OutKick NFL Perspectives: Bucs Welcome Back Antonio Brown; Cardinals Knocked Down; Packers Accomplish First Goal But Have More; Plus, The Biggest Upset Of The Week

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Tampa Bay Buccaneeers coach Bruce Arians said he could not remember the last time one of his team’s was shut out after that’s exactly what happened Sunday night when the New Orleans Saints beat Arians’ team, 9-0.

But afterward, Arians was concerned about things beyond this loss.

“It hurts more losing all the players we lost,” Arians said. “We lost [several] starters in this game so I’m more concerned about that right now.”

The Bucs lost linebacker Lavonte David to a foot injury, running back Leonard Fournette to a hamstring injury, receiver Mike Evans to a hamstring injury and receiver Chris Godwin to a knee injury.

The loss of the team’s two starting receiver was especially painful because the Bucs were already without Breshad Perriman who is on the Covid-19 reserve list and Antonio Brown who has been serving a suspension for misrepresenting his Covid vaccine status.

Safety Mike Edwards has also been serving a suspension for a similar violation and both he and Brown are eligible to return Monday — a return Arians said is happening.

“Yeah, it’s in the best interest of our football team,” Arians said. “Both of those guys have served their time and we’ll welcome them back.”

Arians previously said if Brown, who’s had problems with various teams the last few years, “screws up one more time, he’s gone.”

But the fact is Brown has been a productive player for the Bucs and with the injuries at receiver, his value to the offense is unquestionable.

So with the vaccine passport crowd will have to accept Brown’s return because, in the NFL, players who have gone awry of rules and mandates and, yes, faked vaccine passports get multiple chances to redeem themselves.

That’s especially true in times of crisis when their services are needed.

And the Bucs need Brown. That was clear in this game.

“I was hoping [the young guys] would step it up a little bit more with the receivers,” Arians said. “Overall, we just dropped too many balls too when we did have some guys
open. [The Saints] did a good job. They played that hard man-to-man and we didn’t do a
good job of getting open.”

Cardinals Suffer Big Fall

It’s a big deal anytime the Detroit Lions win a game because, well, lots of losses.

But the fact the Lions beat the Arizona Cardinals 30-12 on Sunday is especially noteworthy because only last week the Cards held the top seed in the NFC playoff chase and now they’ve dropped to fourth based on their 6-4 conference record.

“Yeah, I thought they played better, coached better, had a bigger sense of urgency from the start,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We just weren’t good enough in any area. Got to give them credit, they came out and played really hard and played well.”

While Detroit quarterback Jared Goff lit up Arizona, completing 80.7 percent of his passes and throwing 3 touchdowns, the Cardinals got a poor performance from Kyler Murray who had been an NFL MVP candidate.

Murray, who led the NFL in completion percentage at 70 percent, managed to complete only 56 percent of his throws this game. And it’s not that he was wildly inaccurate but rather that he failed to recognize open receivers or identify hot reads that were available to him against blitzes.

It was, simply, Murray’s worst day of the season so far.

“There are definitely going to be some things I wish I could have back, or I wish I could’ve done differently,” Murray said.

The Cardinals have lost two consecutive games. And that has left a team that considers itself Super Bowl contenders in a foul mood.

“Obviously pissed,” Kingsbury said. “To come out and play like that, that’s not who we want to be or what we want to be. But I’ve got to tip my hat to Detroit, I thought they had a tremendous plan. Like I said, they out coached us, out played us. We’ve got to be better.” 

Packers Are In The Dance

The Green Bay Packers are the NFL”s only team that has already won its division and clinched a postseason berth. And the NFC North champs celebrated after Sunday’s 31-30 victory over Baltimore with T-shirts proclaiming their division title.

Except for coach Matt LaFleur. He didn’t have on one of those shirts, but appreciate the accomplishment anyway.

“That’s always the first goal,” LaFleur said. “You have to win your division, and that guarantees you a home playoff game. It really gets you in the dance. That’s ultimately what you like to do. I think it’s fair to say, the ultimate goal is everybody has the same [ultimate]
goal – and that’s to be the last team standing at the end of the year.

“Until we do that, I don’t think we will be satisfied. At the same time, I love this team. I love this group. Just how they battle, how connected they are as a group.”

Aaron Rodgers said he and his teammates have to “savor” these moments. But Rodgers also understands the Packers aren’t done.

They have clinched one home playoff game, but being the top conference seed would get them a bye in the first round and he understands that would be greatly beneficial.

“There’s multiple things,” Rodgers said. “The opportunity to get players back, I think is at the top of the list. With Dave [Bakhtiari’s] status and ‘Ja’s’ [Jaire Alexander’s] status and ‘Z’s [Za’Darius Smith’s] status kind of unknown at this point about the exact date, we feel like we can get those guys back. Josh Myers, as well.

“And having an extra week I think would be really great for my toe. I mean, that would be fantastic to get another week. And then, the fact that we can win two home playoff games and make it to the Super Bowl.”

The Biggest Upset Of The Week

Bill Belichick was quite brusk with reporters in his postgame press conference on Saturday after the New England Patriots dropped a 27-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

But on Monday morning, in his first meeting with reporters since that game, Belichick opened with quite a different tone.

“I’ll just start off here,” Belichick said, “Look, fellas, I apologize if it seemed liked I was a little short with you after the game. Down 20-0, didn’t do anything well enough. I mean, there isn’t really much to say at that point without watching the film …

“Not really trying to be short but, honestly, there wasn’t much to say. I don’t know that there’s a whole lot more to say now. But it’s not your fault. It was a frustrating game.”

Pretty cool.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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