Head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith deserve the blame for this performance in the desert, the second year in a row the Buccaneers have stunk up the joint in Arizona.
The final score was 38-33. Forget, for a moment, that the Bucs valiantly made a game of it in the second half, and that the Cards gave Tampa Bay every chance to actually pull it out. Let me take aim at the aforementioned coaches.
Let’s start with the defense. Adrian Peterson is a good running back. There is no denying that. But the Bucs made it look too easy for him. And how in the world can the defense let the Cardinals’ receivers get so wide open, especially superstar Larry Fitzgerald? You’d think you’d make sure he was covered on every play. I guess not. The tackling was abysmal. And what all of those defensive offside penalties? Smith’s unit was the one I was concerned most about going into the season. Five games in, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
By the way, I was listening to the radio broadcast coming out of the locker room. When asked about defensive adjustments, Koetter said they had to tackle better. I think covering wide-open receivers would also have been a good idea. At one point, it was 31-0.
Now let’s rip Koetter for a few moments. At the end of the first half, the Bucs were getting whipped 24-0, yet were in scoring position. Koetter decided to go for it on 4th and goal, and were stopped. I’m pretty good at math. When you’re down 24, you need three touchdowns and a field goal. Why not kick the field goal (with your brand-new kicker) in that situation to at least get points on the board? The Bucs reached the end zone five times in the second half, and went for the two-point conversion four out of five times. Had they just kicked extra points after the first three – and taken the FG at the end of the half – we could’ve been looking at a one-score game. After an awful throw by backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave Arizona a free touchdown, the Bucs went down and responded, yet missed another two-pointer. Again, this could’ve been a one-score game late in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs having a chance to cap off a miraculous comeback.
Hey coach: pick up a manual that tells you when to go for two, and when to kick the PAT. You really screwed this up big-time. I don’t know if the Buccaneers would’ve won this game in crazy fashion, but they certainly would’ve been in a better position if you had known what to do, and when to do it.
See you in Buffalo next Sunday. Will Jameis Winston be able to play? Stay tuned.
Photo courtesy: Arizona Cardinals
And the winner of the Buccaneers’ kicking sweepstakes is: a former Tampa Bay kicker.
Patrick Murray is back. The Bucs signed him today, and fans hope he can make us forget about Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo.
You remember this guy, right? Sure, you do. He was the Bucs’ kicker three years ago. And he was pretty good. He made 20-of-24 field goals, and connected on all of his extra points (keeping in mind PAT’s were much shorter back then.)
Why did the Bucs get rid of him? He was injured for most of 2015, and they let him go. Cleveland picked up him, but he got hurt again after just two games last year.
All I want is for Murray to kick the ball through the uprights on a regular basis. Doing that would ease the nerves of fans like me nervous every time the Buccaneers line up for a field goal or an extra point.
That’s all, Folk.
There are many reasons why the Buccaneers lost to the Super Bowl champion Patriots on Thursday night, 19-14. Let me count the ways:
The kicking game still stinks. This is the most glaring problem, but as you’ll see, hardly the only one. Why can’t we get a kicker who can consistently kick the ball through the uprights? Nick Folk missed three more field goal attempts. That’s six missed kicks in less than a week, covering two games. And these were bad misses – not even close to being good. One of them was a 56-yarder that would’ve been no good from 26. I am stunned that he is still on the roster after his performance. Can we turn the clock back and bring Matt Bryant back to Tampa?
Jameis Winston is too inconsistent. Ignore his final numbers, which show he threw for over 300 yards. He continues to throw into double coverage. He’s missing open receivers. He can’t consistently throw the deep ball very well. Remember that play where DeSean Jackson was open down the sideline? Jackson can’t be a factor downfield if Winston doesn’t get him the ball.
The play-calling was pathetic at times. Doug Martin was running wild through the Pats’ defense in the first half. So why did Koetter basically abandon the running game in the second? Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, after the Bucs cut the lead to two with just over two minutes remaining. The Bucs went for the onside kick, which was unsuccessful. New England converted it into three points. Why the onside kick? They had one timeout left plus the two-minute warning. They could’ve kicked it deep, gotten a touchback, meaning no time would come off the clock. They could’ve stopped New England, and gotten the ball with about a minute left – in much better field position – and only needing a field goal to win the game (and heck, maybe Folk would’ve made one for a change.)
All the talk up here in New England is about the Pats much-maligned defense bouncing back. Okay, I’ll buy that. But this is a Bucs’ blog, so you get the Bucs’ perspective on the game. Tampa Bay held a Tom Brady-led team to under 20 points. The game was there for the taking, and the Buccaneers didn’t grab it.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images
Why is it when the Buccaneers win a game, it never comes easy? The answer is simple: we’re Bucs’ fans. Nothing comes easy. I can count on one hand how many “easy” wins Tampa Bay’s had over the past decade.
I tweeted during the fourth quarter that if this game came down to Nick Folk’s leg – after he had already missed three kicks – that I was going to hide. I’m glad he made the game-winner – barely. And as more proof that nothing coming easy, there was a flag on that final play.
The Giants jumped offsides. Game over. Bucs 25, Giants 23.
There were so many twists and turns in this one, starting with the ‘what were you thinking’ play-calling at the end of the first half, and ending with the aforementioned Folk redeeming himself. Honestly, this was a game the Bucs easily could’ve lost. But maybe it’s a good sign that they won a game like this.
Jameis Winston’s day? Let’s call it decent. He still can’t consistently hit the deep ball. Yes, there was the beautiful pass to O.J. Howard. But the key word is “consistently.” Still, he wasn’t picked off, and he led his team down the field with the game on the line.
The Bucs still don’t have anything resembling a pass rush. They got by against Eli Manning. If you think that’s going to be okay against Tom Brady, you’re crazy. The return of Brent Grimes in the secondary made a difference on Sunday, though I still have doubts about that unit.
And Folk? My goodness. Can we please get someone who can make a kick? I wonder how short of a leash Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht have on him, especially after the Roberto Aguayo experiment that didn’t pan out.
But hey, we’re three games in, and the Buccaneers have won two of them. I’ll take it.
Up next: the Super Bowl champs on Thursday night. I hate Thursday night games, and not because the Bucs hardly ever win. I just hate them in general. And I despise the color rush uniforms that both teams will be wearing.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers