(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Ronde Barber interview, fast-forward to 22:47 of the attached audio: Ep 11: NFL MVP Race; Patriots Dynasty; Ronde Barber Joins the Show | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker)
Deep down inside, Hall-of-Fame semifinalist Ronde Barber is a fan of the Tampa Bay Bucs … and no surprise there. He played all 16 of his NFL seasons with them.
So he watches them. He roots for them. And,
despite their 8-5 record, he believes they are where they need to be now to make a deep run in the 2020 playoffs.
With one caveat.
“The only thing that concerns me,” he said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast, “and we’ve seen it in a couple of games. Right? The New Orleans game. The Kansas City game. They are notoriously … I mean terribly … slow starters in football games. On offense and defense.”
He’s right about that. They trailed the Saints 24-7 in the season opener. Three weeks later they fell behind the Chargers 24-7 before rallying to a 38-31 victory. They were down 38-0 to New Orleans the second time around before finally kicking a field goal and 17-0 to Kansas City in the first quarter before waking up.
In fact, in all five of their last starts, opponents scored first on the Bucs. Worse, Tampa Bay was outscored 91-55 in the first half and lost three of them.
“Whatever they do,” Barber said of the Bucs, “around midway in the second quarter (or) the second half … whether it’s just getting the feel of what the other team is trying to do to them … they always put themselves in the game.
“If I had one concern about them being contenders, it would be that. Because you’re going to get a team – you’re going to play a New Orleans – and you’re going to be down 28 points in the first half (or) first quarter. There’s no way you’re winning that football game without, just, heroics from Tom Brady and his offense.”
And that has happened … with the Chargers’ game an example. But the Bucs are better served when their offensive attack is balanced, and they’re featuring Ronald Jones as much as they are Tom Brady. That has happened, too, as last weekend when they overcame Minnesota, with Brady throwing just 23 times.
But that’s not the story. This is: The Bucs ran 26 times, only the second time this season they’ve run more times than they attempted to pass. And that, Barber believes, is critical to future success.
“I think they’re close,” he said. “I think they have to figure out a way to control the football, and I really believe Ronald Jones is the way to do that. And that’s obviously on Byron (Leftwich, the team’s offensive coordinator) and Coach (Bruce) Arians’ game plan going into every game.
“But I’m not a big believer in throwing the ball every single snap. I’m a pretty big Steelers’ fan, and I watch them throw the ball 50, 60 times a game, and it’s hard to win football games consistently like that.
“So I think if the Bucs are able to use their strength – and I think their strength is Ronald Jones – running the ball, play/action pass. I think they’ll give themselves a chance just because it will ensure some more possession for them.”