Tagged: NFC South

Another Tampa Bay Loss, Another Tampa Bay Rant

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

 

Advertisements

This is Bad, Bucs Fans. Very Bad

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

Hey Bucs: Fix the Defense….NOW

There is a lot of anger right now amongst us Bucs fans.  And most of it is directed at one guy: defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

 

After today’s exasperating, last-second, 30-27 loss in Buffalo, a lot of fans say it’s time for Smith to walk the plank.

 

And why not?  This was the third time in six games – and second in a row – that his defense has surrendered at least 30 points (Minnesota is the other one.)  Remember last week when the Cardinals jumped out 31-0 against his defense?  Today, his unit could not hold on after the Buccaneers took the lead late in the fourth quarter.  In the blink of an eye, the score went from 27-20 to 27-27.

 

By the way – Arizona got shut out today.  The Cards’ offense is terrible – except when they face the Buccaneers.  The same can be said for whoever the Bucs face these days.

 

I’m not saying Smith is solely to blame for today’s defeat in Orchard Park.  The Bucs had three turnovers; the third one – the fumble by Adam Humphries – was the mostly costly because it set up the game-winning field goal.  But that final Buffalo drive featured a run for a first down in which there were several missed tackles.  That is unacceptable.  That falls on the coaching staff.

 

The defensive meltdown is what we’re all talking about, instead of a very good performance by Jameis Winston.  He wasn’t perfect by any means (he threw an interception and lost a fumble) but he was much better than in previous games.  O.J. Howard had his best game of the season.  Mike Evans continues to show he’s one of the best receivers in the game.

 

For crying out loud, the Bucs put 27 points on the board against a very good Buffalo defense.  And they still didn’t win the game.

 

We’re six games in.  The Bucs are 2-4 and sitting in last place in the NFC South.  They need to get this turned around in a hurry, or the high aspirations before the season will soon be just a bad dream.  And it starts with fixing this hole-filled defense.

At least they fixed the problem with the kicking game, for now.

By the way, Buccaneer Bri will not be blogging after next week’s game against Carolina.  Vegas is calling next week, and Bri will gladly favor a trip to southern Nevada any day of the year.

 

Photo courtesy: Buffalo Bills

 

Bucs in the Playoffs? Why Not?

If the season ended today, the Buccaneers would be in the playoffs as the #6 seed in the NFC.

I hate the dreaded phrase “if the season ended today,” even when it applies to the Bucs. There are still four games left, and things can (and will) change.

Let’s start with the obvious: if the Bucs run the table the rest of the way, they will be in the playoffs as at least a wild card.

But they’ve got their sights set on winning the division. Right now, they’re tied with the Falcons at 7-5 atop the NFC South. Tampa Bay has a tougher schedule the rest of the way, since it has to play Dallas (that game has been moved to prime time in case you haven’t heard.) Atlanta does not play a team with a winning record the rest of the way. If what I just read on the team’s official website is true, if the Bucs and Falcons both win out, Atlanta would win the division based on record against “common opponents.”

That’s way too complicated for me, but anyway…

It is also my sense that the Bucs are still not getting much national attention, though that is slowly starting to change.

The final push to the postseason starts with Sunday’s game against the Saints at Ray-Jay. I will be there to see it in person. A quick check of Ticketmaster finds there are still a LOT of seats available, especially in the upper deck on both sides. Dear Bucs fans: I know you’ve been hesitant to support the team in recent years because they’ve been lousy. That’s not the case right now. This is a very big game. There is no excuse for the stadium not to be sold out. Let’s fill the place up on Sunday.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

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 Wins in a Row! Bucs Are In the Playoff Hunt

If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Buccaneers would beat the Chiefs and Seahawks back-to-back, I would’ve said you’re crazy.

If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Bucs would score just 14 points against Seattle – at home – and still win the game – I would’ve said you’re crazy.

Well, there is nothing crazy about the way Tampa Bay is playing right now. The Bucs beat a very good Seahawks team at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 14-5. Yes, it’s one of those oddball-looking scores but you won’t find me or any other Bucs’ fans complaining about it.

This one was all about the defense, which was getting shredded week after week during the first half of the season. But in the last three games, we’ve seen a complete turnaround. On Sunday, they sacked Russell Wilson six times, picked him off twice, and kept the Seattle offense out of the end zone. One of those interceptions was by Alterraun Verner, who was on the field just two days after his father passed away. If you haven’t seen his reaction yet, you’ll have a tough time not crying. It was a scene very reminiscent of Kwon Alexander’s performance in Atlanta one year ago.

As for the offense, Mike Evans caught two more touchdown passes from Jameis Winston, both in the first quarter. The offense didn’t do much the rest of the way, but the strong performance of the defense bailed them out.

So where do things stand with five games to go? The Bucs are 6-5, still one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South. They are a half-game behind Washington for the #6 seed in the conference. Their remaining games are against the Saints (twice), the Panthers, the Chargers and Cowboys. Yeah, I had to sneak that Dallas reference in at the end. It won’t be easy, but the Bucs are peaking right now; they just have to keep it going.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Whoa! Bucs Come Up Big at Arrowhead

When the schedule first came out, many Bucs fans like me probably had a trip to Kansas City penciled in as a loss. Sometimes it’s okay to be wrong.

Tampa Bay went into Arrowhead on Sunday and knocked off the Chiefs, 19-17. Don’t look now, but the Buccaneers are now 5-5. And most importantly, they’re only one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South. Heck, there are just two games separating the four teams in this division.

Consider some of the things we saw in this game:

*Another solid performance by Jameis Winston, who overcame an ugly fumble in the opening quarter.

*Chris Conte, who was getting beaten by just about every receiver imaginable through the first eight games, came up with a pick for the second straight week. This time, it was the biggest play of the afternoon: picking off Alex Smith and the end zone and returning it more than 50 yards.

*The end result of the aforementioned interception was a Winston TD pass to Alan Cross. ALAN CROSS! Last week, it was some guy named Freddie Martino who found pay dirt. These no-names are coming up with key plays, and that’s a pretty big deal.

*Mike Evans went over the 100-yard mark once again.

*Roberto Aguayo made all four of his field goal attempts. He seems to be settling down. Hopefully that trend continues.

The Bucs at one point were 1-3. They won two in a row, then lost two in a row, now they’ve won two straight. Hopefully they can keep it up against another powerhouse team, Seattle, next Sunday.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers