Judging a preseason game is so difficult. You ignore the final score, and try instead
to focus on who shined, and who didn’t.
It’s even tougher when a lot of the starters either play very little, or
not at all. That said, here are some
thoughts from the Bucs’ 30-28 loss to the Steelers in the preseason opener.
Jameis Winston, who’s looked on-and-off during training
camp, was definitely on in this game. He
led Tampa Bay on 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to
Chris Godwin. With Adam Humphries gone,
Godwin is now the #2 receiver behind Mike Evans. The drive was a nice mix of running the ball
(yes, they actually ran it effectively) and passing.
The first-team defense only saw limited action, and wasn’t
facing the Steelers’ starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s hard to
judge this unit. They have been making
quite a few plays in camp. Any
improvement these days would be considered a plus.
The battle that intrigues me the most is for kicker. It’s rookie Matt Gay against the guy who
finished last year, Cairo Santos. On
Friday night, Gay made his only attempt, from 55 yards out. He and Santos have both been lights out in
training camp. Let me reiterate that:
the kickers are actually making kicks.
It will be interesting to see who wins the job. Right now, it’s a toss-up.
In case you missed it: Vita Vea will miss several weeks with
a knee injury. At least he’s not out for
the season. The Bucs also released offensive
lineman Evan Smith, who spent the last five seasons in Tampa.
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.