Let’s get it on, ladies and gentlemen.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers kick off the 2018 season in New Orleans against the Saints.
Remember last year when we had to wait half the year to play a division foe? Well, we get one right out of the gate this time.
There are a lot of questions, as always. How can the Bucs do with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Jameis Winston for the first three games? Can the defense actually stop anyone, unlike last year? (Vita Vea and Brent Grimes will not play in New Orleans.) Will Todd Monken keep calling the plays, or will Dirk Koetter re-take control?
I would love to see an amazing turnaround this season to prove the doubters wrong. No one outside of us diehards thinks Tampa Bay’s going to do anything this year. That includes Vegas; trust me, I was just there last week, and saw the long odds we’re facing. But beating the Saints in the opener would be a great start.
So come along for the ride, and I’ll have a few things to say about the game Sunday night, win or lose.
In my season preview a couple of weeks ago, I opined that the Bucs’ defense was the unit I was most concerned about heading into 2017. They showed some promise against Chicago in the opener.
So much for that.
The Buccaneers’ leaky, unable-to-make-a-tackle secondary showed up again in Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Vikings. This is the third straight time they’ve made Case Keenum look like a superstar (the last two were when he was with the Rams.) And while the secondary kept springing leaks, the pass rush was nowhere to be seen. Yes, the two go hand in hand more often than not.
The offense doesn’t get any good grades, either. Jameis Winston was picked off three times – once in the end zone, the other near the goal line when he threw into triple coverage. Hey Jameis: it’s not a good idea to throw the ball to an area where there are three purple-clad defenders lurking. You tend to do this a lot, and I’m begging you to stop.
Tampa Bay only had 26 yards rushing. That’s not going to cut it, either. Part of that, of course, is being forced to throw because the Bucs were playing from behind all day.
If this loss wasn’t bad enough, the injuries are piling up. Kwon Alexander and Brent Grimes didn’t play. Perhaps the biggest loss was Lavonte David, who got hurt in the fourth quarter and could be out for a while. Noah Spence and Gerald McCoy are also banged up. Who’s going to step it up on defense? Heck, who’s going to play defense at this point?
The Bucs host the Giants next Sunday.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
There will be no playoffs in Tampa this year. But at least the Buccaneers won more games than they lost. We haven’t been able to say that in six years.
The Bucs edged the Panthers in the season finale on Sunday, 17-16. The game wasn’t decided until the Bucs prevented Carolina from getting a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.
It’s always nice to beat Cam Newton, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
This game was all about the defense. It was the defense that intercepted Newton three times, including Brent Grimes’ pick-six that put gave the Bucs the lead for the first time. The other two came from Keith Tandy, who really played very well down the stretch.
It was the defense that sacked Newton three times.
It was also the defense that allowed the Panthers to tie the game in the closing seconds, but came up with the big play when Ron Rivera decided to go for two and the win (by the way, I applaud Rivera for going for it; he had nothing to lose in that situation.)
Jameis Winston struggled for much of the day, but his TD pass to Mike Evans broke a 10-10 tie late in the fourth quarter. Winston is the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He also set a franchise record with 28 touchdown passes. But he also threw a pick and lost a fumble, and overthrew a lot of receivers. In the end, I guess you could say he did just enough to get the win.
While Mike Evans gets all the headlines for the receivers – and rightfully so – let’s give some props to Adam Humprhies: 10 catches for 94 yards.
Robert Aguayo was an adventure yet again. Of his three field goal attempts, he made the first, missed the second, and had the third one blocked. GM Jason Licht is going to have to make a decision about Aguayo’s future. My gut tells me it won’t happen in the offseason, but he just didn’t perform as well as any kicker should, let alone a second-round draft pick.
It’s been a fun season, Bucs fans. In my next column (whenever I get some free time) I’ll put a bow on the 2016 Bucs with the best and worst of the past four months.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well, that was worth staying up late for a Bucs’ game that was actually on TV.
This was a game that neither team seemed to want. But in the end, there was beleaguered kicker Roberto Aguayo, who had already missed two kicks earlier in the game, standing out there on the field with :03 left on the clock and the outcome resting on his right foot.
And wouldn’t you know – he nailed it.
The Bucs picked up an important win over a division rival, beating the Panthers, 17-14.
