One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?
Wow. Just wow.
Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick. He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome. How amazing was Fitz? He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score. And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.
Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball? Fitzpatrick had no problem. The two connected for two long touchdowns. Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score. We didn’t see much of that last year. Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.
It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener. Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.
This was not a perfect game by any means. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company. The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack. The secondary had its struggles. They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.
But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.” I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston? Well, they’ve got the first one.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
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
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
There are many reasons why the Buccaneers lost to the Super Bowl champion Patriots on Thursday night, 19-14. Let me count the ways:
The kicking game still stinks. This is the most glaring problem, but as you’ll see, hardly the only one. Why can’t we get a kicker who can consistently kick the ball through the uprights? Nick Folk missed three more field goal attempts. That’s six missed kicks in less than a week, covering two games. And these were bad misses – not even close to being good. One of them was a 56-yarder that would’ve been no good from 26. I am stunned that he is still on the roster after his performance. Can we turn the clock back and bring Matt Bryant back to Tampa?
Jameis Winston is too inconsistent. Ignore his final numbers, which show he threw for over 300 yards. He continues to throw into double coverage. He’s missing open receivers. He can’t consistently throw the deep ball very well. Remember that play where DeSean Jackson was open down the sideline? Jackson can’t be a factor downfield if Winston doesn’t get him the ball.
The play-calling was pathetic at times. Doug Martin was running wild through the Pats’ defense in the first half. So why did Koetter basically abandon the running game in the second? Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, after the Bucs cut the lead to two with just over two minutes remaining. The Bucs went for the onside kick, which was unsuccessful. New England converted it into three points. Why the onside kick? They had one timeout left plus the two-minute warning. They could’ve kicked it deep, gotten a touchback, meaning no time would come off the clock. They could’ve stopped New England, and gotten the ball with about a minute left – in much better field position – and only needing a field goal to win the game (and heck, maybe Folk would’ve made one for a change.)
All the talk up here in New England is about the Pats much-maligned defense bouncing back. Okay, I’ll buy that. But this is a Bucs’ blog, so you get the Bucs’ perspective on the game. Tampa Bay held a Tom Brady-led team to under 20 points. The game was there for the taking, and the Buccaneers didn’t grab it.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images
If you were worried about any rust from the Buccaneers’ season being delayed by a week, worry no more. Tampa Bay dominated the bumbling Chicago Bears at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 29-7.
You don’t have to look far to find the story of this one. The Bears were sloppy, and the Bucs made them pay. Tampa Bay’s first TD came one play after Chicago fumbled while deciding to scoop up a punt. A Mike Glennon (remember him?) fumble led to another touchdown. And the icing on the cake, if you will, was Robert McClain picking off Glennon, and running it back for a “pick six.”
And that was all in the first half.
Mike Evans is poised for a gigantic year. He caught his first TD pass of the season following the fumbled punt return, and finished with 93 yards on the day. The addition of DeSean Jackson is huge. Even though D-Jax only had 3 catches, his presence allows for a lot of 1-on-1 coverage for both receivers, and Evans is already reaping the benefits.
Jacquizz Rodgers had a decent day that included a 1-yard touchdown run. Speaking of the running game, can we please get rid of Charles Sims? He’s terrible, and I’ve been saying that for a while.
So, what about Jameis Winston? I’ll call his day ‘efficient.’ He did have the nice TD to Evans, and he didn’t throw a pick. But he still needs some work on the deep ball. There were several times where he missed an open receiver on a long ball.
For the defense, it was all about the turnovers. Good thing, because Glennon was finding open receivers, and had a number of dropped passes. But if you can take the ball way, who cares?
Nick Folk made all 3 of his field goal attempts. But he missed an extra point. Oh, Roberto Aguayo, where are you? That’s right – he’s unemployed. He could’ve been on the field for this one, but he didn’t make the Bears’ roster after the Bucs let him go.
It’s great to win the opener. It gives us fans hope that this season will be special. Next week: the Bucs head to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s time to get down to business.
One week from today, the Buccaneers kick off the 2017 season against the Dolphins in Miami. Here are some things I’ll be keeping an eye on as the games begin to count:
THE OFFENSE: by all accounts, the Bucs are loaded. Jameis Winston is starting his third year in Tampa Bay, and does he ever have weapons. The names are many: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Doug Martin (after he finishes serving his suspension.) On that last note, I want to see how they’re going to run the ball in Martin’s absence. It appears Jacquizz Rogers will be the featured back, along with Charles Sims (who I’m not a big fan of.)
Here are two things to look for: can Winston cut down on his mistakes? And perhaps an even bigger question: can this team finish off drives with touchdowns? It’s one thing to move the ball at will down the field, but if you can’t finish it off with six, that’s disappointing.
THE DEFENSE: this is the group I’m most concerned about. I know what you’re thinking – ‘well, they looked great during the preseason.’ The key word there is the last one. This is a unit that gave up a lot of big plays last year, especially in the passing game. The Buccaneers play in a loaded NFC South – with quarterbacks named Ryan, Brees and Newton. The tackling has to be better. The secondary has to be a lot better than it was in 2016. I think the Bucs are going to score a lot of points, but I can also see them giving up a lot as well. We’ll see.
SPECIAL TEAMS: the kicking game was solved during the preseason. Nick Folk is the guy now. Roberto Aguayo was cut, and is now unemployed. He signed on with the Bears, but they let him go, too. Given all of the issues in the kicking game last season, Folk will be under intense scrutiny, and will surely hear about it when he misses a kick.
It’s playoffs or bust for the Bucs. They went 9-7 last year and missed the postseason by one game. There’s only way 2017 will be considered a success is if Dirk Koetter’s guys are still playing football come January.
Until then, it’s on to Miami for the season opener….
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The third preseason game is normally the one when most of the starters play well into the second half. For this reason, it is considered a ‘dress rehearsal’ of sorts to get ready for the season.
But Saturday night at Ray-Jay, several key Buccaneers didn’t see any action: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander, just to name a handful. Tampa Bay lost to Cleveland, 13-9, and if you look at some of the fan posts on the Bucs’ official Facebook page, you’d think the sky is falling.
This is why preseason games are so hard to judge, and why many people would argue they’re pointless. With so many of your important players on the sidelines, it’s hard to say, “well, this would’ve happened….” if those players were on the field. And if you really want another meaningless game, I present the preseason finale against Washington on Thursday night as Exhibit A.
If there was something to take away from this game, it was the Bucs’ inability to finish off drives in the red zone – again. Three field goals just won’t cut it two weeks from now in Miami.
Just get me through to the season opener at Hard Rock Stadium on September 10th.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers