Finally, Another Win!

Winning cures everything, right?

Well, I would hardly say the Buccaneers are cured of all their problems.  But it’s always nice at the end of the day when your score is higher than your opponent’s.  Tampa Bay beat Arizona at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 30-27.

This was by no means a work of art.  Jameis Winston threw two more interceptions.  The secondary looked like, well, the secondary.  The Bucs got schooled on a fake punt.  And they got the break of the season when Arizona’s Maxx Williams dropped what would’ve been an easy touchdown on 4th down in the fourth quarter.

But in the end, Peyton Barber’s 1-yard run with 1:43 left was the game-winner.  And after the Bucs took the lead, raise your hand if you thought the Cardinals would march right down the field to tie or win the game.  Surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

There was definitely an effort to get Ronald Jones more involved in the game.  He had more yards receiving (77) than rushing (29.)  He did score a touchdown on the ground, but also lost a fumble without being touched. 

It was easy to see why both teams have losing records.  There were mistakes galore on both sides.  But Tampa Bay’s four-game losing streak is over, and it feels so good.

The Saints come to Ray-Jay next week.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Midseason Report

Now that we’re officially halfway through the 2019 NFL season, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve seen so far in the first eight games for the Bucs.  You’ll notice I’m not going through every player or every position.  I’m just going to pick and choose.  So here we go:

OFFENSIVE MVP: Mike Evans.  This guy is a stud; there’s no other way to say it.  Remember how he started off with no touchdowns in the first two games?  Well, now he has seven.  His 842 receiving yards are second in the NFL behind only Michael Thomas of the Saints.  Evans and Chris Godwin have become one of the best receiving tandems in the league.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Shaq Barrett.  What a pickup this guy was.  He leads the league in sacks with 10.5, eight of which came in the first three games.  The drop-off since then is likely attributed to teams paying more attention to him now, but that opens up opportunities for others.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: the secondary.  Even with all those draft picks spent on this group, they’re still terrible.  They’re allowing 31 points a game.  They are second-worst in defending the pass (Oakland sneaked ahead of them!)  And yet, the run defense is best in the league.  Knowing that, it’s no secret why teams are just throwing the ball at will.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Jameis Winston.  Believe me, I read all kinds of comments from the lovers and haters on a weekly basis.  The haters point to all the turnovers and bad decisions.  The lovers will mention the big passing games he’s had, and how the aforementioned secondary is making him look back.  It will very interesting to see what the Bucs do with him after this season.

BEST GAME SO FAR: The Week 4 win over the Rams in L.A.  Tampa Bay pulled a stunner, scoring a season-high 55 points against the defending NFC champs.

WORST GAME SO FAR: the game right before that, against the Giants.  The Bucs blew a 28-10 lead, and made rookie QB Daniel Jones look like a superstar, as they have with so many other rookie and backup quarterbacks.  Has anyone seen what Jones has done since that game?

So, there’s a quick summary.  The Bucs finally play a home game this weekend against the Cardinals.  It’s only their third game at Ray-Jay so far.  And in just over a month, I’ll be heading down to Tampa for the game against the Colts.

Go Bucs!

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Draining Defeat for the Bucs in Seattle

In a season that has been frustrating to say the least, this may have been the most draining defeat suffered by the Buccaneers so far in 2019.

Seattle beat Tampa Bay in overtime, 40-34.

The Bucs went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the NFC.  At one point, they led 21-7.  They coughed up that lead.  Still, they persevered, scoring the tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation.

So why did they lose?  Look no further than the well-documented worst secondary in the NFL.  Russell Wilson torched them for five touchdown passes, including the game-winner on the opening possession of OT.  This was the sixth time in eight games that the Bucs’ opponent has scored at least 30 points.  That is, simply put, unacceptable.

Don’t blame Jameis Winston for this loss.  He played well.  He did lose a critical fumble in the fourth quarter – and you can debate all you want about whether Donovan Smith’s arm caused the miscue – but Winston recovered from that, and led his team down the field to tie the game in the closing seconds. And something dawned on me after the fact: do you think Bruce Arians should’ve gone for two and the win, instead of playing for overtime? I’m just going to throw that out there.

To pull off an upset, you need some breaks to go your way.  Seattle’s kicker missed a PAT and two field goals, including one at the end of regulation.  Winston’s first TD pass could’ve easily been a pick in the end zone, but ricocheted into the arms of…. Breshad Perriman of all people.  But despite that good fortune, the Bucs couldn’t pull it out.

The brutal stretch of games away from Ray-Jay is now over.  The Bucs only won one of them, against the Rams in Los Angeles.

Later this week: Bri hands out his midseason report card.

