Just when you thought the Buccaneers’ season couldn’t get any worse, it has.
Oh, has it ever.
In what is quickly becoming a season to forget, the Bucs were trounced by the Saints in the Superdome today, 30-10. We saw a lot of the same old Bucs: the defense got picked apart again. The running game was non-existent. Jameis Winston was ineffective (before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.) And special teams were problematic yet again, with the Saints blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, and another missed field goal (though that was the least of the problems on this day.)
But here’s the question that a lot of fans – including me – are asking right now: has Dirk Koetter lost this team? The lasting image from this game will be the scuffle on the Tampa Bay sideline, which appeared to be instigated by Winston, and involved Mike Evans annihilating Marshon Lattimore. I am shocked Evans did not get kicked out of the game, but he could very well be suspended for that hit. But look closely at the replay: you see Koetter doing absolutely nothing to diffuse the situation. Nothing. Doesn’t the head coach need to take the control there? Well, Koetter didn’t do that. This is about a lack of discipline, and a lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching. I’ve written the same thing about Lovie Smith in years’ past, and I’m not letting Koetter off the hook, either.
This was supposed to be the year the Bucs made the jump to the next level – the playoffs. Instead, they sit at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC South, and are arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL right now. This five-game losing streak started with the New England game the Bucs could’ve won. There was the early knockout punch in Arizona. There was the late meltdown in Buffalo. And now we’ve seen back-to-back abysmal performances against division opponents. Do the Glazers have the guts to make a change-mid season? We shall see.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
If the Buccaneers are going to be a contender this season, they cannot lose games like the one they squandered on Sunday against the Rams.
It was the home opener. They were playing a team that hadn’t scored a touchdown in its first two games. And yet again, the Bucs found a way to make the Rams look like an offensive juggernaut. Final score: Rams 37, Bucs 32.
This was a very frustrating defeat, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Here’s what bothered me, in no particular order:
Why don’t we start with the final drive of the game, which happened while most of the country was already tuned in to Sunday Night Football due to a weather delay. The Bucs got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining, two timeouts, and trailing by five. They marched down to the L.A. 15. But after completing that pass to Charles Sims, they inexplicably let a precious 15-20 seconds tick off the clock before running another play. Why wouldn’t you burn a timeout there? Tampa Bay easily could’ve had an extra two plays at the end. The game ended with the Bucs leaving a timeout on the board, and Jameis Winston lying on the ground about five yards from the goal line. Did the thought of throwing the ball into the end zone on the final play ever cross his mind? Once he crossed the line of scrimmage, he had no choice but to pull off a miraculous run. It didn’t happen. The clock management was awful, and Dirk Koetter and Winston need to take the blame for that.
The defense – particularly the secondary – looks as bad as it did under Lovie Smith, and that’s saying something. The number of big plays they’ve given up are mind-boggling. How do you let Case Keenum beat you deep? He did it on the opening drive, and he did it again in the fourth quarter. How do you let a team that scored nine points in two games…put up 37 against you in the home opener?
Then there’s Roberto Aguayo. You know, he’s the guy the Bucs drafted in the second round. He missed an extra point. Then he missed a field goal. That is unacceptable from any kicker, much less a second-rounder. That was four critical points the Bucs didn’t get. And the missed PAT forced the Bucs to go for two twice, and failed both times. Who knows how the game would’ve played out if Aguayo had just done his job?
Turnovers are still a problem. Winston threw a pick that wasn’t his fault (Sims should’ve caught it) and the Rams turned it into a touchdown. Then there was the strip-sack that L.A. returned 77 yards for another score.
We’re only three games in, but this was by far the most frustrating game of the season. And the next two games are against last year’s Super Bowl teams: home against Denver, at Carolina.
Ay ay ay….
Photo Courtesy: AP
Well, that was an old-fashioned clunker.
There isn’t a whole lot of good to say about Sunday’s game against Arizona. Whatever could go wrong for the Bucs, did go wrong.
They turned it over five times. One of them was a screw-up on a handoff between Jameis Winston and Charles Sims. Winston also threw four interceptions, one of which was returned all the way for a touchdown. And to be honest, there were a couple of others that also could’ve been picked. By the way, why was he still playing in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of reach?
They dropped passes.
They missed tackles.
They suffered some key injuries. Doug Martin, Robert Ayers, Luke Stocker and Cecil Shorts were all knocked out of the game.
The defense has allowed 64 points in the first two games, and hasn’t forced a turnover. Lovie Smith is probably laughing his ass off in Champaign, IL.
Arizona is a very good team. There’s no question about that. But I was hoping for a much better showing than this. There is a lot of stuff to fix before the home opener against the Rams.
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Cardinals
Now that the NFL draft is in the books, it’s time to take a look at the newest Buccaneers. By now, you probably know who Tampa Bay chose. Also, I’m no draft analyst, nor do I really follow big-time national college football. So with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at what the Bucs did.
I’m glad the Bucs focused on the defensive side of the ball. That’s the reason Lovie Smith is no longer the head coach. The first-round pick generally garners the most attention, so I’ll do the same. Vernon Hargreaves III played cornerback at Florida. Tampa Bay needs people to do a better job defending the pass. So this pick makes a lot of sense. Remember the percentage at which opposing QB’s were completing passes against this defense last year? I don’t, but I know it was way up there. And some of those quarterbacks weren’t exactly superstars.
