Let’s call this one, winning ugly…part two.
For those who didn’t see (or listen to) this game in Miami, you’d look at the final score and think the Buccaneers dominated the Dolphins. Oh, how wrong you’d be.
The Bucs won the game when Patrick Murray split the uprights with four seconds left on the clock. But let’s talk about the bad football that preceded much of the winning kick.
The Bucs won this game because of two things: Jay Cuter and all those Miami penalties. Tampa Bay picked off Cutler three times in the first half and also recovered a fumble. But in true Bucs’ fashion, they only led by 13 points at the half. At the time, I said to myself, “this is going to come back to haunt them.”
And it did. Matt Moore came in for Cutler in the second half and lit up the Bucs defense like so many other quarterbacks (including some backups) have. The Bucs nearly gave up a safety that could’ve really changed things in the fourth quarter. Still, the Dolphins tied the game on one of those “how the heck do you let him get that wide open?” kind of deep throws. As if you needed any more proof that Mike Smith’s defense is horrendous.
But there were all those penalties against the Dolphins – a whopping 17 of them – that helped the Buccaneers’ cause. The Bucs had nine penalties of their own, including one that negated a touchdown. It was just bad football.
Of course, this was a win, so there are positives. O.J. Howard had one of the Bucs’ two touchdowns, on his birthday no less. Happy birthday, O.J.
Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to perform admirably in Jameis Winston’s absence. Fitzpatrick will never be mistaken for Tom Brady, but he’s been efficient. And he’s won two games with basically no running game and a swiss cheese defense.
Patrick Murray continues to make us forget about Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk. Murray did miss a kick earlier in the game, but made the game-winner, and has played well since the Bucs re-acquired him.
On to Atlanta….
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
The Buccaneers needed this game in the worst possible way. And they got it.
With the exception of one play, the Bucs dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning 36-10.
After the defense looked downright awful the past two games, they actually decided to show up against Chicago. They sacked Jay Cutler four times. They forced four turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by the much-maligned Chris Conte. They also forced a safety, and shut out the Bears in the second half.
So what was that “one play?” Cutler completed a Hail Mary for a touchdown on the final play of the half that made it a seven-point game. But on the first drive of the third quarter, Jameis Winston pulled off another magic act. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure it’ll be on every NFL highlight reel. He escaped a bunch of Bears, avoided a major sack, scrambled around and launched one downfield that Mike Evans came down with. That was the play of the game. Two plays later, Winston threw a long TD pass to Freddie Martino (who?) and the Bucs were in control the rest of the way.
It was great to see Doug Martin back on the field. The Bucs need him desperately. And while the running game struggled mightily behind a makeshift offensive line, he did find the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
But this day was really about the defense finally showing up and playing a good game. And heck, it’s about time the Bucs won a game at Ray-Jay. They only won one of three consecutive home games.
Tampa Bay is now 4-5. Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans all lost, so this was good day all the way around for the Buccaneers. A tough trip to Kansas City awaits next Sunday.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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
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