Photo courtesy:  Seattle Times

Yet Another Frustrating Bucs Loss

You have to admit this about the Buccaneers: they keep finding creative new ways to lose the game.  In their 27-23 loss to the Titans, let’s take a look:

Jameis Winston committed four more turnovers: two interceptions, two lost fumbles, though the first fumble was arguably more of Ryan Jensen’s fault for a bad shotgun snap.  Tennessee’s first two TD drives covered a total of 16 yards.  Winston is responsible for ten turnovers in the last two games.  Ten.

Now let’s go to the touchdown by Mike Evans – who had monster game – right before halftime.  The score was 17-15.  Bruce Arians decided to go for two, and the Bucs were unsuccessful.  Why would you go for two that situation, with a whole second half to play?  Had they just kicked the extra point to pull within one, they would’ve needed just a field goal down the stretch.

Then there’s the play that we’re ready to murder the refs over.  Late in the fourth quarter, the Titans tried a fake punt.  Devin White clobbered the runner, forced a fumble, and Andrew Adams picked it up and ran it all the way back.  But for some ridiculous reason, the officials blew the play dead after the fumble recovery.  Why?  That play would’ve given Tampa Bay the lead with just over three minutes remaining.

And finally, at the two-minute warning, the Bucs had 4th-and-1 from the Tennessee 32.  They line up in the shotgun and…. hand the ball off to Peyton Barber?  What kind of a play call is that?  You’ve got Evans and Chris Godwin as weapons.  In my opinion, Ronald Jones is a better back that Barber.  But once Barber got the handoff – in the shotgun, 4th-and-1 turned into 4th-and-5.  And naturally, he got stuffed.  Heck, if you’re going to run, why not try a quarterback sneak?  Byron Leftwich deserves all the criticism in the world for that decision.

Speaking of play-calling, I’m baffled as to why players like Dare Ogunbowale and Breshad Perriman get their numbers called.  They are terrible.

All in all, this was yet another case of the Bucs beating the Bucs.  They made mistakes, and the Titans made them pay.  Tampa Bay is now 2-5, with a cross-country trip to Seattle staring them in the face.  Oh, my.

Photo courtesy: Tennessee Titans

Bucs at the Bye: Plenty of Blame to Go Around

With the Buccaneers on their bye week and sitting at 2-4, it’s time to use this break in the action to do some finger-pointing at four areas that I think deserve to be singled out.

Jameis Winston.  You have to start with the quarterback, right?  Winston’s had some good games this season, and then he’s had games like the one in London where he was responsible for six of the team’s seven turnovers.  He has plenty of critics.  He also has a lot of supporters.  You may be surprised to hear about the latter, but if you read what I read on social media, it’s true.  Winston’s defenders will tell you that the bad pass protection, receivers dropping the occasional big play, the secondary giving up too many points, are bigger problems.  Well, they’re all right.  But the bottom line is, Winston’s been too inconsistent.  And in his fifth season as the number-one overall pick in the pick, that is disappointing and unacceptable.

The offensive line.  This group has given up 25 sacks, tied for second most of the NFL with the Jets.  Only the Titans (the Bucs’ next opponent) is worse.  The running game is still largely non-existent.  Tampa Bay is ranked 23rd in rushing.  A lot of fans will say some of those sacks fall on Winston holding onto the ball too long.  I’ll buy that.  But the overall numbers don’t lie.  The GM also deserves some blame here.  More on that in a moment.

The secondary.  It’s been awful for several years now, and this year is no different.  The Bucs are dead last in pass defense, allowing over 300 yards a game through the air.  And yet, Tampa Bay is best in the league at stopping the run.  But with the dreadful coverage in the secondary, you’re inviting teams to throw the ball 50 times a game.  The Bucs have spent many, many draft picks on this area.  They’ve changed coaches.  They’ve changed schemes.  And yet, there’s been no improvement whatsoever.  That brings me to my fourth item.

Jason Licht.  He drafted all those guys in the secondary with no improvement.  Doesn’t he deserve some of the blame for this unit’s failure?  I think he does.  Licht has also done little to address the offensive line.  Doesn’t he deserve criticism for that as well?  I think he does.  He was the only one to survive the housecleaning at the end of last season.  Many fans, including me, don’t think he should survive this one if Tampa Bay keeps playing like this.

Photo Courtesy: SportsWire

Bucs Play Worst Game of 2019 in London

The first play of this game turned out to be a precursor of what the next three hours or so would bring: Jameis Winston throwing an interception.

Winston would throw four more picks before the day was over.  And the Bucs played arguably their worst all-around game of the season in a 37-26 loss to the Panthers in London.  The Buccaneers turned it over seven times in this one.

Winston was abysmal.  The offensive line was horrible, allowing seven sacks.  The secondary was pathetic.  There was Mike Evans – dropping a rare perfect deep ball by Winston just before the half – a play that could been a game-changer.  The Bucs made another backup quarterback look like Tom Brady.  Does all of that sound familiar?  It should; we’ve been seeing this movie for the last several years – not weeks or months, years.

Tampa Bay now sits at 2-4 heading into the bye week.  What changes, if any, will Bruce Arians make?  He has to do something, because this team is a mess once again.

That’s all the venting I’ll do for now.  I’ll do some more in a forthcoming post.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Familiar Problems Plague Bucs in Loss to Saints

After scoring 55 points in a big win over the Rams last week, Bucs fans were hoping Tampa Bay could keep it going in a divisional matchup against the Saints.

Nope.

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 31-14.  The biggest problems continue to be the pass defense and the offensive line.  For a team that’s made a living of making backup quarterbacks look like superstars, the Bucs did just that with Teddy Bridgewater.  And Jameis Winston was sacked six times.

Mike Evans did not have a catch in this game.  The Bucs defensive line barely touched Bridgewater.  Credit New Orleans for that.

But let’s get back to the secondary for a moment.  The coordinator has changed.  The formations have changed.  And while the run defense has been impressive, the pass defense is once again among the worst in the league.  That is mind-boggling, given all of the draft picks spent on this unit.  One player who’s really drawn the ire of us fans is former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III.  But he is not alone.  The entire secondary is abysmal.  The Bucs have allowed 103 points in the last three weeks (that includes 40 to the Rams in a game the Bucs won.)

Yes, there is time to turn this around.  Beat the Panthers (who have turned things around since losing to the Bucs in Week 2) in London, and Tampa Bay will be 3-3 heading into the bye.  But for the love of God, something has to be done with the awful secondary.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans Saints

Week 4 Preview: Bucs at Rams

So here we go – the start of the most brutal part of the Buccaneers schedule, in which they’ll be away from home for the next six weeks.  First up: a matchup against the NFC Champion Rams in Los Angeles.

Can the Bucs recover from last week’s meltdown against the Giants?  Can Matt Gay get back on track?  How will the Bucs be able to control Aaron Donald, not to mention Sean McVay’s high-powered offense?  These are just some of the things to look for on Sunday.

Tampa Bay will be without their first-round draft pick Devin White again.  And center Ryan Jensen is questionable.  Lord help the offensive line if they’re not healthy and Donald is already licking his chops.

The Bucs are a heavy underdog in this one, as you’d expect.  But if they can pull off the upset, it would be a huge confidence booster moving forward.

Fox has the game on Sunday, with Chris Myers and Daryl Johnson in the broadcast booth at the Coliseum.

Finally, a note to my readers: I am going on vacation on Sunday, so I will not be providing a recap here after the game.  But I will be keeping tabs on it from fabulous Las Vegas.  I will resume the blog with coverage of the next game against New Orleans.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An Awful Loss For the Bucs

Attention Tampa Bay fans: after a gratifying win over Carolina, we have just been reminded that the Bucs are still…the Bucs.

They lost to the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 32-31.  It was a game in which Matt Gay missed two extra points, and a 34-yard field goal as time expired that would’ve won the game.  That’s five points left on the field.  I guess I was wrong when I wrote before the season began that this team appeared to have solved its kicking problems.  That is a resounding ‘no.’

In my game preview, I wrote that the Buccaneers have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Well, Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones led his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit, and scored the game-winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining.  I rest my case.  This defense may be improved over last year, but still has a long way to go to become elite.

Jameis Winston did not lose this game.  Mike Evans did not lose this game.  Evans had three touchdowns, and the two connected on a huge pass in the final minute to set up what should’ve been a game-winning kick.  And this may be lost in the shuffle: the Bucs got hit with a delay of game penalty before Gay’s final miss.  Would that five yards have made a difference, given how close the kick was?  Either way, Matt Gay HAS to make that kick.

There’s more to write about, but I am sick to my stomach.  And I am angry.  With the next six weeks away from home, this was a game Tampa Bay had to have.  They didn’t get it.

Week 3 Preview: Buccaneers vs Giants

The Buccaneers will go for their second straight win on Sunday when they host the Giants at Ray-Jay.

The headline for this game – at least on a national level – is the quarterback change made by the Giants.  Eli Manning is on the bench, and rookie Daniel Jones gets his first career start.  For any Tampa Bay fans who think this is great news, I will politely remind you that the Bucs have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Remember Derek Anderson?

In addition to preparing for Jones, one of the keys for the Bucs will be stopping Saquon Barkley, much like they were able to contain Christian McCaffrey last Thursday night.

Offensively, this is stating the obvious: the Buccaneers have to protect the football and cut down on penalties.  The latter has been a big problem in the first two games.

Another reason this is an important game: Tampa Bay won’t play another game at Ray-Jay until November 10.  The next six weeks consist of four road games, a “home” game in London, and the bye week. Yikes.

Kickoff is at 4:05, and will be televised around here on Boston 25.  For the second time in three weeks, Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber are the announcers.  Barber will be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor at halftime.  His pick-six in against the Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship game is arguably the greatest play in team history.