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
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