Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Recap

After a heartbreaking 31-23 loss against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional Round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were eliminated from the playoffs and will finish the season as NFC South champions for the third consecutive season and the only team in the state of Florida to make it past the Wild Card round in the playoffs.

Let’s look back and recap this 2023 Buccaneers season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Recap

Offseason: Uncertainty

The Buccaneers started the 2023 offseason with the (second) retirement of who is widely regarded as the best player of all time, NFL legend Tom Brady. In addition, star tight end Rob Gronkowski also retired, wide receiver Julio Jones and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting opted for free agency, and running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop were released. It looked like the Bucs would have to make big moves on the free-agent market to make up for these important losses.

In response, Tampa Bay signed sixth-year quarterback Baker Mayfield as Brady’s replacement, a move that raised many concerns over Mayfield’s lack of success on his former teams. The Buccaneers also signed running back Chase Edmonds as Fournette’s replacement, kicker Chase McLaughlin as Succop’s replacement, and safety Ryan Neal while re-signing linebacker Lavonte David, and selecting defensive lineman Calijah Kancey in the first round of the draft. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but these signings played a huge part in this season’s playoff run.

Preseason: Time For Decisions

The Buccaneers entered the preseason without knowing who their starting quarterback would be for the season. They had signed Mayfield in the offseason, but they also had Kyle Trask, a young quarterback who was drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 2021 draft and had served as Brady’s backup for the past two seasons, and John Wolford, an offseason signing ready to prove that he could be a valuable asset to an NFL roster.

After evaluating all three quarterbacks through training camp and the first two weeks of the preseason, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles announced Mayfield would serve as the starting quarterback for the regular season, with Trask as his backup. The Buccaneers would go on to finish the preseason with a 2-1 record, with wins over the New York Jetsand Baltimore Ravens, and a lone loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Weeks 1–5: Solid Start

Before their bye in Week 5, Tampa Bay surprised everyone and started their season with a 3-1 record. Although the offense got off to a slow start, ranking 27th in the league in rushing yards with 348, 17th in total points with 84, and 29th in first downs with 15, the defense did a solid job, as they ranked third in interceptions with six, tied for 10th in forced fumbles with four, and had allowed just six yards per passing attempt and 4.1 per carry while holding the opposition to a 64.4 completion percentage coming into Week 5 of the season. It wasn’t much, but it was a solid start for the Tampa Bay squad.

Weeks 6–12: Decline

Following their Week 5 bye, the Buccaneers lost six of their next seven games, bringing their record to 4-7 and dropping them from first to third place in the NFC South.

Over this seven-week stretch, the offense wasn’t able to turn things around from the first few games, and defensive performance declined drastically. The Tampa Bay secondary went from allowing an average of 17 points in Weeks 1–4 to an average of 23 points in Weeks 6–12, while the offense still struggled to get more than 20 points on the board. Over these weeks, we started wondering if the Buccaneers had what it took to win the division.

Weeks 13–18: Turnaround

As was mentioned in a previous article, beating division rivals is crucial for a team’s success in the league. The Buccaneers understood this and got the job done. Over these six weeks, they played four games against division rivals, winning three out of four and losing only their Week 17 matchup against the New Orleans Saints. In fact, this was the only game they lost in the six weeks; they also beat the Green Bay Packers in Week 15 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16, bringing their record to 9-8 and securing the NFC South championship for the third year in a row.

Wild Card Round: Win Over Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t live up to expectations and lost 32-9 in the Wild Card Round to a Tampa Bay team that dominated from start to finish in every aspect of the game.

This was a game that gave Buccaneers fans hope after a mediocre regular season. Although the Eagles had a cold streak heading into the playoffs and struggled on both sides of the ball all game long, solid defense from the Buccaneers and great offensive play calls propelled them to score their third-highest point total throughout the season and advance to the Divisional Round. For a more detailed summary of this game, check out this article.

Divisional Round: Elimination

Sadly, Tampa Bay’s playoff run came to an end in the Divisional Round as they lost to the Detroit Lions, 31-23.

The Buccaneers had a very solid first half, as they entered halftime tied at 10 with two-quarters of football left to play. However, it seemed like Jared Goff and the Lions managed to decipher the Bucs’ defense in the second half, as they scored 21 points to put the game out of reach and end the season for the Buccaneers.

While it’s true that the Bucs made it pretty far in the playoffs, don’t let this distract you from the fact that this team finished the season with a 9-8 record. In this league, going 9-8 in the regular season won’t usually get you to the playoffs. Let’s take the Cincinnati Bengals as an example: they also went 9-8 in the regular season, but they finished dead last in the AFC North below the Pittsburgh SteelersCleveland Browns, and the one-seed Baltimore Ravens, all of which made the playoffs this season. The Bucs got lucky with the mediocrity of their division and managed to exploit this mediocrity. For now, ignore the mediocre record and enjoy the divisional championship, but don’t get too comfortable; this team needs changes and must take advantage of this offseason if they want to compete next year.

Main Image: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

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