On Sunday, I saw in person what I’ve been listening to on the internet and seeing on social media all season long: the Bucs are a bad team. On Buccaneer Bri’s annual trip to Ray-Jay, the Bucs lost to the Lions, 24-21, on a field goal in the closing seconds. But honestly, it shouldn’t have even been that close.
I saw with my own two eyes all of the reasons the Buccaneers are now 4-9. They had five turnovers. The tackling was terrible. They have no pass rush. None. They never laid a finger on Matthew Stafford. Heck, by my unofficial count, they only chased after him once….in the entire game…and that one play ended with a roughing the passer penalty. The play-calling was questionable at times, as was the use of timeouts at the end of the game.
And yet, there they were, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Do you think Mike Smith’s defense could do the job from there? (insert sarcastic laugh here.)
Instead of me rambling on about how Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith are doomed after the season, I will dedicate the rest of this article to my personal Ray-Jay experience, since I only get down there once a year.
It was chilly. No, really. I brought my jacket and wore jeans, and I needed both. The two ladies who came to the game with me were shivering as well as the game went on. This was, by far, the coldest game I’ve ever been to in Tampa. But it beat the snow that fell back home while I was gone.
I know Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans. But geez, did the entire state of Michigan fly in for this game? It felt like there were as many Lions’ fans there as Bucs’ fans. Detroit fans deserve praise for traveling en masse to support their team. But it’s depressing for Tampa Bay fans like me, and ownership needs to do something to change that.
This was also my first time sitting in the upper deck. I don’t think I will do it again, and it had nothing to do with how far away I was from the action. There was absolutely no vibe upstairs. It was like being in a library for much of the game. I didn’t feel like I was part of the festivities at all. Oh well, I chose to sit upstairs because the area where I usually sit was just too expensive. From now on, I think I will just spend the extra bucks and go back down to the lower bowl.
There was a nice couple from Detroit sitting behind us. They left before halftime, after Stafford threw his second pick. The guy said, “same old Lions!” I overheard the lady he was with talk about going to the movies. I hope they made it in time, if that’s in fact where they ended up. For all I know, they may just have been sick of me yelling and trying to the enjoy the game in a morgue-like atmosphere, and they have just moved to another section. Where they ended up is a question I will likely never know the answer to.
So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The Bucs have three more games left – all of them against division opponents – and in case you haven’t noticed, the rest of the division is really, really good. I can easily see the Bucs finishing 4-12. They’re on Monday Night Football next week against Atlanta. Jon Gruden will be calling the game, then he’ll be honored at halftime. If the ceremony is streamed live someplace, that may very well be the best part of the night.
Photo Courtesy: Me
I’m getting sick and tired of writing about the same old problems with this team every time they lose.
The offense can’t score early in the game. The defense can’t stop anybody from scoring. The play-calling leaves a lot to be desired. And after this latest loss to Atlanta, the Bucs are now further cemented in the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7.
Let’s start with Mike Smith’s pathetic defense – you know, the one that allowed at least 30 points for the fifth time this season. Look: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver – one of the best in the game. But how do you let a guy like that torch you for over 250 yards? You’d think it’d be worth double-covering him every now and then, even if it means man-to-man coverage on another receiver like Mohammed Sanu. You have to make someone other than Jones beat you, and Smith didn’t give that scenario a chance to play out.
This defense also has to be the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down. The Falcons were 11-of-14 on third down in this game. That is insane. And it’s been happening all year long. And let me tell you: we’re not talking 3rd-and-short, either. A lot of these conversions require double-digit yards, and the Bucs are letting their opponents convert with ease. How many times to do you a see a Tampa Bay defender playing so soft, that all the receiver has to do is run about two yards to move the chains before the defender even lays a hand on him?
Forcing turnovers is still an issue, though they did get a big one in the fourth quarter that nearly led to the Buccaneers coming all the way back from 21 points down.
That leads me to my next point: Dirk Koetter’s play-calling. After the turnover, the Bucs marched down the field and into the red zone. With about seven minutes to go, Tampa Bay had 2nd and 2 from the 19. Koetter called three straight pass plays – all of them incomplete. This was their big chance to tie up a game they had no business even being in, and they couldn’t get two yards in three plays? As for his decision to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, I’m a bit torn. If you kick the field goal (and yes, we have a guy that can kick now) then you’d be trailing by four, meaning you’d still need a touchdown to win the game, not to mention stopping the Falcons’ offense. So I was actually okay with the decision to go for it, but I did not like the play-call at all.
Naturally, Atlanta got the ball back, marched right down the field and scored the you-knew-it-was coming insurance touchdown.
But that’s not the only questionable play-calling. Tampa Bay has two really good tight ends on this team: Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard. Can someone explain to me why neither of them saw a pass thrown in his direction for the entire first half?
I really don’t see how Koetter and Smith still have jobs at the end of this lost season, especially Smith. The defense was the biggest problem last year; they’ve done nothing to fix that. On offense, they’ve got all of these weapons, yet they consistently struggle out of the gate. I know Jameis Winston is injured, but it’s been this way even when he’s been in there. That ultimately has to fall on the head coach.
OK – rant over.
Next week: the Battle of the Bays, at Lambeau Field.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just when you thought the Buccaneers’ season couldn’t get any worse, it has.
