The Bucks finished November with a disappointing 4-7 record, and late in the season found themselves talking about draft position rather than the playoffs. Now, just 25 days later, they are in position to win his third consecutive NFC South title.
It was a memorable December for the Bucks, with four wins in four games.
So, what’s the best way for Tampa Bay to close out the final month of the 2023 calendar year? Beating the Saints on New Year’s Eve, clinching the division at 5-0? This is the team’s first undefeated month since December 2020, when they went 3-0.
So how did the Bucks get here? We used to be a hopeless team with 4 wins, but now we are a team with 8 wins. Ready to win the division It’s just the ninth time in franchise history.
They started by defeating the Panthers 21-18 on Dec. 3 and then embarked on a two-game road trip. The turning point may have been Dec. 10 in Atlanta, when Baker Mayfield led the way to the game-winning run in the final seconds. That’s when Tampa Bay took control of the division and hasn’t relinquished it since.
Last week, the Bucs’ 34-20 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field on December 17th was an emotional affair. Mayfield had a perfect performance, becoming the first visiting quarterback to post a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against Lambeau and earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
And the Bucks’ latest win was perhaps their most complete victory of the year. On Christmas Eve they defeated the visiting Jaguars and made it look easy.Tampa Bay won 30-0 in the third quarter. Moving towards a 30-12 victory. This puts Todd Bowles & Co. in position to win the NFC South with one win in their remaining two games. Given how December is going, it appears the Bucks are ready to get it all done before the clock strikes midnight and December 31st turns into January 1st.
The Bucks have been playing with a playoff mentality throughout December.
This four-game winning streak came at the perfect time for Tampa Bay. Given the state of the NFC South thus far, it was clear from the beginning of the season that the race would go all the way. That’s why all hope wasn’t lost even after the Bucks lost six of his seven games and fell to 4-7. They may have had their backs against the wall in some ways (remember Houston?), but things have been different since November ended with a loss in Indianapolis.
The Bucks have kind of a playoff mentality and they’ve taken it all in every week and done it beautifully.
“Coach Bowles said this last night: We have eight days, including today, to be first in this division.” Coach Mayfield said this after the win over Carolina on December 3rd.. “So take care of your business next week and see how the rest goes. But this is a one game at a time mentality and our players are ready to play and figure out how to win. We found it. It doesn’t have to be pretty and there are a lot of things to fix, but we found a way to win.”
That eight-day period ended with the Bucs in first place, and all they’ve done in the two weeks since has been to stay atop the division. In doing so, they are still in control of their own destiny and are looking to achieve their original goal of making the playoffs and winning their division.
“It’s all about clicking at the right time,” safety Antoine Winfield Jr. said after Sunday’s win over Jacksonville. “I feel like we’ve really learned a lot about our team over the last few weeks of losing. Our goal right now is to continue to improve each week. Like I said, right now… We’re in playoff mode. It’s a playoff game every week for us. Win or go home, that’s our mentality.”
There are interesting parallels between this year’s Bucks and the 2020 team. This isn’t to say this team is a Super Bowl-caliber team or destined to hoist his third Lombardi trophy in a few months, but the 2020 team is I wasn’t able to play my best soccer.
At 6-4, things weren’t looking too good for Tom Brady and Tampa Bay. However, “playoff mode” was activated, and the team won the final four games of the regular season, then won four straight in the playoffs to win it all. please remember. This was the last time the Bucks won each game during his month.
If the Bucks beat the Saints in Week 17 and finish December 5-0, they’ll at least be in the dance. It’s unclear what happens from there, but it has a heater, so it’ll light up at the right time.
“We’re getting hot at the right time, but we can’t take that for granted,” Mayfield said Sunday. “We had to keep working on it and realize that one game at a time mentality was really a turning point for us. That singular focus was the edge and intensity we needed. So we have to hold on to that.”