Bucs start to think about the post-season

by Gary Shelton on December 29, 2020

in general

Bucs considering post-season already./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

For the first time in an eternity, the Tampa Bay Bucs can talk about the playoffs in terms beyond wishful thinking.

For the first time since Derrick Brooks, Jon Gruden, Jeff Garcia and Earnest Graham, the Bucs are preparing for the post-season. For the first time in 13 seasons, the Bucs are considering the things that successful football teams consider: Whether to rest the starters, whether to worry about overconfidence, whether Sunday's post-game celebration might be repeated.

For the hype, for all the frustration, this team was better than most Bucs' teams.

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Now, we'll see how it handles the readiness for the playoffs.

For instance, will it play its starters?

“We’re going to play to win," coach Bruce Arians said. "Eleven and five, that’s very rare. To have a chance to get to 11-5, keep that seeding – we want that seeding just for pride. We don’t care who we play, it’s more for pride. I’d probably have to beat some guys in the head with a stick to try and get them not to play anyway. I talked to them about it before and [they said], ‘I’m playing.’ We’re going to practice and play like everything depends on it. It’s not going to be an easy game, either.” 

How important is a run defense in the post-season?

“I think it’s huge," Arians said. "We always talk about running and stopping the run. Running the ball is just your efficiency – not the number of yards or the number of times you run it. It’s your efficiency, closing out games, things like that. Run defense, it’s what we’re built on. Todd [Bowles] has done a great job of that and we share that philosophy – always have.”

Can the pass rush with its 47 sacks, hold up?

“I think it’s what we’re capable [of], but I think we’re actually capable of more," Arians said "We’ve let some quarterbacks get away from us when we had hands on them. Again, it is multiple. When you’ve got Will [Gholston], [Ndamukong] Suh, the other three guys and [Jeremiah] Ledbetter getting one – whoever’s getting one-on-one, you better win. The multiplicity of that, I think, is what makes it dangerous. You can’t chip all five guys – you can only chip one of them – so they’re usually chipping JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) or Shaq [Barrett]. That multiplicity of being able to bring different people makes you kind of unique. When you stop the run, you get the chance to rush the passer. That’s the whole point – stop the run and let’s get after them. It’s a two-handed fist.”

What were the moments like in the aftermath of reaching the playoffs?

“It was very touching," Arians said. "I did my little two cents and then Lavonte [David] was going off – it was awesome. Then, Mike Evans just dove over the top and said, ‘We’re in! We love you Lavonte, but we’re in!’ It was really cool. The joy on their faces – especially those guys that have been here – makes coming back to coaching well, well worth it.”

How about the decision to play players or let them rest?

“That was kind of [why we] got Tom [Brady] out at halftime even though he didn’t want to come out [along with] Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) and some of those other guys last week [to] get some young players some reps," Arians said. "When you make these decisions – and I’ve been a part of both sides – that five and six seed are different. I don’t care what anybody says – they’re different – and 10-6 [versus] 11-5 are different. I’ve been 10-6 a bunch – been 10-6 and didn’t make the playoffs. Eleven and five is special. I think our guys are more than ready to go.”

For Arians, where does this playoff appearance rank?

“I think our guys made a commitment in August to each other, that if we beat the virus, we’d have a chance," Arians said. "If we stayed healthy, we’d have a chance to beat some teams that didn’t. Last week was an example [of that]. The season is not over. This is a big game coming up – a chance to keep that five seed and go 11-5. I think we’ll think about all that when we can look in the rear-view mirror. Right now, we’re still looking ahead. It’s not really a time to reflect yet.”

How important is being honest with players?

“I think for me, being an interim head coach for 12 games, there’s two things I learned – be yourself and delegate," Arians said. "I don’t think you’re going to find a player, hopefully, in Arizona that ever said I [wasn’t honest with] him and there’s not going to be a player here [either]. Sometimes you don’t like the truth, but I’m going to give you the truth and it’ll hurt for a minute, but it’s real. Don’t come ask me a question and think I’m going to sugarcoat it, because you’re going to get the real answer. I think our guys appreciate that.”

The Bucs are home against the Falcons on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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