Bucs Fall to Saints in Brady’s Debut

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that Tom Brady wasn’t the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.  If you watched Sunday’s game against the Saints, you’d think were watching….a typical Bucs game.  Tampa Bay fell to New Orleans, 34-23.

This was a game where, yet again, the Bucs made too many mistakes to overcome.  But since this was Brady’s Tampa Bay debut, all of the spotlight was shining on him.  His first drive was great, capped off by a QB sneak into the end zone that Patriots fans saw so many times.

After that?  My goodness.

Brady threw two interceptions in this one.  The first was a miscommunication with Mike Evans.  The second was a bad throw that resulted in a pick-six for the Saints.  Brady looked out of sync with his receivers for much of the game.  I think that will improve as he gets more reps with them.

But before everyone hangs Brady out to dry, this was a team loss.  I wrote in my season preview about my chief concerns: the running game, the offensive line, the young secondary and the kicking game.  Well, the running game was a struggle yet again.  The pass protection was not good at all (why is Donovan Smith still our left tackle?)  The secondary actually played pretty well until Jamel Dean got burned in the fourth quarter.  And the kicking game is still a mess: new kicker Ryan Succop had a field goal blocked.  Another special teams mistake: the what-were-they-thinking moment on that botched kickoff in the fourth quarter that resulted in another turnover.

Another problem: penalties.  The Bucs were the most penalized team in the league last year.  On Sunday, they were penalized nine times for 103 yards.  Why can’t this team ever be disciplined, regardless of who’s coaching them?

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t a factor. Evans wasn’t a factor, though his hamstring injury may have had something to do with that.  I hardly heard LeSean McCoy or Cameron Brate’s names mentioned.

This was just one game, against one of the best teams in the NFL.  There is still time to make adjustments and turn this thing around.  Hopefully they can, or we’re looking at another season of the same ol’ Bucs.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

Week 1 Preview: Buccaneers at Saints

This is one of, if not the marquee game of Week 1.  Tom Brady’s debut as Tampa Bay’s quarterback, against Drew Brees and the Saints, who have won the division three straight years.  Both QB’s are in their 40s, and both are still playing at a very high level.

This has all the making of a shootout, especially in the passing game.  The Bucs have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, though Evans is now listed as doubtful for Sunday.  The Saints have Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  Both teams can, and probably will, light up the scoreboard.

The Bucs running game hasn’t been much to speak of in recent years.  Can they establish something on Sunday?

Defensively, Tampa Bay is top-notch up front, and has two quality linebackers in Lavonte David and Devin White.  The question becomes: can the young secondary keep Brees in check?

Do you remember…

….the last time these two teams opened the season in the Superdome?  It was two years ago, and the Bucs pulled off a 48-40 upset, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing four touchdown passes.  That was arguably the greatest moment of 2018.  Tampa Bay finished 5-11.  They may need to score 48 points to win this opener as well.

The first game of the season is always tough to predict. But the Saints are the defending champs, and you’re going to have to beat them to prove otherwise.

The Bucs are Back to Work

It’s time to get fired up for another season (hopefully) of Tampa Bay Buccaneers football.

The Bucs reported to training camp this week, as they start getting ready for the season opener in New Orleans on September 13.  In case you haven’t heard, the entire preseason has been canceled.  So, there won’t be any “dress rehearsal” during the third preseason game or anything like that.  Nope – on 9/13, it’s Bucs/Saints in the Superdome.

The Bucs have already signed all of their draft picks.  That is good news.

As always, there are a lot of questions heading into the 2020 campaign.  And the biggest one has nothing to do their superstar quarterback, Tom Brady, who will soon turn 43.  The biggest question right now is: will there even be a season because of the pandemic?  For now, it’s game on.  But as we’ve seen over the past six months, things can change on a dime.  Just look at what’s happening with Major League Baseball, in particular, the Miami Marlins.  A bunch of them got Covid, and games have already been postponed.  I hope that doesn’t happen in the NFL, but it certainly could.  Some players have already said they will opt out.  Bucs’ tackle Donovan Smith has hinted he might do that, though he has not made an official decision.

Anticipation is so high with this team with the additions of Brady and Gronk.  And yet, because of the pandemic, it appears only a fraction of Ray-Jay will be full for home games.  I usually head south for a game every year.  The chances of that happening are slim in 2020. 

But for now, let’s think positive, stay safe, and hope that the Bucs can become the first team to play (and win) a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An UGLY Performance by the Bucs

This was disgusting.  Absolutely disgusting.

