By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
It will be a very quick turnaround this week when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) hop on a plane from Tampa International Airport and travel up to face the Chicago Bears (3-1). The Buccaneers are coming off by far their most exciting victory of the season when they defeated the feisty Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday night. The Bears suffered their first loss of the season on Sunday when they fell 19-11 to the visiting Indianapolis Colts in the first start by quarterback Nick Foles. With one of the season’s best Thursday night matchups to date now taking place, we take a closer look at the contest between the Buccaneers and the Bears.
Tom Brady is on fire
Remember that offense everyone was dreaming about when Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay back in the spring? Yes, it came to life in the second half of the Buccaneers win over the Chargers. Now many will point to the Chargers’ record as a reason for pause, but this same Los Angeles group held last season’s Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes to 27-of-47 passing and 302 yards (yes, that’s slowing down Mahomes). Los Angeles did a good job for a half, but once Brady got going there seemingly was nothing they could do about it. Now the question is can Brady and crew keep up this momentum heading into the Windy City. The answer seems to be leaning towards a yes.
Next man up at tight end
This is why Tampa Bay kept such a plethora of tight ends during the off-season and that was the prospect of the injury bug creeping its ugly head into this 2020 campaign. An Achilles rupture by Oj Howard now ends his season but gives another tight end an opportunity to step up to the plate and that is Cameron Brate. Brate, many remember was the favorite red-zone target by former Tampa Bay starting quarterback Jameis Winston and maybe he can become Brady’s. Brady found Brate in the endzone in the first quarter of the Chargers’ win. Now Brate will be expected to fill the void left by Howard, with Tanner Hudson now on standby if Tampa Bay experiences any more injuries at tight end.
Get pressure on Nick Foles
The Buccaneers and Nick Foles are very much familiar with each other from recent memory. Last season as a matter of fact, when Foles was the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bad memory for Foles, however, as he was chased out of the game by halftime and was replaced by Gardner Minshew, who displaced Foles and became the starter for the rest of the season. Tampa Bay did a great job getting plenty of pressure on Foles last season and Matt Nagy may have a short leash on Foles and could INSERT IGNORE Mitch Trubisky if the offense can’t get rolling. The Bears struggled mightily at home versus the Colts to get anything going and if that becomes the case again, expect Nagy to shake things up.
Who will be available at running back?
It’s a short week and the availability of running backs for the Buccaneers is going to be slim. LeSean McCoy suffered a sprained ankle versus the Chargers and could be doubtful, but the return of Leonard Fournette to the lineup could be a bit more optimistic. Expect to see more of the same as Ronald Jones should be the featured tailback and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn should be seeing more time on the field. Vaughn caught his first touchdown of his NFL career and has earned a little bit more trust from Brady in the pass game as a third down back. Expect to see Jones and Vaughn as the two primary backs, but possibly some Fournette if available.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.