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5 Qs and As with Bucs Nation: What’s wrong in Tampa Bay?

Everything you need to know about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 5 questions with Bucs Nation’s Gil Arcia.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon in what will be the first true challenge in the Brock Purdy era. Even with the third-stringer read to suit up, the Niners are still favored by 3.5 points over the GOAT, Tom Brady, himself.

To help us prepare for this matchup between the 45-year-old veteran and the 22-year-old rookie, Gil Arcia from Bucs Nation answered my prying questions. Check them out below.

This clearly isn’t the same Bucs team that won the Super Bowl two years ago, but more surprisingly, this doesn’t even look like the same team that took the Rams down to the wire of the NFC Divisional round back in January. Obviously, Bruce Arians left the head coaching role to Todd Bowles, Rob Gronkowski and Ali Marpet retired, pass rusher Shaq Barrett has been lost to an Achilles injury, etc. Considering all this, can you explain what’s so different about this iteration of the Tampa Bay Bradys and just how it’s changed their output on the field?

It’s been a weird season, to be honest. Tom Brady doesn’t even look the same with the consistent throws 5-10 yards within the line of scrimmage. Although there have been more downfield throws as of late, it’s nothing like it was back in the “No risk it, no biscuit” days of Bruce Arians.

With that being said, that is just a fraction of the issues. The defense has still played well, and even with major injuries to the secondary throughout the season and losing Shaq Barrett, that unit has still put the team in a position to win football games, but the offense just hasn’t gotten it done.

The offensive line was depleted entering the season due to injuries, and it has shown often throughout 2022. And while Brady is still getting the ball out quickly, those passes are going short and not advancing the football. It’s frustrating for the defense to have played well very often and the offensive side of the ball not doing their job.

But the running game, nor the passing game for that matter, hasn’t really been there for the Buccaneers — especially in the red zone.

The Bucs will be entering this game right off a Monday Night Football nail-biter against the division rival Saints, who were leading 16-3 until late in the fourth quarter before Brady turned it on to claim another come-from-behind victory. Even if he’s not quite the same player, it’s clear that at age 45, Brady still has something left in the tank. Do you envision him playing again next year, and if so, for who? (Say the 49ers to really rile some people up.)

Well, for some time now, people have been talking about how Brady, at some point, always wanted to don the creamsicle uniforms, and next year is the year Tampa Bay will be doing so for a game (or more?). But people hanging their hopes on that may be a bit of a reach. The funny thing is I was expecting him to stay retired because I had initially envisioned a team that struggled this season (but not this bad).

With that said, I am not sure what he will do. Brady has already proven he likes competing and still can while wanting to remain doing so. Tampa Bay has given him a lot of freedom with the team, and it would be difficult to think he would play his cards on trying to get that same setup with another organization.

There have been recent reports suggesting a return to the Buccaneers is likely due to the incredible bond he has built with the players and staff, but personally, I would rather put my money on him retiring and staying that way. Who knows what this guy will do.

While the offense has lacked the spark of previous seasons, the defense has also regressed a bit, but remained a top ten unit. What is it about this side of the ball that gives opposing offenses such fits, and what should rookie /Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy expect going against them in his first career start?

Pressure, and lots of it. Todd Bowles absolutely loves disguising the defensive side of the ball and giving opposing offenses looks that may confuse the quarterback and force the offensive lines into potentially mixing up assignments. With that said, I do expect Tampa Bay’s defense to bring several packages out there to San Francisco consisting of plays that try to rattle and confuse Purdy. That style of play has consistently worked for the Bucs this season, but they have also gotten away from that often, and when they have, it’s been a game where a young inexperienced quarterback has been made to look like a Pro Bowler. So we’ll see what defense shows up on the west coast.

Who is a player that 49ers fans should be aware of coming into this game that could make a big impact?

I’ll keep beating the drum of two guys: rookie running back Rachaad White and edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Although they haven’t appeared as very productive on the stat sheet, what they are doing off of it is everything the Buccaneers want. White, who took in the game-winning pass from Brady last week, has been Mr. Reliable on third downs in both the run game and pass game.

The staff has amazing trust in his pass-blocking ability, which he has shown why, and has great hands out of the backfield. He’s also not afraid of hitting the hole and doesn’t dance around the line of scrimmage very often, if at all, which allows for more positive-yard plays if the line holds up.

As for Tryon-Shoyinka, he has incredible upfield speed that gets him into the offensive backfield quickly and often. He has been able to disrupt a quarterback’s pocket to flush him out while also forcing a running back to redirect at times if running his way.

Fans have been expecting him to show up more often on the stat sheets, but he’s been able to succeed in his role of getting into the backfield. He’ll get his numbers eventually. But if you watch him on Sunday, you may see him do what he’s been doing in 2022, and that is getting into the opposing team’s backfield quickly.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Niners are currently 3.5-point favorites with an over/under set at 37.5, meaning the bookmakers aren’t expecting much scoring between these two teams. With that in mind, how do you see this game playing out? At worst, are you expecting the Bucs to cover?

“At worst, are you expecting the Bucs to cover?” Pffft, no. The team still hasn’t proven enough for me to say that they will be competitive offensively. In our predictions piece, I tried to put out some positive vibes, but I don’t even believe it myself, if I’m being honest. In reality, I see San Francisco beating Tampa Bay to the tune of 27-13. It’ll be a long day for the visiting bay area while the home bay area will be enjoying their Sunday.