40-7?! Let’s Pretend That Bucs’ Game Never Happened

Well, that was an old-fashioned clunker.

There isn’t a whole lot of good to say about Sunday’s game against Arizona. Whatever could go wrong for the Bucs, did go wrong.

They turned it over five times. One of them was a screw-up on a handoff between Jameis Winston and Charles Sims. Winston also threw four interceptions, one of which was returned all the way for a touchdown. And to be honest, there were a couple of others that also could’ve been picked. By the way, why was he still playing in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of reach?

They dropped passes.

They missed tackles.

They suffered some key injuries. Doug Martin, Robert Ayers, Luke Stocker and Cecil Shorts were all knocked out of the game.

The defense has allowed 64 points in the first two games, and hasn’t forced a turnover. Lovie Smith is probably laughing his ass off in Champaign, IL.

Arizona is a very good team. There’s no question about that. But I was hoping for a much better showing than this. There is a lot of stuff to fix before the home opener against the Rams.

Photo Courtesy: Arizona Cardinals

 

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A Great Opener For the Bucs

After one week of the season, the Buccaneers are alone in first place in the NFL South.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The Bucs played a great game in beating the Falcons in Atlanta, 31-24. The Saints lost.  So did the Panthers on Thursday night.

There was so much to like about this game. Let’s start with Jameis Winston, who threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers.  It was a great way to bounce back from an early interception that led to a Falcons’ touchdown.  Mike Evans and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins made gorgeous catches in the end zone.  And then there was the short toss to Charles Sims, who broke about four tackles on his way to pay dirt.  It was an amazing individual effort.  Brandon Myers caught the other TD; who saw that one coming?

The defense was…..well, good enough to win. They sacked Matt Ryan three times.  The real star was Kwon Alexander, who had 17 tackles to go with one of those sacks.  And late in the game – when you were starting to have flashbacks to the Washington debacle from last season – the defense came up with the stop it needed.

Roberto Aguayo made all five of his kicks. After what he went through in the first half of the preseason, that deserves a mention.

It would’ve been nice to see more from the running game. Doug Martin and company struggled throughout, though Martin did have a couple of big runs in the fourth quarter to help bleed the clock.

Congrats, Dirk Koetter. You’re 1-0 as an NFL head coach.

The bottom line: Tampa Bay beat a division opponent on the road. That in itself is a big deal.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com

 

The Good and Bad From the Bucs/Browns Game

As dress rehearsals go, that was pretty darn good. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now.

The Buccaneers excelled in their third preseason game against the Browns on Friday night, winning 30-13 at Ray-Jay.

The offense didn’t just move the ball; they pushed it down the field. Jameis Winston threw for 259 yards and two TD’s while he was in there. Mike Evans went over the century mark.

The running game struggled a bit. I’m hoping that won’t be the case two weeks from now. Doug Martin and Charles Sims can be quite the tandem if they both stay healthy and be productive.

The defense had eight sacks, including putting Robert Griffin III on his back five times. Is it plausible that the Bucs could actually have a fierce pass rush this season? That would be a nice change of pace. It was a rough night, however, for cornerback Brent Grimes, who got burned twice by Josh Gordon.

But perhaps the biggest reason to exhale was the play of the special teams. Roberto Aguayo – who’s taken a lot of heat to the extent that he was getting booed during training camp – was perfect. Six kicks – three field goals and three PAT’s – and he made them all. Praise the Lord. And his performance may have overshadowed that awesome punt return for a touchdown by Adam Humphries. I mean, how often do we see a Buccaneer return a kick of any kind to the house?

It hasn’t happened too often over the years, my friends.

Overall, there was a lot more good than bad in this game. The last preseason game is generally the most meaningless of them all, but we’ll see what develops. Only two weeks to go until Tampa Bay kicks things off for real in the Dome in Atlanta.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

 

The Good and Bad From the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

Here are some quick takeaways from the Bucs’ 27-21 victory over the Jaguars in the second preseason game.

THE GOOD
First-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves III was impressive, intercepting two passes. Granted, neither one came against Jacksonville’s first-team offense, but it was good to see that from a rookie.

Tampa Bay won the game. Who cares if it’s preseason; it’s nice to see the Buccaneers in the win column, though I’ve said many times that you should ignore the final score during these silly games.

THE BAD
It was another sluggish start for the first-teamers, both offensively and defensively. Jameis Winston missed his first six passes and was picked off. He did throw a TD pass to Mike Evans. He finished just 3-of-10.

The defense made Blake Bortles look great. When the starters for both teams were on the field, Jacksonville was the better team.

Roberto Aguayo missed two field goals. Remember: the Bucs used a second-round pick on this guy. Can you imagine the reaction from the fans when he starts pushing – or shanking – kicks once the games count?

Again, it’s only preseason. We didn’t see Doug Martin or Gerald McCoy. Hopefully we’ll see them in the so-called dress rehearsal against the Browns on Friday night.

Photo Courtesy: Pewter Report

 

The Best And Worst of the 2015 Buccaneers

That season went by way too quickly. It’s hard to believe it’s already over.

The Tampa Bay Bucs finished with a record of 6-10. That’s an improvement over their 2-14 record of 2014, but they still finished in last place in the NFC South. I thought I’d take a look back at the best – and worst – of the Bucs’ 2015 season.

Please note: these are listed in no particular order.

THE BEST
Jameis Winston. Remember what happened on his first pass of the season? I do. It was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Sure, there were many moments where the No. 1 overall pick looked like a rookie. But there were many more where he looked like the Bucs may have found their franchise quarterback. Winston threw for over 4,000 yards (4,042 to be exact.) That’s the third-most passing yards of any rookie QB in NFL history. He threw 22 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions. He also ran for six touchdowns. You can make a very compelling case for him being named rookie of the year. Perhaps most of all, he looks and acts like a leader. He needs to work on the deep ball, but that can be done.

Doug Martin. This was the last year of his contract in Tampa. I am with a lot of Bucs’ fans in begging the team to re-sign him. Martin had his best year since his rookie season: he rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns. The TD number is a bit low, but he had a number of long, long runs that put his team in excellent scoring position. His best game was Week 11 against Philadelphia – when he ran wild for 235 yards.

Dirk Koetter. Why does the offensive coordinator make this list? It’s simple: the Bucs didn’t have one last year; remember when Jeff Tedford left before the season began? Koetter came in, and made an instant impact. The Bucs finished with the fifth-best offense in the NFL in terms of total yards. They averaged just over 21 points per game, which ranks 20th in the league, but still a big improvement over last year. But when I look back at the season, this wasn’t the same old dink-and-dunk Tampa Bay offense that I’ve seen since…well, forever.

THE WORST
The defense. As I’ve said repeatedly over the past four months, Lovie Smith was calling the plays on the defensive side of the ball. That’s why he deserves much of the blame for a unit that allowed just over 26 points per game, sixth-most in the league. The secondary was just awful. Take your pick: Johnthan Banks, Mike Jenkins, Sterling Moore, Alterraun Verner – it didn’t matter who was trying to cover the opposing team’s receivers. Here is the most alarming stat I could find: the Bucs allowed their opponents to complete 70% of their passes. That is insane. Whether it’s the players, the scheme or the coaching – this should be the first order of the business in the offseason.

UNDECIDED
Mike Evans. On one hand, he had another 1,000 yard season – gaining 1,206 yards. On the other hand, he only scored three touchdowns. And then there were the drops – all of them. According to sportingcharts.com, Evans led the league with eleven dropped passes. And he heard some boos from the fans at Ray-Jay periodically.

BEST GAME: week 11, when they walloped the Eagles, 45-17, and racked up 521 yards of total offense.

WORST GAME: week 7, when they lost to the Redskins, 31-30, a game in which Tampa Bay blew a 24-0 lead. I know Washington ended up winning the NFC East, but blowing a lead like that against anyone is unacceptable.

As always, it’s been a lot of fun writing about the Bucs this season. And I am most grateful to my readers. This is neither goodbye nor farewell, of course. It’s just me saying thank you.

Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com

 

Bucs Stink Up the Season Finale

Well, that was a dud.

What’s more – it’s pretty much what I thought I was going to happen.

The Buccaneers ended their season Sunday night with a 38-10 blowout loss to the division-rival Panthers in Charlotte.

The Bucs had nothing to play for. Carolina still had to win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Panthers had no trouble.

We all know how badly the Bucs allow opposing quarterbacks to complete passes at an alarmingly-high rate. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Cam Newton was 21-for-26 in this game.

If you didn’t see (or listen to) any of the game, don’t be fooled by the final stats that show the Bucs outgaining the Panthers, 386-366. Tampa Bay got a lot of that yardage in the second half when the game was pretty much already over. The Buccaneers also turned it over three times.

The Bucs lost four straight after being 6-6. And wouldn’t you know – because the Saints won, the Bucs finished in last place in the NFC South….again.

I hope Lovie Smith gets canned because of his lousy defense; remember, he called the plays this year. But I don’t think it’ll happen. As for the offense, will Doug Martin be back? What about Vincent Jackson? The questions will be answered in the days and weeks to come.

Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com

…..and the Bucs Lose Again

In football, when you turn the ball over more than your opponent, you generally lose.

On Sunday, the Buccaneers turned it over three times. And Tampa Bay lost to Chicago at Ray-Jay, 26-21

All of the miscues were costly. The first turnover was Doug Martin fumbling after catching a pass. That led to a Bears’ field goal. The second was Jameis Winston throwing a pick down by the goal line, ending a long drive in which the Bucs could’ve extended a one-point lead. Then late in the third quarter, Martin coughed it up again. Chicago went on to score the go-ahead touchdown, and the Bears never trailed after that.

Then there was the bad shotgun snap that meant a longer field goal attempt for Connor Barth, which he missed. The kicking situation is suddenly starting to look like it did at the beginning of the year.

Lovie Smith prides himself on winning the turnover battle. Consider this: the Bucs only have one takeaway in the past five games. Tampa Bay’s defense came into the game allowing the opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 70% of their passes. On Sunday, Jay Cutler was successful on 74% of his attempts (20-for-27.)

More rants coming in the Monday Column.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com