Hey, maybe 3-0 isn’t so crazy after all for Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
Published September 14 2018
Updated September 14 2018

TAMPA — Just a few minutes ago, it seemed like we all were wondering if the Bucs could win just one of their first three games.


We're wondering if the Bucs can win all three.

Put it this way, Bucs fans don't need to take any hallucinogens to see the Bucs going 3-0 despite a murderer's row of competition and playing without its starting quarterback.

A 3-0 start? Wow, dude, that would be trippy.

That's what the Bucs' season-opening 48-40 victory at New Orleans has done.

Tampa Bay is sky high. It has turned doubters into believers. Dark clouds have given way to sunny skies.

It was so good that even Dirk Koetter, who possesses all the serious-as-a-heart-attack, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately qualities that NFL head coaches have, admitted a victory like the one in New Orleans can carry over to the next week.

"Sure it can," Koetter said.

Then he caught himself.

"This is a week-to-week league, so I'd be saying that whether we won or lost (Sunday) — that it's a week-to-week league," Koetter said. "There's plenty of examples of it every single week in the NFL. Sunday was a fun day and a big win for us. A big win on the road in a very hard place to play. Hard for anybody to win there."

Koetter said he instituted the NFL's traditional 24-hour rule.

That means players are allowed to enjoy the victory for 24 hours and then get to work on the next game.

Koetter and his coaches didn't even take 24 hours. For Koetter, the plane ride home from New Orleans was enough for the Big Easy to turn into the Big Queasy when he saw that the defending-champions Eagles were coming to town.

"We played hard, but literally a few minutes after that game I was thinking about Philly," Koetter said. "That's just how you have to be."

For Koetter, problems have already started piling up.

He found out cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is probably out for the season with a shoulder injury. Meantime, cornerback Brent Grimes continues to nurse a sore groin. Defensive end and presumed top pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul is not 100 percent. The Bucs are still waiting on injured first-round pick Vita Vea.

And most depressing of all is the Bucs defense gave up 40 points in their season opener.

But let's get to the good news.

The Bucs won a huge game. On the road. Against a really good team. Against a Hall of Fame quarterback. In a very tough and loud building.

It goes down as one of the most impressive opening-game victories in franchise history, which is why the next two games don't look as ominous as they did a week ago.

The Eagles come to town after a sluggish (albeit winning) performance in week one. Nick Foles is their quarterback and even though he won last season's Super Bowl, he looked so-so in the first game. And, he's a backup.

Sure, Tampa Bay is playing a back-up, too.

But Foles looked like a bum compared to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was the NFC Player of the Week after throwing four touchdowns and running for another.

Then come the Steelers on Monday night. The Steelers continue to play without star back Le'Veon Bell and should've lost their opener to a Browns team that has won one of its past 36 games.

So you can see why 3-0 looks possible.

No, the Bucs aren't going to put up 48 points each and every week. The Eagles defense that the Bucs will face Sunday is way better than the Saints defense the Bucs faced last Sunday. Same with the Steelers.

But it also doesn't feel like the Bucs offensive performance in week one was a fluke.

For two years, we've been talking about all these weapons the Bucs have, from Mike Evans to DeSean Jackson to Chris Godwin or O.J. Howard to Cam Brate to Adam Humphries.

Well, on Sunday, that was all on display.

These weren't lucky throws Fitzpatrick was making. They were strong, confident throws.

These weren't lucky catches the receivers were making. These were elite receivers running good routes, getting open and making catches.

And, the running game with Peyton Barber, was effective enough.

When all that happens, you put up 48 points.

And you win a game.

Maybe even three of them to start the season.