Bucs Go 9-7: First Winning Season Since 2010

There will be no playoffs in Tampa this year.  But at least the Buccaneers won more games than they lost.  We haven’t been able to say that in six years.

The Bucs edged the Panthers in the season finale on Sunday, 17-16.  The game wasn’t decided until the Bucs prevented Carolina from getting a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.

It’s always nice to beat Cam Newton, isn’t it?  Yes, it is.

This game was all about the defense.  It was the defense that intercepted Newton three times, including Brent Grimes’ pick-six that put gave the Bucs the lead for the first time.  The other two came from Keith Tandy, who really played very well down the stretch.

It was the defense that sacked Newton three times.

It was also the defense that allowed the Panthers to tie the game in the closing seconds, but came up with the big play when Ron Rivera decided to go for two and the win (by the way, I applaud Rivera for going for it; he had nothing to lose in that situation.)

Jameis Winston struggled for much of the day, but his TD pass to Mike Evans broke a 10-10 tie late in the fourth quarter.  Winston is the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons.  He also set a franchise record with 28 touchdown passes.  But he also threw a pick and lost a fumble, and overthrew a lot of receivers.  In the end, I guess you could say he did just enough to get the win.

While Mike Evans gets all the headlines for the receivers – and rightfully so – let’s give some props to Adam Humprhies: 10 catches for 94 yards.

Robert Aguayo was an adventure yet again.  Of his three field goal attempts, he made the first, missed the second, and had the third one blocked.  GM Jason Licht is going to have to make a decision about Aguayo’s future.  My gut tells me it won’t happen in the offseason, but he just didn’t perform as well as any kicker should, let alone a second-round draft pick.

It’s been a fun season, Bucs fans.  In my next column (whenever I get some free time) I’ll put a bow on the 2016 Bucs with the best and worst of the past four months.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

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5 Wins in a Row! Bri Sees The Bucs Win In Person

Once a year, I make a trip down to Tampa to see the Buccaneers in action. Sunday’s game against the Saints was this year’s pilgrimage. And I left Ray-Jay with a big smile on my face; the Bucs hung on to beat New Orleans, 16-11.

I’ll get to my personal gameday experience in a moment. But first, a few thoughts about the game itself:

This was the definition of winning ugly. There was only one touchdown in the game, scored by Doug Martin, in the end zone near where I was sitting. Sprinkled in to the mix were flags – a lot of them: 13 for the Saints, 7 for the Bucs. It just breaks up the flow of the game when it seems like there’s yellow on the field every other play.

Then the mistakes came, most of them at the other end of the field from where I was. The first was the miscue by Josh Huff, muffing a kickoff at the 1-yard line and pinning the Bucs back to their goal line. On the next play, the Saints got a safety. The ensuing free kick went out of bounds, giving New Orleans the ball at midfield. The Saints had 1st and goal at the 1, but couldn’t punch it in, thanks to a penalty at a sack. They ended up with a field goal. So the screw-up by Huff cost his team five points.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, it looked like the Saints had taken the lead with a Drew Brees TD pass. It sure looked like it on the replays, too. So it was a pleasant surprise when the official came out and said it was an incomplete pass. I watched the FOX replay this afternoon, and the ball did hit the ground. Good call. But at the time, I thought the Bucs caught a big break. New Orleans settled for a field goal.

There were more key plays in the fourth quarter, all of them made by Tampa Bay: two on special teams, two on defense. Twice, the Bucs pinned the Saints deep inside the 5. One of them was an amazing save to down the ball at the 1.  The other backed the Saints up to the 3.

With two minutes to go, Drew Brees had to take his team 97 yards with one timeout to win the game. He only got 45 of those yards. Keith Tandy made the game-clinching pick with :51 to play.  The Bucs picked off the New Orleans QB three times.

Now to my personal experience: normally I fly solo when I go to the game. But this time, I was happy to be joined by two of my Vegas fanatics. One rooted for the Bucs, the other cheered for the Saints (she grew up in the New Orleans area.) She was hardly the only Saints’ fan at Ray-Jay: there were thousands of them scattered around, including a loud (but fun) group right behind us. I’ve heard enough of the “who dat?” chant for awhile, though we Bucs fans got our revenge at the end. To make a long story short, I was so excited to be joined by two of my friends this time around. We also had a memorable time at the Hard Rock casino the night before. Since this is a Bucs blog, I’ll spare you the details of that adventure.

In the third quarter, the skies opened up. The forecast was only for a 10 or 20 percent chance of a shower, but that most of the region would stay dry. Well, we got that 10-20 percent. A lot of fans ran for cover. Not me. I don’t mind getting a little wet, especially since Florida showers usually come and go quickly. When it did stop raining, it also got a lot more humid. Say what you will, but the rain seemed to stop what momentum the Saints had at the time.

I was disappointed that the game wasn’t a sellout. The team is on its longest winning streak in 14 years, and they’re tied for first place with an 8-5 record. How much more does it take to have a butt in every seat? Imagine what the crowd would’ve looked like without all of the Saints fans. Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans, so I wasn’t surprised by that at all.

The bottom line: the Bucs are 8-5, still tied with Atlanta atop the NFC South, and will face Dallas on Sunday Night Football. And the game times keep changing: the following week’s game in New Orleans has been pushed back to 4:25 now.

I have photos and videos from my Ray-Jay experience. I will share those with you on Tuesday.

 

The Bucs are Tied For First Place! Believe It!

Bucs fans: we are in for one heck of a final quarter of the season. That’s because in the third quarter of the season, they were a perfect 4-0.

By beating the Chargers 28-21 on Sunday, and with the Falcons losing to the Chiefs (thank you Eric Berry), the Buccaneers are now tied with Atlanta for first place in the NFC South.

Who would’ve thought it a month ago?

This was one of those games where somehow, someway, Tampa Bay found a way to win. Take the defense, for example. At times, they looked the defense from the first half of the season, giving up two long touchdown passes to Philip Rivers. And they got ridiculously lucky in the fourth quarter when a wide open Chargers’ receiver dropped what would’ve been a potential game-tying touchdown. On the flip side, Lavonte David came up with a Pick 6 that put Tampa Bay in the lead in the third quarter. And with about three minutes to go in the game, Keith Tandy picked off Rivers in the end zone. The Bucs were able to run out the clock.

Jameis Winston had another good day: 280 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. He made plays when he had to. And he’s doing it with a running game that is still struggling big time.

Roberto Aguayo? He missed another field goal. Good Lord. It was a 31-yarder. That should be a chip-shot for every single kicker in the league. He’s lucky the Bucs were successful on a 2-point conversion after Cameron Brate’s TD. That “offset” Aguayo’s screw-up. He has missed six FG’s and two PAT’s this season. If the Chargers had tied the game in the fourth quarter, I would’ve been on the floor praying if the game came down to Aguayo’s leg. Thankfully it didn’t.

So the bottom line is this: the Bucs and Falcons are tied at 7-5 atop the NFC South. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. They split those two games. I think the next tiebreaker is division record. Right now the Bucs are 2-1 in that department, but three of their last four are against division opponents.

And lastly, next week’s game against the Saints will be my annual trip down to Ray-Jay. I can’t wait. And for those who fans who are going to the game and didn’t hear the news this past week, it is now a 4:25 kickoff instead of 1:00.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Three in a Row? Yes! Bucs Upset Lions

Wouldn’t you know – it’s a winning streak.

After beating two teams with sub-.500 records, the Buccaneers went to Detroit on Sunday and knocked off the first-place Lions, 24-21. The Bucs forced five turnovers and blocked a punt. They didn’t have Darrelle Revis in the second half due to injury, and still hung on to win a game they probably would’ve lost earlier in the year.

Mike Glennon was solid once again: 247 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. One of those scores was a beautiful deep ball to Tiquan Underwood. Mr. Glennon will be a strong rookie-of-the-year candidate if he keeps this up.

But when you look back at this game, the 5-0 turnover ratio is what stands out. The Bucs picked off Matthew Stafford four times. One of them was returned for a touchdown by Leonard Johnson. It’s the second week in a row the Bucs have had a pick-six. Then there was Keith Tandy’s interception down by the goal line. And in the final minute, Calvin Johnson appeared to make a catch inside the 10-yard line, but Kelcie McCray knocked it out, and the ball popped right into Jonathan Banks’ hands.

Of course, the Bucs tried hard to give the Lions more lives in the fourth quarter. After Tampa Bay blocked a punt and got the ball deep in Detroit territory, Ryan Lindell missed a makeable field goal. After the Bucs picked off Stafford again, Lindell missed another FG.

Man, I miss Connor Barth. He was money.

The Bucs still commit too many penalties; they had nine of them in this game. Hey Greg Schiano: that’s coaching!

But they were able to win regardless.

Now it’s on to Charlotte to face the red-hot Panthers next Sunday.

Photo Courtesy: AP

Bucs Build 21-0 Lead, Then Blow It – ARGH!

In this mess of a season, only the Bucs could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as they did on Sunday in Seattle.

They built a 21-0 lead in the first half. Everything was going their way. The running game was working to perfection. They capitalized on a botched kickoff by the Seahawks. Even Mike James threw a touchdown pass. Even when the ‘Hawks started to get their act together, Tampa Bay still had a double-digit lead. Heck, when Keith Tandy picked off Russell Wilson late in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers – still clinging to a 7-point lead –were in a position to pull off a monumental upset.

Nope. It wasn’t going to happen.

James rushed for 158 yards in this game. But didn’t it seem like the Bucs were throwing the ball more often as the second half went on? Why, Schiano? Why? When we got to OT, the Bucs got the ball first, but couldn’t do anything with it. Once Marshawn Lynch started marching down the field on Seattle’s first possession, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was over.

Schiano has now lost 13 of his last 14 games. He’s 0-7 in games decided by three points are fewer. With regards to that second stat, that means his team can’t close out games. And despite being 0-8, the Bucs have been leading late in the fourth quarter a few times. When will Schiano be fired? If it hasn’t happened by now, we may be stuck with him for the rest of the season.

On to Monday Night Football…

Photo Courtesy: AP