There is so much to dissect. Just look at the last drive alone. Dirk Koetter’s play-calling continues to bewilder me. The Bucs got the ball back with just under 2:00 remaining, and Koetter called two straight running plays, the second of which resulted in the running back going out of bounds, allowing Carolina to save a timeout. Then on the 3rd down, the Bucs threw it to pick up a first down, and suddenly they’re not just trying to milk the clock anymore. They marched down the field, and caught a break when the Panthers were called for a personal foul facemask. They caught another break when the refs said Vincent Jackson went out of bounds after making a catch, when the replay showed otherwise. That stopped the clock when it otherwise would’ve kept running. It all resulted in Aguayo’s redemption kick – right down the middle – that set off a late-night celebration in my apartment.
Don’t worry – I kept it down. There are a lot of older people in my building who likely went to bed after Big Papi’s career earlier in the night.
All I heard about going into this game was Carolina not having Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart. Well, the Bucs didn’t have running back Doug Martin, and were without three-quarters of their starting defensive front: Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Robert Ayers.
Derek Anderson had beaten the Bucs twice before. It looked like he might do it again, but he made a critical mistake when Brent Grimes picked him off in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, one of four Tampa Bay takeaways.
As I said, this game was far from perfect. Jameis Winston is still making too many dumb decisions. Aguayo gives me a heart attack every time he steps on the field. You’d think the Buccaneers would decide to cover Greg Olsen every now and then. They’re still committing too many costly penalties and crucial times – whether it’s a 3rd and short situation, or the other team is punting it away and they decide it’s a good idea to knock the punter down to the ground right after he kicks it.
I mentioned Koetter’s play-calling at the end. What about that 3rd down call in the fourth quarter – a running play? The next play: Aguayo – wide left.
One thing that was great to see was the performance of Jacquizz Rogers, who rushed for over 100 yards, much of it in the first half. The Buccaneers put Charles Sims on IR earlier in the day (he’s been lousy anyway) so it was nice to have a running game in the absence of Doug Martin.
The Bucs are now 2-3, with both wins coming on the road against division opponents. They have their bye week next week, which gives them a chance to get healthy. Thank goodness.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
Broncos 27, Buccaneers 7
I’m getting tired of writing the same old stuff week after week. But there isn’t much else I can do these days.
The Buccaneers looked awful again on Sunday. More turnovers, more penalties, more poor play in the secondary. And naturally, when Denver had to bring in its backup rookie quarterback, Tampa Bay made him look like him look like a ten-year veteran.
Jameis Winston, after a scintillating performance in the opener against Atlanta, has looked terrible the past three weeks. Against the Broncos, he threw two more interceptions, both of which resulted in Denver touchdowns. By the way – did you notice who made both of those picks? Yes, that’s Aqib Talib, the former Buc. Getting back to Winston, he’s thrown seven INT’s in the last three games. The dreaded sophomore slump is in full effect right now.
The Bucs need Doug Martin back a.s.a.p. Charles Sims is awful. Aside from being unable to run the ball effectively, he screwed up again in the Denver game. What the heck was he thinking when he apparently tried to lateral the ball – and in the process cough it up – up on 3rd and 1 in Broncos’ territory? They should bench his ass.
The defense – particularly the safeties – continues to be a major disappointment. I’m looking at you, Chris Conte and Brent Grimes. Aside from their poor coverage, Grimes had an interception go right through his hands. He would’ve saved Tampa Bay three points. The defense did get some nice pressure on Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch in the first half, but were totally gassed in the second. Denver played keep-away, and the Bucs couldn’t get anything going on offense. The Broncos’ defense is very, very good.
And I’m not letting Dirk Koetter off the hook, either. Ultimately, this all lies on him. One decision in the fourth quarter stood out: you’re down by 20, midway thru the 4th quarter, you’re facing 4th and 6 on Denver’s side of field, and you punt? I don’t understand that. They still had a chance – albeit a very slim one – of pulling off a miraculous comeback. But by punting there, aren’t you essentially waving the white flag? Geez.
Next week, the Bucs play in Carolina on Monday Night Football. The whole country gets to see the frustration we Bucs fans have been dealing with for many, many years.
Photo Courtesy: AP