TAMPA — For at least one Sunday, complementary football became more than a mere buzz phrase at Raymond James Stadium.
For the previously maligned Bucs offense, which has subsisted on mostly one dimension since the start of the 2022 season, balance manifested itself in a series of runs more gritty than graceful, more punishing than poetic.
The effort, while nondescript, was hardly non-relevant. In a display of balance Bucs fans have been yearning to witness in new coordinator Dave Canales’ system, Tampa Bay complemented Baker Mayfield’s big day (26-for-34, 317 yards, one TD) with 120 rushing yards on 34 carries.
It was the team’s first 100-yard rushing game since its Christmas-night triumph at Arizona. Leading the way: beleaguered second-year back Rachaad White, who totaled 73 yards on 17 carries for a healthy 4.3-yard average. A week earlier at Minnesota, White managed 39 yards on 17 attempts.
“We grinded it out,” said coach Todd Bowles, whose offense finished last in the NFL in rushing (76.9 yards per game) in 2022.
“Thirty-four carries, kind of mixed it a little bit. We held it on the ground, kind of threw some in the air. It was a good balance; Dave (Canales) did a good job balancing them out, and Rachaad’s our bell cow, and we rely on him when times get tough.”
While no run went longer than 14 yards, the Bucs converted twice on third and short via handoffs in the first half. The second came courtesy of White, who scored up the middle on third and goal from the 4 for the Bucs’ first touchdown.
“It’s tough when you’re a young guy,” White said.
“You come from college and you’re used to making big plays and things like that, so sometimes you get out there and you’re trying to force instead of just letting the game come to you. So that’s what we did a good job of (Sunday), and we’re trusting the big guys up front. Man, I really trust them with my life.”
Protecting the football is the recipe
The Bucs are 2-0 in no small part because they have not committed a turnover in either of their first two games this season, against the Vikings and Bears.
No fumbles. No interceptions. Nothing. In fact, they’re a plus-5 in the giveaway/takeaway margin so far this season.
They came close Sunday, when tight end David Wells fumbled after catching a short pass from Mayfield. But somehow, Mayfield recovered.
Bowles said there’s a definite link between winning and protecting the football.
“Definitely a correlation,” he said. “If you don’t turn it over, you give yourself a chance to win. Ball possession and time of possession ultimately are very important. You keep the other team off the field. Everybody has a potent offense, and the more you can keep them off the field, the better.”
By the numbers
4 First-half sacks by the Bucs, their most in the opening half since a 38-3 rout of the Bears on Oct. 24, 2021
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
10 Consecutive games in which Bucs receiver Chris Godwin has collected at least 50 receiving yards, the NFL’s longest active streak. Godwin had 58 yards on five catches Sunday.
34 Career 100-yard receiving games by Mike Evans, who had six catches for 171 yards Sunday
72 Length of Jake Camarda’s second-quarter punt Sunday, third-longest in Bucs history
103 Feel-like temperature at kickoff Sunday
202 First-half passing yards by Baker Mayfield, his most in the opening half of a game since Sept. 12, 2021
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.