Bucs fever: Timing your jump onto the pirate ship

Bucs defensive back Robert McClain (36) celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs defensive back Robert McClain (36) celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Sept. 19, 2017

TAMPA — Hoist the flags! Fire the cannons!

We give you the 1-0 Bucs.

Start phoning the perfect '72 Dolphins for comment!

I don't want to take too much away from Sunday's season-opening blowout over the Bears. There aren't NFL Mondays when fans can feel like they're rooting for kings of the world. Bucs fans, enjoy this.

Your team began by trouncing someone. An inferior someone, with an inferior Mike Glennon, but you can't make the other team better no matter how well you play, can you?

You go out and you pound them.

That's what Dirk Koetter and the Bucs did.

All hail.

But I'd like to remind everyone that the Patriots lost their opener and it didn't mean a thing as they walloped New Orleans on Sunday. The Jaguars won their opener, but it didn't mean a thing when they were walloped by Tennessee on Sunday. And that the Bucs began last season by beating the Falcons in Atlanta, then lost their next three games.

There is no guarantee that 29-7 means anything.

I bet Koetter has already reminded his team of that.

It's one week.

There are 16 of them.

It's like Bucs nickel back Robert McClain said as he looked in his locker Sunday, at the football he had taken back for a touchdown as the Bucs built that 26-0 lead. Was it the biggest thrill of his career?

"Every Sunday can be a thrill," McClain said. "But next Sunday is what matters."

That's this league. Next game. Next test. The next one for the Bucs is at Minnesota.

Remember that as you climb aboard the pirate ship. It's understandable to be excited after the opener. The defense was tremendous, especially against the run — 20 yards! Four first-half turnovers! A pick six!

I wonder if every player will get a night with the Lombardi Trophy.

Newcomers were everywhere, making impact plays. Among them were McClain and T.J. Ward. And there was rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith, who went from strong side to middle linebacker when Kwon Alexander, who made an interception, went down with an aching hamstring. Beckwith handled it. The defense didn't skip a beat.

How early will you camp out at the parade route?

And there was Jameis Winston to Mike Evans in single coverage. Touchdown. And there was DeSean Jackson, who stretched the field three times, without a reception, but you get the idea. The Bucs get the idea. They are going for it when they can.

There were so many positives Sunday. The Bucs had people chipping in from all over, including kicker Nick Folk. Fifty yards!

"You never know what can happen," Beckwith said. "When your number is called, you have to be ready."

"Football is all about people stepping up, complementary football — team football," Winston said.

Enough with the compliments.

It's already about next Sunday.

There is always something else to do. Maybe a better run game. Maybe better at closing out drives. You stuffed Bears running back Jordan Howard. Here comes Minnesota rookie Dalvin Cook.

The Bucs did a fairly good job of putting their foot on the Bears' throat. They nearly threw shutout, one of the rarest of NFL birds. They hoisted the flag on 2017 the proper way, no rust, no excuses.

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Be proud of your team, Bucs fans. Be excited.

But don't go crazy.

There are 16 of these, you know.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029