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
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
There are always storylines that emerge from every NFL game, every Sunday. Some make you jump for joy. Others make you want to fire the head coach. And there, there are the inspirational stories, like the one involving Buccaneers’ rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander.
The first-year pro from LSU had the game of his life on Sunday against the Falcons. He was responsible for two turnovers, and had a third called back by a penalty. His eleven tackles led Tampa Bay.
And he did it all under heartbreaking circumstances.
Alexander’s 17-year old brother was shot on Friday night, and died the next day. Kwon said he wanted to play, because that’s the way his brother would’ve wanted it. And to do what he did in the Georgia Dome is nothing short of remarkable.
Kwon was given a game ball after the overtime win. If you haven’t seen the video yet on the Buccaneers’ official website, you should. It will bring a few tears to your eyes. Here’s the link. It’s just over a minute long.
God bless you, Kwon. I am so sorry for your loss. You’ve earned a lot of respect, and not just from Bucs’ fans.
Photo Courtesy: AP
For a moment, I was getting to write about how the Buccaneers blew another double-digit lead and suffered a devastating defeat.
Well, they did blow the lead. But instead of losing, they found a way to a win the game this time. The Bucs beat the Falcons in overtime, 23-20. Connor Barth kicked the winning field goal on the first possession of OT, and the Bucs defense followed that up by doing something they hadn’t done the entire second half: stop Matt Ryan.
Jameis Winston had another solid day in which he did not turn it over. He threw for 177 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for a score on a broken play in the third quarter. He hasn’t turned the ball over in three straight games now.
Sure, Tampa Bay’s defense still stinks. Besides blowing another big lead, they let Ryan throw for nearly 400 yards. The Falcons were just shy of 500 yards in total offense on the day. But – and this is a big “but” – they turned it over four times. The Buccaneers turned those mistakes into points, and that was the key.
The bright spot in this unit was rookie Kwon Alexander, who picked off Ryan and also recovered a fumble. It turns out he had just lost his brother a couple of days earlier to gun violence. Man, for him to play like that after what happened…..what an inspiring story that should not be overlooked.
The bottom line is, the Buccaneers improved to 3-4 with their second road victory over an NFC South opponent. Instead of talking about the awful secondary, or why in the world Lovie Smith went for it on 4th down on his side of the 50 late in the fourth quarter, I choose to focus on the end result.
If you like fantasy stats, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones probably got you some serious points. But I don’t play fantasy football. The Bucs won the game. In the end, that’s all that matters.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
This past weekend, I made my annual trip down to Raymond James Stadium to see the Bucs play in person. We all know they lost to the Falcons. But you see and experience so much more when you’re at the game, so I wanted to share my thoughts about what I saw. I’m not going to include any stats in this article.
The Bucs lost this game for the same reasons they lost seven others: too many dumb mistakes. Everyone sitting around me (who’ve clearly been to a lot more games than I) knew that every flag was going to be against the home team. Seriously, how many times did the Bucs bail out the Falcons in this game? On Atlanta’s first TD drive, the Bucs jumped offside THREE times. And then there were the occasions that the Falcons faced third and long, only to be given new life by a defensive penalty away from the ball? The penalties are a lack of discipline. A lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching. You hear that, Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier?
I also saw an Atlanta receiver wide open in the end zone TWICE. How does that happen? On the first one, the Bucs got lucky that Matt Ryan’s pass was underthrown, and the defender was able to get back in time to knock it away. I don’t remember who it was, because it happened at the opposite end of the field. But I DID have a good luck at Devin Hester all alone in the end zone nearest my seat, and he dropped the ball. The Falcons had to settle for a field goal. That dropped pass cost Atlanta four points. I was really hoping that drop would come back to haunt the Falcons. Wishful thinking.
The Bucs need to draft a franchise, stud quarterback next year. I heard that from fans sitting around me at Ray-Jay, and even more in a sports bar after the game. We were all surprised that Josh McCown was given the start. If Mike Glennon is “the future” (Lovie’s words) than why wouldn’t you play him the rest of the season? McCown didn’t disappoint, and I say that sarcastically. For three quarters, he played mistake-free, albeit unspectacular football. But in the fourth quarter, when he needed to rally his team, he couldn’t do it. Even with two minutes to go and trailing by ten, the Bucs still had an outside shot to pull off a miracle. They were down by the goal line, and had all three timeouts that they could’ve used on defense. But McCown threw a pick in the end zone. The fans who hadn’t left the stadium by then started heading for the exits. He got his share of boos.
The other guy who we booed a lot was punter Michael Koenen. He is not having a good year, and he shanked a couple of kicks in the second half that gave Atlanta superb field position. He was also handling kickoffs. Remember Connor Barth? Remind me why got rid of him again?
While the Bucs need a stud quarterback, I can tell you Mike Evans is a stud receiver. Man, some of the catches he was making….he was amazing. He and Vincent Jackson make a formidable receiving tandem, IF only they had a decent quarterback who could not only get them the ball, but hit them in stride every once in awhile. That was another thing I noticed: how many passes from McCown did not give the receiver any chance of gaining yards after the catch?
There was a nice crowd at the game. I thought there would be a lot more empty seats than there were, given this was a matchup between two bad teams. While it wasn’t a sellout by any means, but decent nonetheless. There were quite a few Falcons’ fans in attendance, not surprising based on simple geography.
So those are my observations from my seat in Section 121. If you were at the game, I’d love to hear yours.
Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ humiliating 56-14 loss to the Falcons on Thursday night.
Absolutely nothing. Actually, the Bucs won’t be playing on Sunday this week. That’s good.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Everything. Where to start….
The defense, supposedly the strength of the team, allowed 56 points. Matt Ryan and company were marching up and down the field at will. Receivers were wide open all over the field, including the end zone. Atlanta had nearly 500 yards of total offense (488.) Yes, Gerald McCoy, their star defensive lineman, was out with an injury. But could one player have made that much of a difference? They did force four turnovers. Normally that would be outstanding, but it didn’t make any difference on this night, because…
The Bucs’ offense turned it over five times. One of them was a pick-six thrown by Josh McCown, who left the game with a hand injury. Bobby Rainey, who had an excellent game last week against the Rams, lost two fumbles. Then there was the shotgun snap that went right over Mike Glennon’s head. The offense had 217 total yards, and 110 yards in penalties. There’s more, but you get the idea.
And finally, we have the abysmal special teams. You would think, after all the years Devin Hester has been in the league, that teams would avoid kicking the ball to him. Heck, Lovie Smith had him on his roster in Chicago. But you’d never know it from last night. Hester had long returns all night, including a 62-yard sprint for a touchdown. Even in the second half, long after I had turned off the game, Tampa Bay was still kicking it to Hester. I just don’t get it.
Let this sink in: the score was 35-0 at halftime. After three quarters, it was 56-0. What makes this even worse was that the game was on national TV. Thankfully, Tampa Bay doesn’t have any more nationally-televised games scheduled, barring a miraculous turnaround.
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