There was nothing to like about Sunday’s game at Ray-Jay, where the Buccaneers were soundly beaten by the Saints, 34-17.  New Orleans is the better team; there’s no questioning that.  Still, this was bad.

The problems with this team are the same ones we’ve seen game in and game out.  The secondary is awful.  The offensive line can’t protect anybody.  Jameis Winston continues to turn the ball over with relative ease.  He had four more INT’s in this game.  I blame the first one on O.J. Howard, but the other three are all on the quarterback.  He has nearly 100 turnovers (including lost fumbles) in his nearly five years in Tampa.  And don’t get me going on the whole “they’re not all his fault” thing.  That’s true, but the number of miscues is still alarming to say the least.

By the way, Howard didn’t get another pass thrown to him after he caused that first turnover. 

But it doesn’t stop there.  The play calling is horrible.  51 passes and only 8 rushes?  And it’s not just this game.  I have serious concerns about Byron Leftwich’s ability.  And Bruce Arians’ postgame act is getting old.  He can rip the officials all he wants.  But he was brought in to fix this mess, and it hasn’t happened.  And Bruce, you may want to think twice before challenging another pass interference call.

For weeks, I’ve been quietly saying to myself that Tampa Bay is still better than Atlanta.  Well, now they’re tied.  And the Falcons are playing better than the Bucs right now.  After next week, our team could very well be in sole possession of the NFC South cellar…again.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Finally, Another Win!

Winning cures everything, right?

Well, I would hardly say the Buccaneers are cured of all their problems.  But it’s always nice at the end of the day when your score is higher than your opponent’s.  Tampa Bay beat Arizona at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 30-27.

This was by no means a work of art.  Jameis Winston threw two more interceptions.  The secondary looked like, well, the secondary.  The Bucs got schooled on a fake punt.  And they got the break of the season when Arizona’s Maxx Williams dropped what would’ve been an easy touchdown on 4th down in the fourth quarter.

But in the end, Peyton Barber’s 1-yard run with 1:43 left was the game-winner.  And after the Bucs took the lead, raise your hand if you thought the Cardinals would march right down the field to tie or win the game.  Surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

There was definitely an effort to get Ronald Jones more involved in the game.  He had more yards receiving (77) than rushing (29.)  He did score a touchdown on the ground, but also lost a fumble without being touched. 

It was easy to see why both teams have losing records.  There were mistakes galore on both sides.  But Tampa Bay’s four-game losing streak is over, and it feels so good.

The Saints come to Ray-Jay next week.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Familiar Problems Plague Bucs in Loss to Saints

After scoring 55 points in a big win over the Rams last week, Bucs fans were hoping Tampa Bay could keep it going in a divisional matchup against the Saints.

Nope.

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 31-14.  The biggest problems continue to be the pass defense and the offensive line.  For a team that’s made a living of making backup quarterbacks look like superstars, the Bucs did just that with Teddy Bridgewater.  And Jameis Winston was sacked six times.

Mike Evans did not have a catch in this game.  The Bucs defensive line barely touched Bridgewater.  Credit New Orleans for that.

But let’s get back to the secondary for a moment.  The coordinator has changed.  The formations have changed.  And while the run defense has been impressive, the pass defense is once again among the worst in the league.  That is mind-boggling, given all of the draft picks spent on this unit.  One player who’s really drawn the ire of us fans is former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III.  But he is not alone.  The entire secondary is abysmal.  The Bucs have allowed 103 points in the last three weeks (that includes 40 to the Rams in a game the Bucs won.)

Yes, there is time to turn this around.  Beat the Panthers (who have turned things around since losing to the Bucs in Week 2) in London, and Tampa Bay will be 3-3 heading into the bye.  But for the love of God, something has to be done with the awful secondary.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans Saints

Some Final Thoughts on the 2018 Bucs

 

As we say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to reflect on the Buccaneers season that ended with a last-place finish, and the firing of Dirk Koetter as head coach.

 

BEST MOMENTS: the first two games against the Saints and Eagles, both won by the Bucs.  Nobody outside of us diehard fans thought they win a shootout in the Superdome, then beat the defending champs in the home opener, both with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games.

 

WORST MOMENT: things started going downhill with the blowout loss to the Bears in Chicago, followed by another defeat in Atlanta after the bye week.  It was only then that the Bucs decided to fire Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.  Smith should’ve been let go before the season began, much less five games in. With Smith at the helm, his defense allowed at least 30 points in four of the first five games.

 

BEST OFFSEASON ACQUISTION: Jason Pierre-Paul.  What a steal this guy was.  He had 12.5 sacks on a team that, last year, hardly got any pressure on the quarterback. 

 

BIGGEST DRAFT DISAPPOINTMENT: Ronald Jones.  The Bucs drafted him in the second round.  He gained a grand total of 44 yards rushing.  He didn’t even play in more than half of the games, and not all of those were due to injury.  The Bucs clearly were not happy with him from the start of training camp, hence the lack of playing time.

 

GOOD RIDDANCE AWARD: DeSean Jackson.  He made it clear he wants out.  I say, get out of town.  This whiner was unhappy that Winston wasn’t getting him the ball.  He pulled off similar antics when he played for Philadelphia and Washington.

 

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK GOING FORWARD: Jameis Winston.  General Manager Jason Licht has made it clear that Winston will return in 2019.  We saw a lot of good Jameis, and a lot of bad Jameis: 19 TD passes, 14 INT’s and three lost fumbles.

 

INTERESTING FACT: on December 2nd, I saw the Bucs beat the Panthers at Ray-Jay.  That was the last time Tampa Bay tasted victory. 

 

Sure, there are other good and bad moments, but these are the ones that come to mind at first.  I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and go Bucs.

 

Round 2 vs. Saints: Not This Time

Well, you can drop all that talk of, “what if the Bucs run the table and make the playoffs…”

 

There was no repeat of the magic in the Superdome from the opener.  Tampa Bay played well in the first half against New Orleans.  But then, just like last week when I was at Ray-Jay, the offense went to bed in the second half (for what it’s worth, I also went to bed before the Saints mounted their comeback, but anyway…)

 

The game turned in the third quarter when the Saints blocked a punt, and turned it into the go-ahead touchdown.  New Orleans scored 25 straight points.  The Bucs couldn’t muster any offense after the Saints took the lead.  Most of the yards they got were in “garbage time” at the very end.

 

The end result: Saints 28, Bucs 14.

 

Cairo Santos missed two field goals.  He hadn’t missed since joining the Bucs a fee weeks ago.  Yes, we’re back to this problem again.

 

The Buccaneers had 10 penalties in this game.  That, too, is a problem.  So is the offensive line and the lack of running game.  That’s been an issue all year.

 

Well, it was a fun two-game streak while it lasted.  The best the Bucs can do now is finish at .500, and that would mean beating Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta.  Dirk Koetter’s grave is already dug.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

Bri Goes To Tampa, and Bucs Win

On Sunday, I made my annual trip down to Ray-Jay to see the Bucs play in person.  I left the stadium with a big smile on my face, as Tampa Bay knocked off Carolina.

 

This one went according to script (you will smell the sarcasm shortly.)  The Bucs’ defense came into this game with three interceptions all year.  Well, some guy named Andrew Adams doubled that total, in just this game alone.  Throw in a fourth pick by Javien Elliot, four sacks, and you’ve got yourself a 24-17 upset.

 

I, and other Bucs fans, have been bashing this defense all year.  Well, over the past few games, we’ve seen some improvement, so I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due.  It was the defense that won this game.

 

Jameis Winston did not throw a pick, though he did have a couple of passes that made me say, “ay ay ay.”  Chris Godwin a had a big game, catching a key TD just before the half that I had a good look at.

 

This team is far from perfect.  The Bucs needed every one of those interceptions to win this game, because after they went ahead 24-10 early in the third quarter, the offense went to bed.  It felt like Carolina had a zillion chances to tie it up in the fourth quarter, but the defense stepped up, even with so many starters injured.  Whatever Mark Duffner is doing with this group, it’s working.

 

Dear Bucs: see what happens when you don’t turn the ball over as often as the opponent?  You usually win.

 

The Saints come to Ray-Jay next Sunday.  We all remember that tremendous opener in the Superdome.  I’ll bet New Orleans hasn’t forgotten, either.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Fitz-Magical Season Opener For the Bucs

One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?

 

Wow.  Just wow.

 

Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick.  He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome.  How amazing was Fitz?  He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran for a score.  And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.

 

Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball?  Fitzpatrick had no problem.  The two connected for two long touchdowns.  Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score.  We didn’t see much of that last year.  Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.

 

It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener.  Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.

 

This was not a perfect game by any means.  Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company.  The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack.  The secondary had its struggles.  They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.

 

But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.”  I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston?  Well, they’ve got the first one.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press