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
Wait a minute – you mean the Buccaneers really do have a defense?
For at least one week, the answer is yes.
The Bucs throttled the Jets today at Ray-Jay, 15-10. Heading into this game, the defense had eight sacks all season. They sacked former Buc Josh McCown six times in this game.
Thank goodness for the stellar defense effort, because the offense was not in rhythm for much of the day. Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 50% of his passes, and listening to the radio broadcast, I can’t tell you how many times legendary Tampa Bay broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff described one of Fitzpatrick’s passes as nearly being picked off. He did throw one INT, had another that was nullified by a penalty, but in the fourth quarter he threw the only TD pass of the game to Charles Sims.
Speaking of unusual things, Sims scored a touchdown. This is the same Charles Sims I’m not a big fan of. Oh well, I guess I have to give him props this time around.
Patrick Murray made all of his kicks. The Buccaneers have stabilized their kicking situation…..finally.
But consider this: the Bucs won this game with their backup QB, with no running game, poor offensive line play, and they were without their star receiver, Mike Evans. The highlight reel won’t be one that you’ll want to see over and over again, but we’ll take the wins anyway we can.
The next three games are on the road, starting with next Sunday in Miami. This was originally the season opener, but it got postponed because of Hurricane Irma.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers