Pay attention, the Buccaneers nasty defense is your new nightmare

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Defensive back Robert McClain
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Defensive back Robert McClain /

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost shutout the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon, but this isn’t the start of something new — it’s a continuation.

The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the Super Bowl, they won. I was 10-years old, sitting under a desk at home in Minnesota, watching Derrick Brooks and Dexter Jackson drag the Raiders behind the woodshed.

Since then, it’s been a downhill tumble that has humbled someone spoiled with success so early on in their fandom. How fitting would it be for the Buccaneers to restore the glory of that 2002 team in Minnesota at Super Bowl 52.

At the risk of sounding like a Bucs homer waxing poetic, but there’s a stark similarity between the 2002 Buccaneers team and the one that has yet to allow a point in 2017: the defense.

Rightfully so, the big talker this week will be the Tampa defense; not the high powered offense that has grabbed headlines all offseason. The national perception on the Bucs has been they’re a team with a high powered offense and a defense that has question marks (see: lack of notable stars). Sunday proved that the a ridiculous statement to make.

Tampa’s defense doesn’t have the headline superstars that the 2002 defense did (yet) but that doesn’t equate to a lack of talent. Gerald McCoy is a perennial Pro Bowler, but flies under the radar as a team leader. Vets like lineman Chris Baker (Pro Bowler) and T.J. Ward (Super Bowl champion) didn’t come to Tampa for the tourism, they see something special and want in. Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David form one of the best linebacking duos in all of football, but their prowess has been quieted since it exists in the swamps of Tampa.

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The only thing quiet on Sunday was the Bears offense. The Bucs stadium operator didn’t even have to light up that side of the scoreboard, as the underrated and disrespected Tampa defense pitched almost pitched a shutout.

People will act surprised by this, but no one should be stunned. After getting stomped on a Thursday Night against Atlanta last year, Mike Smith pivoted hard and turned a potentially great unit into a defense that played out of its mind great. Tampa allowed 5-points against the Seahawks. They went on the road and beat the Chiefs, ending a winning-streak in one of the hardest places to play in the NFL. After giving up 43-points in front of a national audience, Mike Smith’s defense allowed 34-points over the next three games.

The near-shutout on Sunday wasn’t the start of something special, it was another exclamation point being added like stickers on a helmet. There has been a primal scream roaring from Tampa since last year, it seems the echo just took a while to reach everyone’s ear.

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The Bucs defense had the curiosity of those paying even a little attention to them before Sunday, now they should have the attention of the entire league.