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

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Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Third Preseason Game

Here are some takeaways from the Bucs’ 13-12 victory over the Browns in the third preseason game.  Since this was the so-called dress rehearsal game, in which the starters play the longest, this was the most critical game before it counts for real.

Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be lightyears ahead of where it was last year.  I know that’s not saying much, but new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has definitely made a difference.  They kept an up-and-coming Browns team out of the end zone all night.

I’m very concerned about the offensive line.  There was a lot of talk after the draft about how the Buccaneers did not address this need, and now it’s showing.  There are very few holes in the running game.  The pass protection is awful; Jameis Winston was sacked five times while he was in there.  Yes, there is still time to fix this.  But it’s hard to establish a running game when the guys up front can’t open up holes.  And what difference does it make if you have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on your team if your quarterback can’t get them the ball, not to mention Winston’s inconsistencies with throwing the deep ball.

Matt Gay missed a kick.  He’s human!  But he responded with another game-winner.  I think he’s going to win the kicking job, though veteran Cairo Santos has done nothing to hurt his own cause.

Ryan Griffin will be the Bucs’ backup QB to start the season, after Blaine Gabbert left the game with an injury.  Who knows how long he’ll be out.

I will not be writing anything about the final, most meaningless-of-them-all preseason game against Dallas, unless major news happens.  The opener is just two weeks away.  Let’s go.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Captain’s Take: Bucs Preseason Game #1

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.

Next up: the Dolphins at Ray-Jay on Friday night.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No Playoffs For the Bucs. Again.

OK, so the headline of this blog post isn’t exactly earth-shattering news.  But it didn’t become official until now.

 

With today’s loss to the Ravens in dreary Baltimore, there will be no playoffs for the Buccaneers for the eleventh consecutive year.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when, on the opening drive, Chris Godwin dropped a pass that could’ve gone the distance.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when they flubbed up the extra point on the game’s first touchdown.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it was going to be a good day when they recovered a muffed punt inside the Baltimore red zone, only to come away with three point.

 

The Bucs only scored three points in the second half.  This is a troubling trend over the past three games, starting with the Carolina game when they only scored seven points after halftime (and they won that game.)

 

Or maybe, just the thought of chasing Lamar Jackson and company all over the field was too much to comprehend.

 

No matter how you slice it, the final two games against the Cowboys and Falcons will amount to nothing more than ‘playing out the string,’ though Dallas will certainly have something to play for.

 

Dirk Koetter’s grave has been dug.  It’s only a matter of time before we put him in it.  Jason Licht may end up in the ground next to him.  We’ll see.

 

Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Ravens

Bri Goes To Tampa, and Bucs Win

On Sunday, I made my annual trip down to Ray-Jay to see the Bucs play in person.  I left the stadium with a big smile on my face, as Tampa Bay knocked off Carolina.

 

This one went according to script (you will smell the sarcasm shortly.)  The Bucs’ defense came into this game with three interceptions all year.  Well, some guy named Andrew Adams doubled that total, in just this game alone.  Throw in a fourth pick by Javien Elliot, four sacks, and you’ve got yourself a 24-17 upset.

 

I, and other Bucs fans, have been bashing this defense all year.  Well, over the past few games, we’ve seen some improvement, so I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due.  It was the defense that won this game.

 

Jameis Winston did not throw a pick, though he did have a couple of passes that made me say, “ay ay ay.”  Chris Godwin a had a big game, catching a key TD just before the half that I had a good look at.

 

This team is far from perfect.  The Bucs needed every one of those interceptions to win this game, because after they went ahead 24-10 early in the third quarter, the offense went to bed.  It felt like Carolina had a zillion chances to tie it up in the fourth quarter, but the defense stepped up, even with so many starters injured.  Whatever Mark Duffner is doing with this group, it’s working.

 

Dear Bucs: see what happens when you don’t turn the ball over as often as the opponent?  You usually win.

 

The Saints come to Ray-Jay next Sunday.  We all remember that tremendous opener in the Superdome.  I’ll bet New Orleans hasn’t forgotten, either.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Good – and Bad – From the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

Here are some quick thoughts on the Bucs’ preseason victory over the Titans Saturday night.

 

On the plus side, the headline is Jameis Winston.  He played the entire second quarter, and was sizzling.  He even showed an ability to connect on the deep ball, something that was sorely missing last year.  He is still making a couple of “what the heck were you thinking?” throws, but overall there was more good than bad in Nashville.

 

Staying with the passing game, the Buccaneers appear to have a formidable group of wide receivers.  Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, etc. all look strong in the early going.

Chandler Catanzaro was perfect on all of his kicks.  Amen.

 

Now for the negative: the penalties, oh those penalties.  Tampa Bay was sloppy in this department, and many of the flags were thrown while the first-teamers were on the field.  Hey coach: clean this up immediately.

 

After playing well against Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was…well, “meh.”  Lest we forget….he’s the starter for the first three games.

 

For all the hype surrounding the revamped defense, they didn’t put much pressure on the quarterback.  They also missed some tackles.  Sound familiar?

 

If you watch any preseason game, watch the next one against the Lions on Friday night.  The third game is the so-called “dress rehearsal” in which the starters play the longest.  Stay tuned.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Yes! Thank God(win) For One Last Bucs’ Victory

If you’re like me, you’re still trying to comprehend how the Buccaneers beat the Saints in the season finale.

 

Jameis Winston threw three more interceptions, including a horrendous one into triple coverage.  The Bucs gave up a 100+ yard kickoff return for the second week in a row (but scored their own special teams touchdown in the fourth quarter.)  A missed extra point by Patrick Murray was looming large.  There’s no way Winston would drive his team 95 yards in the final two minutes.

 

Oh, but he did.  Yes, the recent turnover machine hit Chris Godwin on a deep ball with nine seconds left in the contest to win it.  And before all of the Saints fans in attendance could wipe away their tears of disbelief, they found out they’d won the NFC South anyway, because Carolina choked against Atlanta.

 

This Godwin kid is pretty good, the more I see of him.  He’s made some acrobatic catches, and with the disappointing season turned in by Desean Jackson, Godwin could be the number-two receiver on next year’s team.

 

Was this game perfect?  Of course not.  I mentioned the interceptions and the kickoff returns.  Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve.  The lack of a pass rush was a problem all year, though they did sack Drew Brees twice.

 

But it was nice to finally win a game.  I’d much rather see them win than intentionally lose to improve their draft pick order.  Heck, this team needs help just about everywhere, so any decent player will do at this point.

 

Coming on Monday: my ‘year in review.’  As you might expect, with a 5-11 season, it won’t be pretty.  But tonight is a night to be joyous, because the boys in Pewter finally won another game.  Happy New Year, and good night.

 

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times