Before the season began, it was understandable why so many Bucs’ fans were expecting a playoff year in 2017. After all, Tampa Bay did go 9-7, and added a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball.
The Buccaneers finished 5-11.
So what happened? Was the bar set too high? I don’t think so, based on the success of last season. But let’s break down what turned out to be a disappointing season in Bucs’ country.
Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball. This was the biggest area of concern on 2016, the feeling that Mike Smith’s unit couldn’t stop anybody. Well, in 2017, they still couldn’t stop anybody. Guess where the Buccaneers finished in total defense (based on total yards allowed per game.) They were dead last. When it came to stopping the other team on third down? Yep, dead last. Guess which team had the fewest sacks in the NFL? That would be Tampa Bay. The defense gave up nearly 24 points a game, which puts them in the bottom ten in that category. Sometimes stats can be misleading. These aren’t.
And yet, Dirk Koetter said Monday that he expects Mike Smith to return with him next season. Right.
Offensively, this was supposed to be the year Jameis Winston made the jump to the next level. He’s shown flashes of brilliance. The biggest one that comes to mind was just a day ago, when amazingly he led his team 95 yards in the final two minutes (with no timeouts) to beat the eventual NFC South champions. But the turnovers are a problem – a big problem. He continues to force the ball into double coverage (even triple coverage.) And the fumbles are just as big an issue. He has to do a better job hanging on to the football. Period.
Finally, there was the disaster known as special teams. Nick Folk started the year as the team’s kicker, taking over for Roberto Aguayo. Folk was just as bad. He single-handedly cost the Bucs the game against the Patriots. Patrick Murray returned and stabilized that position a bit, though he missed some important kicks down the stretch. And we won’t soon forget the other mishaps: allowing 100+ kickoff returns in each of the last two games, the punt block that the Saints ran back for a score in the Superdome.
So where do the Bucs go from here? I was hoping Mike Smith would get fired, but Koetter says that’s not going to happen. Koetter also said he’s going to keep calling the plays. Good Lord. The Buccaneers have a top-ten pick in the draft. They need help just about everywhere, but fixing the defense should be the first priority (though other areas aren’t far behind.)
Finally, I conclude with some thank yous. Thank you Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, TJ Rives and the rest of the people at the Buccaneers radio network for keeping me entertained all season long. Thank you to bloggers like JoeBucsFan and Pewter Report for their excellent coverage during the season (and offseason.) If you don’t follow them on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.
But most of all, thank you to my readers who come here for my sometimes silly take on my favorite football team. Without you, I would not be doing this. I live in the greater Boston area, and not everyone here is a diehard Patriots fan. I just wish there were more Buccaneers’ fans around here. This blog will remain mostly dormant until the NFL Draft. But if something big happens before then, I’ll offer my take here.
Happy New Year, God Bless, and Go Bucs!
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With another loss in the loss column, we’re getting closer to finding out what happens to Dirk Koetter and his cast of characters at the end of the season.
The Buccaneers lost again last night. For the second week in a row, the score was 24-21. For the second week in a row, the defense couldn’t stop anybody or get any pressure on the quarterback. Oh, wait: that’s been the case all season.
I’ll be honest: I thought the Bucs would get blown out by the Falcons. That didn’t happen. Jameis Winston was outstanding, having arguably his best game of the season, even with his teammates dropping like flies due to injuries. But Tampa Bay did what 4-10 teams do. The fumble by Peyton Barber in the red zone was costly. Twice the Falcons put the ball on the ground – including once in the Bucs’ end zone – and twice they couldn’t come up with a key takeaway. As for Patrick Murray’s missed 54-yard FG attempt that would’ve forced overtime, well it’s been that kind of year. At least Murray’s been light years ahead of guys named Aguayo or Folk.
So, what’s my big takeaway from this one? Mike Smith’s defense still stinks. Sure, he didn’t let Julio Jones go for 250 yards this time (but did you notice the times he was all alone in the middle of the field?) So, Smith contained Jones, but he had no answer for Devonta Freeman. If anyone deserves to get canned in two weeks, it’s Mike Smith. Koetter may very well be done as well. But if I had to pick one to get rid of, it’s the defensive coordinator.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today
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