An UGLY Performance by the Bucs

This was disgusting.  Absolutely disgusting.

There was nothing to like about Sunday’s game at Ray-Jay, where the Buccaneers were soundly beaten by the Saints, 34-17.  New Orleans is the better team; there’s no questioning that.  Still, this was bad.

The problems with this team are the same ones we’ve seen game in and game out.  The secondary is awful.  The offensive line can’t protect anybody.  Jameis Winston continues to turn the ball over with relative ease.  He had four more INT’s in this game.  I blame the first one on O.J. Howard, but the other three are all on the quarterback.  He has nearly 100 turnovers (including lost fumbles) in his nearly five years in Tampa.  And don’t get me going on the whole “they’re not all his fault” thing.  That’s true, but the number of miscues is still alarming to say the least.

By the way, Howard didn’t get another pass thrown to him after he caused that first turnover. 

But it doesn’t stop there.  The play calling is horrible.  51 passes and only 8 rushes?  And it’s not just this game.  I have serious concerns about Byron Leftwich’s ability.  And Bruce Arians’ postgame act is getting old.  He can rip the officials all he wants.  But he was brought in to fix this mess, and it hasn’t happened.  And Bruce, you may want to think twice before challenging another pass interference call.

For weeks, I’ve been quietly saying to myself that Tampa Bay is still better than Atlanta.  Well, now they’re tied.  And the Falcons are playing better than the Bucs right now.  After next week, our team could very well be in sole possession of the NFC South cellar…again.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Bucs Release Former First-Round Pick Hargreaves

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves will go down in Tampa Bay history as a first-round bust.

The Buccaneers got rid of their 2016 first-round draft pick on Tuesday, two days after Bruce Arians benched him during the game against the Cardinals for not hustling on a play.

The funny thing is, Hargreaves started out 2019 on fire.  He had a pick-six in the opener against San Francisco.  Then he made the game-saving play near the goal line in the closing seconds to beat Carolina.  But after that, he did a poor job covering, well, just about every receiver from every team.  Opponents knew this, and constantly threw in his direction, constantly drawing the ire of Bucs fans.  He only had one other interception during his time in Tampa.

Hargreaves was just one problem in a disastrous secondary.  This group is very young, and they’re not good.  This move does not improve the pass defense.  But Arians is sending a message here, first with the mid-game benching, and now the release.

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 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

Bucs Get First Win in Dramatic Fashion

Here are some thoughts on the Bucs’ first victory of the season: a 20-14 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.

It is amazing what Todd Bowles has done with this defense in just two games.  Take Mike Smith’s swiss-cheese defense, and flip it 180 degrees.  Bowles’ unit kept the Panthers out of the end zone, and has only allowed one offensive touchdown in eight quarters.  After Carolina, not surprisingly, marched down the field for a final drive, Vernon Hargreaves made the play that everyone’s still buzzing about, stopping Christian McCaffrey at the two-yard line with less than 90 seconds to play.  It was a night where the Bucs stifled McCaffrey all the way around.

Another star was Shaquil Barrett.  He’s another new face on defense, and he sacked Cam Newton three times. 

The Buccaneers gave up some long plays in this one, but tightened up in the red zone.  I remember Tony Dungy’s teams winning a lot of games like this.  I’m just throwing that out there.

On offense, Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over.  That is huge.  Everyone (including me) rips him when he screws up, so it is only fair that I praise him when he has a good game.  His stats may not jump out at you, but again, no turnovers.

Chris Godwin is a beast: 121 yards and a TD.  He, not Mike Evans, is the Bucs’ leading receiver after two games.

Peyton Barber churned out 82 tough yards on the ground, and scored a touchdown.  He had to work for every one of those yards against a tough Carolina defense.

This was not a perfect game by any means.  There were way too many penalties again (p.s. – someone tell Bruce Arians and Bowles that you can’t call back-to-back timeouts.)  Going 2-for-12 on third down isn’t going to cut it, either.  But at the end of a late night, the Bucs beat a division opponent on the road.  That is huge.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Bucs Lose To 49ers in Ugly Opener

Here are some quick thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers in the season opener at Ray-Jay:

As ugly as this game was, I will start with some positives.  The Bucs actually had a running game, led by a rejuvenated Ronald Jones.  The defense looks much, much better than past years.  Vernon Hargreaves III came up with a rare pick-six.  This unit only allowed one offensive touchdown.  So how did San Francisco get 31 points?  Oh, I’m getting to that.  But first, one more positive: rookie kicker Matt Gay was perfect on the day.

Now, let’s get to the ugly stuff:

Jameis Winston had an awful game.  He had three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.  The other one, admittedly, went right through O.J. Howard’s hands.  But Winston was consistently off-target.  He fumbled a snap.  This is the year he has to break out and play like a No. 1 overall pick.  This was not a good start.  And if Twitter was a member of the Bucs coaching staff, Winston would be out on the street right now looking for work.  He MUST do better than this, or his ass is going to be on the bench very soon.

I said I was concerned about the offensive line before the season began.  They did not perform well against the ‘Niners.  Winston was sacked three times, and Demar Dotson was penalized twice for holding, which nullified would-be touchdowns.  The offensive line play makes the running game’s performance even that much more amazing.

Now, I want to take about the curious decision by Bruce Arians early in the fourth quarter.  The score was 20-14.  The Bucs kicked a field goal, but the 49ers were penalized for offsides.  Instead of making it a three-point game, Arians decided to go for it on 4th down from the 2.  Winston’s pass was batted away.  So instead of it being 20-17, the Bucs still needed a touchdown to pull it out – a score they would not get.  So, Arians is a gambler, eh?  He’s 0-for-1 so far.

Next up: the Panthers on Thursday night.  This is the Gerald McCoy Bowl, part one.

Photo courtesy: San Francisco 49ers