In the second round, they took Noah Spence. Lord knows the Bucs need a pass rusher, or two, or three, or….well, you get the idea. So that was a good move as well.
They also drafted a kicker in the second round, Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State. This is the move that seems to be getting the most criticism, especially since Tampa Bay traded up to get him. From what I’ve read, this guy was money from inside 40 yards. Okay, so what happens when he comes on to try a 50-yarder with the game on the line? I’ll take a wait-and-see approach on this. The Bucs kicking game has been wobbly at best over the past couple of years. Let’s see what happens.
Those are my thoughts. I won’t dissect the other picks because, as I alluded to earlier, I just don’t know enough about their college careers. But I was pleased to see the defense be the priority in this year’s draft.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
So a lot of the so-called experts thought Lovie Smith would be on the hot seat at the start of next season.
Guess what? His seat is now open.
The Bucs fired Lovie last night after two disappointing seasons in which he only won 8 games.
I love how the national media are “stunned” by this. To me, the only surprising element is that Tampa Bay chose 10pm on a Wednesday night to make the move.
Clearly, the others just looked at the Bucs being ranked in the top 10 in total offense and defense. They obviously didn’t actually pay attention to what happened in the Red Zone, or the record-setting number of penalties.
I’ll have more to say a bit later. For now. I say that I agree with this move.
That season went by way too quickly. It’s hard to believe it’s already over.
The Tampa Bay Bucs finished with a record of 6-10. That’s an improvement over their 2-14 record of 2014, but they still finished in last place in the NFC South. I thought I’d take a look back at the best – and worst – of the Bucs’ 2015 season.
Please note: these are listed in no particular order.
Jameis Winston. Remember what happened on his first pass of the season? I do. It was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Sure, there were many moments where the No. 1 overall pick looked like a rookie. But there were many more where he looked like the Bucs may have found their franchise quarterback. Winston threw for over 4,000 yards (4,042 to be exact.) That’s the third-most passing yards of any rookie QB in NFL history. He threw 22 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions. He also ran for six touchdowns. You can make a very compelling case for him being named rookie of the year. Perhaps most of all, he looks and acts like a leader. He needs to work on the deep ball, but that can be done.
Doug Martin. This was the last year of his contract in Tampa. I am with a lot of Bucs’ fans in begging the team to re-sign him. Martin had his best year since his rookie season: he rushed for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns. The TD number is a bit low, but he had a number of long, long runs that put his team in excellent scoring position. His best game was Week 11 against Philadelphia – when he ran wild for 235 yards.
Dirk Koetter. Why does the offensive coordinator make this list? It’s simple: the Bucs didn’t have one last year; remember when Jeff Tedford left before the season began? Koetter came in, and made an instant impact. The Bucs finished with the fifth-best offense in the NFL in terms of total yards. They averaged just over 21 points per game, which ranks 20th in the league, but still a big improvement over last year. But when I look back at the season, this wasn’t the same old dink-and-dunk Tampa Bay offense that I’ve seen since…well, forever.
The defense. As I’ve said repeatedly over the past four months, Lovie Smith was calling the plays on the defensive side of the ball. That’s why he deserves much of the blame for a unit that allowed just over 26 points per game, sixth-most in the league. The secondary was just awful. Take your pick: Johnthan Banks, Mike Jenkins, Sterling Moore, Alterraun Verner – it didn’t matter who was trying to cover the opposing team’s receivers. Here is the most alarming stat I could find: the Bucs allowed their opponents to complete 70% of their passes. That is insane. Whether it’s the players, the scheme or the coaching – this should be the first order of the business in the offseason.
Mike Evans. On one hand, he had another 1,000 yard season – gaining 1,206 yards. On the other hand, he only scored three touchdowns. And then there were the drops – all of them. According to sportingcharts.com, Evans led the league with eleven dropped passes. And he heard some boos from the fans at Ray-Jay periodically.
BEST GAME: week 11, when they walloped the Eagles, 45-17, and racked up 521 yards of total offense.
WORST GAME: week 7, when they lost to the Redskins, 31-30, a game in which Tampa Bay blew a 24-0 lead. I know Washington ended up winning the NFC East, but blowing a lead like that against anyone is unacceptable.
As always, it’s been a lot of fun writing about the Bucs this season. And I am most grateful to my readers. This is neither goodbye nor farewell, of course. It’s just me saying thank you.
Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com
Well, that was a dud.
What’s more – it’s pretty much what I thought I was going to happen.
The Buccaneers ended their season Sunday night with a 38-10 blowout loss to the division-rival Panthers in Charlotte.
The Bucs had nothing to play for. Carolina still had to win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Panthers had no trouble.
We all know how badly the Bucs allow opposing quarterbacks to complete passes at an alarmingly-high rate. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Cam Newton was 21-for-26 in this game.
If you didn’t see (or listen to) any of the game, don’t be fooled by the final stats that show the Bucs outgaining the Panthers, 386-366. Tampa Bay got a lot of that yardage in the second half when the game was pretty much already over. The Buccaneers also turned it over three times.
The Bucs lost four straight after being 6-6. And wouldn’t you know – because the Saints won, the Bucs finished in last place in the NFC South….again.
I hope Lovie Smith gets canned because of his lousy defense; remember, he called the plays this year. But I don’t think it’ll happen. As for the offense, will Doug Martin be back? What about Vincent Jackson? The questions will be answered in the days and weeks to come.
Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com