They say there are no moral victories, especially in a league as unforgiving as the NFL, but both of those games are about as close as you can get; an extremely youthful Buccaneer team went blow-for-blow against the eventual NFC’s best team (record-wise) and only faltered in crunch time, a sign of said immaturity.
As corner back Ronde Barber said earlier this off-season, if the ball had bounced a little differently in one or two of those games, the Bucs are in the playoffs.
Given the close games against the Falcons, 2010 is now in the past. For the Bucs, 2011 is a season to both build off of last year’s success and hope their recent roster additions make an impact. As for the first aspect, their trio of QB Josh Freeman, WR Mike Williams, and RB LeGarrette Blount showed the league that they could be an offense to fear.
Freeman is on the very short list of good, young QBs in the league and the breakout of the rookie receiver Williams has Tampa Bay fans excited for a lot of big plays and numbers from the duo. While Blount was cast away by every other team last year, the Bucs plugged him in the backfield as we all watched him hurdle himself to a very productive season.
Look no further than the team they will try to surpass as a nice comparison. You have the quarterback in place (Ryan/Freeman), a perfect complement to throw to (White/Williams), and a bruising running back that can move the chains and wear down the defense (Turner/Blount).