredded as it was by a desperate Rams comeback, 517 passing yards, also forced four turnovers, including two by linebacker Shaq Barrett, currently the quarter-pole NFL defensive MVP. And rookie Matt Gay, back from the dead and the Giants game, hit a 58-yard field goal. Beat that, Carli Lloyd!
Throw in Suh’s return and a punishing 5-for-6 red-zone efficiency and great blocking and a postgame celebration that included awarding a game ball to Bucs GM Jason Licht, who had traveled back to Nebraska after his father died. It was a tender gesture.
Just so you know, Licht signed Shaq Barrett.
Look, I’m not saying Sunday didn’t set up perfectly for the Bucs. The Rams were in the middle of a prime-time sandwich, having won at Cleveland last Sunday night and clearly already looking ahead to a short week and a Thursday game at Seattle.
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But not every team can take advantage. You have to have the talent. You have to have chutzpah. The Bucs chutzed and pahed all day.
These Bucs bring everything they have and everything they don’t have all at once. They ooze a borderline brazen fearlessness that the head coach brought with him from retirement.
“You have to play fearless,” Arians said.
We saw it when the Bucs went back to Winston after his interception and he kept throwing. Arians wants to see it from his young secondary, even after it was torched.
“We still have some you DBs who are being a little careful,” Arians said. “If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake. But don’t hold your breath. Let it go.”
Meanwhile, the rest of us can hold our breath for them.
Whether this win signals a turnaround or not, these 2019 Bucs have never failed to keep our attention. Win or lose, they are exciting. Win or lose, they keep us awake, even with possible loss looming again this Sunday at New Orleans.
These Bucs keep us on our toes.
They could be 4-0.
They could be 0-4.
Contact Martin Fennelly at email@example.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly