Monday Column: It’s About Time the Bucs Caught a Break

Sometimes, being lucky is better than being good. Heck, I’ll take luck any day of the week.

That was the case in the Buccaneers’ 10-6 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday. It was ugly.  The Bucs did not play well offensively. Neither did the Cowboys. But Tampa Bay finally saw a break go its way for a change.

There was Jameis Winston, five yards away from a potential game-winning touchdown. He scanned the field. He couldn’t find anyone open. So he took off for the goal line, leaping high into the air. The problem was, the ball didn’t stay with him the whole time. It was a fumble. Dallas recovered in the end zone.

But hold on – what’s that yellow thing on the field in the end zone? Nah, it couldn’t possibly be a penalty on the Cowboys, because these are the Bucs, and they find every way imaginable to lose games. But a funny thing happened: the referee signaled holding against the defense.

It’s about time Tampa Bay caught a break.  And on the next play, Winston took advantage of the second chance on a brilliant play-call: a bootleg that saw him walk into the end zone untouched.

But the final outcome still hadn’t been settled. There was that final heave into the end zone, intended by that Dallas receiver who seems to be known more for his temper these days than his pass-catching ability. The pass was picked off by Bradley McDougald, who was playing the ball the whole way, although it looked like he gave Dez Bryant a slight push.

That was break number two. Can you imagine if the refs had called pass interference on that play? Dallas would’ve had the ball at the 1, with a few seconds left to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Instead, the Bucs have already doubled their win total from all of last year. Their next two games are on the road, at Philadelphia and Indianapolis. They may not have to face either Sam Bradford or Andrew Luck. I’m not suggesting they’re going to win either one of those games, but their chances are better than they were before Sunday.

I hope that ends up being another break.

Photo Courtesy: AP

 

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Bucs Win! It Wasn’t Pretty, But We’ll Take It

For a moment, it looked like another agonizing defeat for the Buccaneers. Instead, they beat the Cowboys in a game that made you wonder, “how the heck did they pull that out?”

Tampa Bay beat Dallas, 10-6, with Jameis Winston scoring on a bootleg in the final minute.

All of the action happened in the final half of the fourth quarter because….well, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about otherwise. The Bucs were driving late in the fourth quarter when Winston threw behind his intended receiver, and was picked off for the second time in the game. He hadn’t committed a turnover in four games until now.

But the Bucs got the ball back, and marched down to the Dallas 4-yard line. On 3rd and goal, Winston sprinted toward the goal line and leapt through the air, much like he did last week against the Giants. But this time, he lost the ball, seemingly on his own, and Dallas recovered in the end zone.

Game over, right?  Wrong. The Cowboys’ Jeff Heath was flagged for defensive holding, giving the Bucs a second chance. Winston walked into the end zone untouched on the next play to give the Buccaneers the lead.

Gave over, right?  Nope – these are the Bucs. A personal foul penalty against the Buccaneers on the kickoff (they ALWAYS seem to get flagged on special teams!) gave the Cowboys the ball with decent field position. They marched into Bucs territory when Matt Cassel threw one deep for Dez Bryant in the end zone. But Bradley McDougald came up with the game-saving interception. Did McDougald give him a little push? Yes. But on the other hand, he was looking back at the ball the whole time. Geez, it’s about time Tampa Bay caught a break.

With the win, the Buccaneers improve to 4-5. In the Monday Column, I talked about the defense needing to step it up. This was, by far, their best performance of the season. They held the Cowboys to two field goals and 216 total yards. Yes, they caught a break with Tony Romo being out with an injury. But still, this unit has let so-so quarterbacks light them up this season, so it was nice to see them come up big in the clutch.

Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com

This Diehard Bucs Fan is So Glad The Season is Over

Before this season began, there was hope – lots of it, in fact.

The hope was that Lovie Smith would come in, and the Buccaneers would turn things around, or at least start to head in the right direction. He and GM Jason Licht would start to right the ship. Some of the so-called pundits even predicted Tampa Bay would qualify for the playoffs.

Those self-proclaimed experts were wrong. Man, were they ever wrong. And we, the fans, paid the price.

None of us expected the Bucs to go 2-14. Remember back in the draft, when the Bucs used all of their picks to upgrade an offense that needed more than a few extra cylinders? The offensive line was overhauled via free agency. What did we end up with in return?

We got an offense that finished 30th in the league in total yards.

We got a journeyman quarterback that won only one of his eleven starts, completed only 56% of his passes, threw more INT’s (14) than TD’s (11) and was sacked 36 times.

We got a running game that averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Think of how much worse it would’ve been had they not gone crazy on Sunday in the finale against the Saints.

We did, however, get a beast of a wide receiver. Mike Evans went for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Only Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson found the end zone more often. When you consider who was throwing the ball to Evans this year, his stats are even more remarkable.

What did we get on defense? We got a unit that ranked 25th in the league, and more often than not, looked worse than that. Lovie Smith is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach. Plays that could’ve been made to seal games were not made. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are great, but the jury is still out on many others.

What’s the most painful part of this season, besides the obvious 2-14? If the Bucs had gone 8-8, they would’ve won the NFC South and would be hosting a playoff game at Raymond James Stadium this weekend.

I was going to hand out final grades, as I did at the midpoint of the season. But honestly, you could take everything I wrote eight weeks ago and just multiply it times two – including the number of wins, sadly.

How the heck did they beat Pittsburgh?

But hey – they’ve got the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. Yeah! There is hope after all!

By the way, the photo at the top of this article is a shameless selfie, taken as the Bucs were losing to the Falcons at Ray-Jay in November.