Oh, has it ever.
In what is quickly becoming a season to forget, the Bucs were trounced by the Saints in the Superdome today, 30-10. We saw a lot of the same old Bucs: the defense got picked apart again. The running game was non-existent. Jameis Winston was ineffective (before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.) And special teams were problematic yet again, with the Saints blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, and another missed field goal (though that was the least of the problems on this day.)
But here’s the question that a lot of fans – including me – are asking right now: has Dirk Koetter lost this team? The lasting image from this game will be the scuffle on the Tampa Bay sideline, which appeared to be instigated by Winston, and involved Mike Evans annihilating Marshon Lattimore. I am shocked Evans did not get kicked out of the game, but he could very well be suspended for that hit. But look closely at the replay: you see Koetter doing absolutely nothing to diffuse the situation. Nothing. Doesn’t the head coach need to take the control there? Well, Koetter didn’t do that. This is about a lack of discipline, and a lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching. I’ve written the same thing about Lovie Smith in years’ past, and I’m not letting Koetter off the hook, either.
This was supposed to be the year the Bucs made the jump to the next level – the playoffs. Instead, they sit at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC South, and are arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL right now. This five-game losing streak started with the New England game the Bucs could’ve won. There was the early knockout punch in Arizona. There was the late meltdown in Buffalo. And now we’ve seen back-to-back abysmal performances against division opponents. Do the Glazers have the guts to make a change-mid season? We shall see.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
Head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith deserve the blame for this performance in the desert, the second year in a row the Buccaneers have stunk up the joint in Arizona.
The final score was 38-33. Forget, for a moment, that the Bucs valiantly made a game of it in the second half, and that the Cards gave Tampa Bay every chance to actually pull it out. Let me take aim at the aforementioned coaches.
Let’s start with the defense. Adrian Peterson is a good running back. There is no denying that. But the Bucs made it look too easy for him. And how in the world can the defense let the Cardinals’ receivers get so wide open, especially superstar Larry Fitzgerald? You’d think you’d make sure he was covered on every play. I guess not. The tackling was abysmal. And what all of those defensive offside penalties? Smith’s unit was the one I was concerned most about going into the season. Five games in, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
By the way, I was listening to the radio broadcast coming out of the locker room. When asked about defensive adjustments, Koetter said they had to tackle better. I think covering wide-open receivers would also have been a good idea. At one point, it was 31-0.
Now let’s rip Koetter for a few moments. At the end of the first half, the Bucs were getting whipped 24-0, yet were in scoring position. Koetter decided to go for it on 4th and goal, and were stopped. I’m pretty good at math. When you’re down 24, you need three touchdowns and a field goal. Why not kick the field goal (with your brand-new kicker) in that situation to at least get points on the board? The Bucs reached the end zone five times in the second half, and went for the two-point conversion four out of five times. Had they just kicked extra points after the first three – and taken the FG at the end of the half – we could’ve been looking at a one-score game. After an awful throw by backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave Arizona a free touchdown, the Bucs went down and responded, yet missed another two-pointer. Again, this could’ve been a one-score game late in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs having a chance to cap off a miraculous comeback.
Hey coach: pick up a manual that tells you when to go for two, and when to kick the PAT. You really screwed this up big-time. I don’t know if the Buccaneers would’ve won this game in crazy fashion, but they certainly would’ve been in a better position if you had known what to do, and when to do it.
See you in Buffalo next Sunday. Will Jameis Winston be able to play? Stay tuned.
Photo courtesy: Arizona Cardinals
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
Why is it when the Buccaneers win a game, it never comes easy? The answer is simple: we’re Bucs’ fans. Nothing comes easy. I can count on one hand how many “easy” wins Tampa Bay’s had over the past decade.
I tweeted during the fourth quarter that if this game came down to Nick Folk’s leg – after he had already missed three kicks – that I was going to hide. I’m glad he made the game-winner – barely. And as more proof that nothing coming easy, there was a flag on that final play.
The Giants jumped offsides. Game over. Bucs 25, Giants 23.
There were so many twists and turns in this one, starting with the ‘what were you thinking’ play-calling at the end of the first half, and ending with the aforementioned Folk redeeming himself. Honestly, this was a game the Bucs easily could’ve lost. But maybe it’s a good sign that they won a game like this.
Jameis Winston’s day? Let’s call it decent. He still can’t consistently hit the deep ball. Yes, there was the beautiful pass to O.J. Howard. But the key word is “consistently.” Still, he wasn’t picked off, and he led his team down the field with the game on the line.
The Bucs still don’t have anything resembling a pass rush. They got by against Eli Manning. If you think that’s going to be okay against Tom Brady, you’re crazy. The return of Brent Grimes in the secondary made a difference on Sunday, though I still have doubts about that unit.
And Folk? My goodness. Can we please get someone who can make a kick? I wonder how short of a leash Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht have on him, especially after the Roberto Aguayo experiment that didn’t pan out.
But hey, we’re three games in, and the Buccaneers have won two of them. I’ll take it.
Up next: the Super Bowl champs on Thursday night. I hate Thursday night games, and not because the Bucs hardly ever win. I just hate them in general. And I despise the color rush uniforms that both teams will be wearing.
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