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
I had a bad feeling about this game even before it started.
First, the bottom line: the Bucs can no longer win the NFC South, and they would need the mightiest of miracles to get a wild card. They spent their Christmas Eve by losing to the Saints in the Superdome, 31-24.
Let’s look at the reasons why Tampa Bay lost this game. First, the defense did a 180 from the way it played against Drew Brees and company two weeks ago. When I saw them in person, the Bucs picked him off three times. On Christmas Eve, Brees shredded the defense like other teams did in the first half of the season. They also allowed over 120 yards on the ground, including two TD runs by Mark Ingram. It was one big play after another for the explosive Saints’ offense.
How about that sequence at the start of the second half? Remind me again why Josh Huff is still on this team. He screwed up another kickoff, pinning the Bucs back near their goal line. Before you could blink, Jameis Winston threw a floater that was picked off, and Ingram was back in the end zone on the very next play. A six point halftime deficit was suddenly 13, and the Buccaneers never recovered.
Winston also threw another pick in the third quarter when the Bucs were in New Orleans territory.
It’s easy to second-guess, but I question Dirk Koetter’s decision to go for the onside kick with 2 minutes to go. The Bucs had all three timeouts left. You figure the kickoff would result in a touchback, so they wouldn’t lose any time there. They could’ve stopped the Saints in their territory, burned their timeouts, and gotten the ball back in decent field position with one last shot. In the end, it didn’t matter because the Saints got a first down. But even if they had stopped him, Tampa Bay would’ve had a much longer way to go after the Saints’ punt.
Now, back to the bad feeling I had before the game started. It came as a surprise to me – and apparently the players from what I’ve read – to find out that starting running back Doug Martin was inactive, and that it was a coaches’ decision. We don’t know the truth as of this writing, but I sure hope Koetter had a good reason to bench his starting running back with the team’s playoff chances hanging in the balance. Martin has not been the same as last season; there’s no question about that. But I’d love to know the back story behind all of this.
So, we have one more game to go. The Buccaneers host the Panthers in the season finale. There is some ridiculous scenario that would allow the Bucs to back into the playoffs next weekend, but it’s not likely. But if Tampa Bay is going to be a playoff team down the road, it has to win games like the one Saturday night. It’s as simple as that.
Photo courtesy: USA Today
Once a year, I make a trip down to Tampa to see the Buccaneers in action. Sunday’s game against the Saints was this year’s pilgrimage. And I left Ray-Jay with a big smile on my face; the Bucs hung on to beat New Orleans, 16-11.
I’ll get to my personal gameday experience in a moment. But first, a few thoughts about the game itself:
This was the definition of winning ugly. There was only one touchdown in the game, scored by Doug Martin, in the end zone near where I was sitting. Sprinkled in to the mix were flags – a lot of them: 13 for the Saints, 7 for the Bucs. It just breaks up the flow of the game when it seems like there’s yellow on the field every other play.
Then the mistakes came, most of them at the other end of the field from where I was. The first was the miscue by Josh Huff, muffing a kickoff at the 1-yard line and pinning the Bucs back to their goal line. On the next play, the Saints got a safety. The ensuing free kick went out of bounds, giving New Orleans the ball at midfield. The Saints had 1st and goal at the 1, but couldn’t punch it in, thanks to a penalty at a sack. They ended up with a field goal. So the screw-up by Huff cost his team five points.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, it looked like the Saints had taken the lead with a Drew Brees TD pass. It sure looked like it on the replays, too. So it was a pleasant surprise when the official came out and said it was an incomplete pass. I watched the FOX replay this afternoon, and the ball did hit the ground. Good call. But at the time, I thought the Bucs caught a big break. New Orleans settled for a field goal.
There were more key plays in the fourth quarter, all of them made by Tampa Bay: two on special teams, two on defense. Twice, the Bucs pinned the Saints deep inside the 5. One of them was an amazing save to down the ball at the 1. The other backed the Saints up to the 3.
With two minutes to go, Drew Brees had to take his team 97 yards with one timeout to win the game. He only got 45 of those yards. Keith Tandy made the game-clinching pick with :51 to play. The Bucs picked off the New Orleans QB three times.
Now to my personal experience: normally I fly solo when I go to the game. But this time, I was happy to be joined by two of my Vegas fanatics. One rooted for the Bucs, the other cheered for the Saints (she grew up in the New Orleans area.) She was hardly the only Saints’ fan at Ray-Jay: there were thousands of them scattered around, including a loud (but fun) group right behind us. I’ve heard enough of the “who dat?” chant for awhile, though we Bucs fans got our revenge at the end. To make a long story short, I was so excited to be joined by two of my friends this time around. We also had a memorable time at the Hard Rock casino the night before. Since this is a Bucs blog, I’ll spare you the details of that adventure.
In the third quarter, the skies opened up. The forecast was only for a 10 or 20 percent chance of a shower, but that most of the region would stay dry. Well, we got that 10-20 percent. A lot of fans ran for cover. Not me. I don’t mind getting a little wet, especially since Florida showers usually come and go quickly. When it did stop raining, it also got a lot more humid. Say what you will, but the rain seemed to stop what momentum the Saints had at the time.
I was disappointed that the game wasn’t a sellout. The team is on its longest winning streak in 14 years, and they’re tied for first place with an 8-5 record. How much more does it take to have a butt in every seat? Imagine what the crowd would’ve looked like without all of the Saints fans. Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans, so I wasn’t surprised by that at all.
The bottom line: the Bucs are 8-5, still tied with Atlanta atop the NFC South, and will face Dallas on Sunday Night Football. And the game times keep changing: the following week’s game in New Orleans has been pushed back to 4:25 now.
I have photos and videos from my Ray-Jay experience. I will share those with you on Tuesday.
After Tampa Bay gave up four touchdown passes to Marcus Mariota in the season opener, the obvious question crossed my mind: if a rookie can do that, imagine what a seasoned pro like Drew Brees would do against this defense.
Count me as one of the fans who was pleasantly surprised by what played out at the Superdome on Sunday.
The Buccaneers held Brees under 300 yards passing and sacked him four times. They also forced three turnovers, which was huge given that the Bucs’ offense turned it over on consecutive series in a bizarre fourth quarter.
When Tampa Bay took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, I had a feeling the Saints would make a game of it. I’ve seen this movie too many times before. Sure enough, New Orleans found the end zone twice in the final period.
But the defense – and special teams – made enough key plays. After the first Saints’ TD made it a 10-point game, they foiled the two-point conversion, meaning it was still a two-score game. After another touchdown made it 23-19, perhaps the biggest play of the game came when William Gholston blocked the extra point. That means the Saints would need a touchdown at the end of the game to win, instead of a potential-tying field goal. And yes, they were in field goal range in the closing seconds.
That missed FG by the saints earlier in the fourth helped. I’m not going to lie to you there.
One more note on the three sacks: Jacquies Smith now has four in the first two games. He’s leading the league in that category. That bears repeating: a Buccaneer is leading the NFL in sacks. Sure, it’s only two games, but when the last time (before now) that statement was true?
Sunday’s victory in New Orleans wasn’t perfect – not by a long shot. The Bucs still need to do a better job of closing out games when they’ve got the lead in the fourth quarter. But after a 2-14 season, we’ll take any positives that we can, and Sunday produced enough of them.
Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com
See? All is well in Bucs country, at least for now.
Talk about a bounce-back game. After the Buccaneers were booed off the field in an embarrassing season opener, they marched into the Superdome and beat the division-rival Saints, 26-19.
Jameis Winston had a good day: 14-of-21 for 207 yards. He threw for a touchdown and ran for another. He lost a fumble, but fortunately it didn’t prove costly.
The defense, which was maligned by fans (including me) last week, stepped up to force three turnovers. Those mistakes turned into nine Tampa Bay points.
The fourth quarter was insane. Even with Tampa Bay leading 23-7 going in, I knew New Orleans would make a game of it. Sure enough, the Bucs tried hard to give the game away on a silver platter – whether it was all those penalties, the ultra-conservative play calling or the two lost fumbles. But there were also key plays in their favor: a missed field goal, a blocked PAT, and a stop on a two-point conversion. Still, it wasn’t until the Bucs knocked down Drew Brees’ pass in the end zone as time expired, that we could breathe a sigh of relief.
