Yes! Bucs Finally Win a Home Game!

The Buccaneers did something today they hadn’t done in nearly two years: they won a game at Ray-Jay. They beat the Jaguars, 38-31.

The Bucs scored 38 points. 38!

Thank you, Doug Martin. He’d actually been running pretty well even before today, but it had been overshadowed by all of the negative stuff surrounding Lovie Smith and company. Today, Martin ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns – one of them receiving. He’s now rushed for over 400 yards through the first five games. He’s looking at a 1,000-yard season if he stays on this pace.

I’m giving Connor Barth a shout-out because of the mess the kicking game had been until now. He was 3-for-3 on field goals and perfect on PAT’s. Everyone take a deep breath now.

Another honorable mention goes to Bobby Rainey for his work on kickoff returns. One of them was a 58-yarder that led to Martin’s touchdown reception.. And for a change, the penalty flags stayed away for the most part on special teams (I think there may have been one.)

How about the defense? Well, at times they let Blake Bortles look like Tom Brady. But they also sacked him six times and picked him off once. And the key play of the game came in the third quarter, when Jacquies Smith recovered a Jacksonville fumble in the end zone to put Tampa Bay back in the lead for good. The Bucs had blown a 13-point lead, then a Barth FG cut the lead to one before the big play happened.

Jameis Winston had a decent day: 13-19, 201 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he did not turn it over. The latter is perhaps the biggest thing worth mentioning.

Sure, it was hardly perfect. There were still too many penalties. And I don’t understand Lovie Smith’s stupid play-calling at the end of the first half when he had all three timeouts and decent field position. Oh, by the way: this win may have saved his job for the time being.

A win is a win. We the fans will take them any way we can.

Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com

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Monday Column: Buccaneers Defense Redeems Itself

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