Before this season began, there was hope – lots of it, in fact.
The hope was that Lovie Smith would come in, and the Buccaneers would turn things around, or at least start to head in the right direction. He and GM Jason Licht would start to right the ship. Some of the so-called pundits even predicted Tampa Bay would qualify for the playoffs.
Those self-proclaimed experts were wrong. Man, were they ever wrong. And we, the fans, paid the price.
None of us expected the Bucs to go 2-14. Remember back in the draft, when the Bucs used all of their picks to upgrade an offense that needed more than a few extra cylinders? The offensive line was overhauled via free agency. What did we end up with in return?
We got an offense that finished 30th in the league in total yards.
We got a journeyman quarterback that won only one of his eleven starts, completed only 56% of his passes, threw more INT’s (14) than TD’s (11) and was sacked 36 times.
We got a running game that averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Think of how much worse it would’ve been had they not gone crazy on Sunday in the finale against the Saints.
We did, however, get a beast of a wide receiver. Mike Evans went for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Only Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson found the end zone more often. When you consider who was throwing the ball to Evans this year, his stats are even more remarkable.
What did we get on defense? We got a unit that ranked 25th in the league, and more often than not, looked worse than that. Lovie Smith is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach. Plays that could’ve been made to seal games were not made. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are great, but the jury is still out on many others.
What’s the most painful part of this season, besides the obvious 2-14? If the Bucs had gone 8-8, they would’ve won the NFC South and would be hosting a playoff game at Raymond James Stadium this weekend.
I was going to hand out final grades, as I did at the midpoint of the season. But honestly, you could take everything I wrote eight weeks ago and just multiply it times two – including the number of wins, sadly.
How the heck did they beat Pittsburgh?
But hey – they’ve got the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. Yeah! There is hope after all!
By the way, the photo at the top of this article is a shameless selfie, taken as the Bucs were losing to the Falcons at Ray-Jay in November.
Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ amazing, 27-24 victory over the Steelers on Sunday.
For a change, there’s plenty to write about in the “good” department.
The Bucs got the ball back in Pittsburgh territory with less than a minute remaining, thanks to a defensive stop and a short punt. Mike Glennon had no timeouts to work with. No problem. He drove Tampa Bay right down the field with a huge 41-yard completion to Louis Murphy, followed by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with seven seconds left on the clock. It was an incredible rally by a team that gave up 56 points to the Falcons the last time out. Glennon threw for over 300 yards while completing just half of his passes. But with the game on the line, he came up big. Murphy finished with 99 yards receiving, as he stepped up in a big way after Mike Evans left the game with an injury.
Defensively, the Bucs limited the Steelers to just one touchdown in the second half. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger a season-high five times, and forced a fumble that led to Tampa Bay’s first score, a Glennon-to-Evans TD pass. We need to see more of that in the weeks to come.
Even with the sacks, the Buccaneers allowed Big Ben to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. And they continue to struggle to cover tight ends. Heath Miller had 10 catches for 85 yards and a score. Next week, they’re playing a tight end named Jimmy Graham. I suggest they do some homework on him. Antonio Brown also had a field day, catching seven balls for 131 yards and two TD’s. And who knows what the outcome might have been had Brown not dropped a flea flicker that could’ve gone for another six points.
Penalties continue to be a problem. The Bucs were flagged nine times for 50 yards. But they were outdone by the Steelers in that category. Pittsburgh had 13 penalties, including more than a few 15-yarders that helped Tampa Bay’s cause.
The Bucs were down in the red zone on their second-to-last possession. They decided it would be a good idea to let Bobby Rainey throw a pass into the end zone. If that play works, you look like a genius. If it doesn’t, you look like a fool. It didn’t work. But fortunately, it didn’t end up costing Tampa Bay the game.