It looks like the Bucs are ready to get this party started.
There was a lot to like in the so-called “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night against the Lions. Tampa Bay lost, but as usual in preseason, ignore the final score. The Buccaneers, for the most part, kicked the Lions’ butts while the starters for both teams were in there.
Peyton Barber is going to be the starting running back on opening day in the Superdome. There’s no doubt about that. He’s looked impressive through three games, while Ronald Jones has struggled. Jones did catch a nice deep ball down the left sideline, but he’s largely been ineffective running the ball.
There’s been more good than bad from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start the season while Jameis Winston serves his suspension. Jameis has also played well so far. Heck, the same can be said of third-stringer Ryan Griffin.
Special teams? Adam Humphries, are you serious? I know it wasn’t the 2013 Iron Bowl, but it’s rare for any Buccaneers to return any kick for a touchdown under any circumstances.
If I do have a question mark, it’s the defense (shocking!) Yes, I know there are a lot of injuries, including first-round pick Vita Vea. But I get the impression that the overhauled defensive line isn’t really gelling together yet. And then there’s the secondary, which is still giving up big plays (but not a lot of points.) Dirk Koetter says Chris Conte is better than you think. Hey coach: we the fans beg to differ.
I know it’s hard to get excited over games that don’t count. But the Bucs sure look like a much better team than the one that went 5-11 a year ago. A note to my readers: I will not be blogging about the final preseason game unless there’s a significant development. The fourth exhibition game is the least meaningful of them all. Wake me up in two weeks in New Orleans.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When the schedule first came out, many Bucs fans like me probably had a trip to Kansas City penciled in as a loss. Sometimes it’s okay to be wrong.
Tampa Bay went into Arrowhead on Sunday and knocked off the Chiefs, 19-17. Don’t look now, but the Buccaneers are now 5-5. And most importantly, they’re only one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South. Heck, there are just two games separating the four teams in this division.
Consider some of the things we saw in this game:
*Another solid performance by Jameis Winston, who overcame an ugly fumble in the opening quarter.
*Chris Conte, who was getting beaten by just about every receiver imaginable through the first eight games, came up with a pick for the second straight week. This time, it was the biggest play of the afternoon: picking off Alex Smith and the end zone and returning it more than 50 yards.
*The end result of the aforementioned interception was a Winston TD pass to Alan Cross. ALAN CROSS! Last week, it was some guy named Freddie Martino who found pay dirt. These no-names are coming up with key plays, and that’s a pretty big deal.
*Mike Evans went over the 100-yard mark once again.
*Roberto Aguayo made all four of his field goal attempts. He seems to be settling down. Hopefully that trend continues.
The Bucs at one point were 1-3. They won two in a row, then lost two in a row, now they’ve won two straight. Hopefully they can keep it up against another powerhouse team, Seattle, next Sunday.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers needed this game in the worst possible way. And they got it.
With the exception of one play, the Bucs dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning 36-10.
After the defense looked downright awful the past two games, they actually decided to show up against Chicago. They sacked Jay Cutler four times. They forced four turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by the much-maligned Chris Conte. They also forced a safety, and shut out the Bears in the second half.
So what was that “one play?” Cutler completed a Hail Mary for a touchdown on the final play of the half that made it a seven-point game. But on the first drive of the third quarter, Jameis Winston pulled off another magic act. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure it’ll be on every NFL highlight reel. He escaped a bunch of Bears, avoided a major sack, scrambled around and launched one downfield that Mike Evans came down with. That was the play of the game. Two plays later, Winston threw a long TD pass to Freddie Martino (who?) and the Bucs were in control the rest of the way.
It was great to see Doug Martin back on the field. The Bucs need him desperately. And while the running game struggled mightily behind a makeshift offensive line, he did find the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
But this day was really about the defense finally showing up and playing a good game. And heck, it’s about time the Bucs won a game at Ray-Jay. They only won one of three consecutive home games.
Tampa Bay is now 4-5. Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans all lost, so this was good day all the way around for the Buccaneers. A tough trip to Kansas City awaits next Sunday.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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