But the bottom line is: a win is a win, against a division opponent no less. Bucs fans will gladly take it.
Let’s just hope Gerald McCoy’s injury isn’t serious. That would be a crushing blow so early in the year.
Photo Courtesy: AP
Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ difficult-to-swallow, 37-31 overtime loss to the Saints on Sunday.
The Bucs blew an eleven-point lead in the fourth quarter, and ended up losing in OT. That’s the short version. Now, for the long version…
The meltdown really kicked in after New Orleans had just scored to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to five. The Bucs got the ball back, and went backward via a botched snap and a couple of penalties. The “drive” ended with Mike Glennon getting sacked in the end zone for a safety, which essentially gave New Orleans the two points it didn’t get on the previous two-point conversion attempt. After the Saints got the ball back, they marched right down the field and kicked the tying field goal. When the game went into overtime, the Saints won the coin toss, took the ball, scored a touchdown, and that was that. The defense was obviously gassed at the end of the game, and allowed 511 yards of total offense.
And oh, those penalties: 15 of them in all for 113 yards. The biggest one came in overtime on third down against Jonathan Banks. If not for that penalty, the Bucs would’ve forced a Saints’ punt in the extra period. 15 penalties is way too many, whether you agree with the calls or not (and there were some questionable ones.)
I will have more on the disastrous fourth quarter in tomorrow’s write-up.
The Bucs still don’t have much of a running game to speak of. We have not yet seen the same Doug Martin who was a stud two years ago. He did have a couple of bursts on the Superdome turf, but he just isn’t the same player he used to be.
Glennon had another solid day as the Bucs’ quarterback, going 19-for-32 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But unlike last week, he was unable to lead Tampa Bay on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
It was nice to see Vincent Jackson finally have a big day: eight catches for 144 yards.
As I mentioned, the defense gave up over 500 yards of total offense. And yet, Drew Brees didn’t even have his best game. The Bucs picked him off three times, and ran one of those interceptions back for a touchdown (by Danny Lansanah.)
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off a new season against the Carolina Panthers at Ray-Jay. What’s new about this year’s team? Well, just about everything. Here’s a breakdown of what to keep an eye on this weekend, and all season long.
This is Josh McCown’s team now. He’s 35, and coming off his best season while filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. Still, he’s playing in a division where the other quarterbacks are named Brees, Ryan and Newton. So he has to prove himself almost right off the bat, otherwise Mike Glennon, who started most of last year, is waiting in the wings.
The Bucs spent their entire draft this year on upgrading the offense. That was a wise move, given that the offense last year was nothing short of awful. They also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Tedford, who may not even be around for the opener due to an undisclosed medical condition. It would be sweet if rookie Mike Evans became a formidable duo in the passing game along with veteran Vincent Jackson. The same holds true for rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, especially now that Tim Wright is in New England.
The offensive line is probably the biggest thing to pay close attention to. But this group got a boost with the addition of Logan Mankins. Mankins was a proven leader with the Pats who made multiple trips to the Pro Bowl. Still, this area is a huge question mark. The o-line must step it up in both the running game and in pass protection.
This group showed improvement last year. And if the preseason is any indication, this could be a breakthrough year for Leslie Frazier’s squad. Players like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are poised to have pro bowl seasons. In the secondary, Revis Island is no longer there, but Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson and newcomer Alterraun Verner are. As far as Goldson is concerned, can he make the necessary adjustments to stop costing his team 15 yards every time he clocks a receiver?
Lovie Smith prides his team on forcing turnovers. It won’t be enough to just shut down the opposing offense. The defense needs to take the ball away.
This will be another intriguing area to watch. Rookie Patrick Murray will handle the kicking duties, having beaten out Connor Barth for the starting job. Barth was the most accurate kicker in team history, but missed all of last year due to an injury he suffered playing basketball. If Murray struggled in the first game or two, how much will Bucs fans be clamoring for Connor?
I’m really looking forward to writing about the Bucs this season. The addition of Lovie Smith as head coach brought Tampa Bay instant credibility at least in the eyes of public opinion. It would be great to see the off-field excitement translated into wins on the field.
One final note: I will not be doing any breakdown of the Carolina game because I will be on vacation. My coverage will continue with the Week 2 game against the Rams.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today