Before I rip Mike Smith to shreds again, let’s start off with the final play of the game.
On one hand, it seems crazy: with the ball at the Atlanta 20, they call a play featuring a couple of laterals, that could’ve ended with DeSean Jackson running into the end zone with no time on the clock. D-Jax never caught the lateral from Mike Evans, so it was a moot point. Had Jackson caught it, would he have scored? He says he would have. But after watching the play over and over, there were three Falcons closing in on him. It would’ve been VERY close.
Now, here’s my beef: you had the ball at the 20. You have guys like Evans, D-Jax, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on your team. This wasn’t a 50-yard Hail Mary. Why wouldn’t you take a shot in the end zone with those stud receivers/tight ends? I don’t understand that.
Let’s talk about Jameis Winston’s first start. He had four touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions: an overthrown deep ball, and a pass that ricocheted off a defender in the end zone. You can’t have those kinds of plays.
Then there’s the kicking game, featuring a missed PAT by Chandler Catanzaro. That was huge, because when the Bucs cut the lead to 24-22 early in the fourth, they had to go for two to try to tie the game. They failed.
And now, let’s get to that so-called “defensive coordinator” with a last name of Smith. This was the fourth time already that his unit has allowed at least 30 points. And again, the opposition racked up over 400 yards of offense, with wide open receivers all over the field. And lest we forget that final 26 seconds of the first half when the Bucs had cut the lead to 21-13. Smith’s defense allowed the Falcons to easily get into field goal range to add three points before going to the locker room.
And Koetter refuses to fire him. Well, if this keeps up, Koetter will also be gone at the end of the season.
There is still time to right this ship. There are still eleven games remaining. But based on the unwillingness of Tampa Bay to make changes on the defensive side of the ball, this has the potential to get very ugly, very quickly. I hope I’m wrong.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like this whole FitzMagic thing that’s going on right now.
Two games, two wins. And we’re not talking about wins over cellar-dwellers. The Buccaneers have started the season by beating the NFC South champs and the defending Super Bowl champs.
Take that, so-called experts who had the Bucs losing their first three games.
There is no question who the story is right now: it’s backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sure, other players stepped up on Sunday. I’ll get into that in another article. But Fitz is the headliner right. He threw four more touchdown passes, two of which went for 75 yards apiece. He had over 400 yards passing. He did throw his first interception of the season, which was more the result of O.J. Howard’s inability to hang onto the ball after making a catch.
Fitzpatrick has eight touchdown passes in the first two games (and a rushing TD to boot.) He is just the third player in NFL history to have at least four TD passes in each of his team’s first two games.
Let that sink in for a moment. We’re talking Ryan Fitzpatrick here. A Buccaneer quarterback is doing this! Keep pulling magic out of that beard, sir.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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
Let’s call this one, winning ugly…part two.
For those who didn’t see (or listen to) this game in Miami, you’d look at the final score and think the Buccaneers dominated the Dolphins. Oh, how wrong you’d be.
The Bucs won the game when Patrick Murray split the uprights with four seconds left on the clock. But let’s talk about the bad football that preceded much of the winning kick.
The Bucs won this game because of two things: Jay Cuter and all those Miami penalties. Tampa Bay picked off Cutler three times in the first half and also recovered a fumble. But in true Bucs’ fashion, they only led by 13 points at the half. At the time, I said to myself, “this is going to come back to haunt them.”
And it did. Matt Moore came in for Cutler in the second half and lit up the Bucs defense like so many other quarterbacks (including some backups) have. The Bucs nearly gave up a safety that could’ve really changed things in the fourth quarter. Still, the Dolphins tied the game on one of those “how the heck do you let him get that wide open?” kind of deep throws. As if you needed any more proof that Mike Smith’s defense is horrendous.
But there were all those penalties against the Dolphins – a whopping 17 of them – that helped the Buccaneers’ cause. The Bucs had nine penalties of their own, including one that negated a touchdown. It was just bad football.
Of course, this was a win, so there are positives. O.J. Howard had one of the Bucs’ two touchdowns, on his birthday no less. Happy birthday, O.J.
Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to perform admirably in Jameis Winston’s absence. Fitzpatrick will never be mistaken for Tom Brady, but he’s been efficient. And he’s won two games with basically no running game and a swiss cheese defense.
Patrick Murray continues to make us forget about Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk. Murray did miss a kick earlier in the game, but made the game-winner, and has played well since the Bucs re-acquired him.
On to Atlanta….
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
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
Why is it when the Buccaneers win a game, it never comes easy? The answer is simple: we’re Bucs’ fans. Nothing comes easy. I can count on one hand how many “easy” wins Tampa Bay’s had over the past decade.
I tweeted during the fourth quarter that if this game came down to Nick Folk’s leg – after he had already missed three kicks – that I was going to hide. I’m glad he made the game-winner – barely. And as more proof that nothing coming easy, there was a flag on that final play.
The Giants jumped offsides. Game over. Bucs 25, Giants 23.
There were so many twists and turns in this one, starting with the ‘what were you thinking’ play-calling at the end of the first half, and ending with the aforementioned Folk redeeming himself. Honestly, this was a game the Bucs easily could’ve lost. But maybe it’s a good sign that they won a game like this.
Jameis Winston’s day? Let’s call it decent. He still can’t consistently hit the deep ball. Yes, there was the beautiful pass to O.J. Howard. But the key word is “consistently.” Still, he wasn’t picked off, and he led his team down the field with the game on the line.
The Bucs still don’t have anything resembling a pass rush. They got by against Eli Manning. If you think that’s going to be okay against Tom Brady, you’re crazy. The return of Brent Grimes in the secondary made a difference on Sunday, though I still have doubts about that unit.
And Folk? My goodness. Can we please get someone who can make a kick? I wonder how short of a leash Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht have on him, especially after the Roberto Aguayo experiment that didn’t pan out.
But hey, we’re three games in, and the Buccaneers have won two of them. I’ll take it.
Up next: the Super Bowl champs on Thursday night. I hate Thursday night games, and not because the Bucs hardly ever win. I just hate them in general. And I despise the color rush uniforms that both teams will be wearing.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s time to get down to business.
One week from today, the Buccaneers kick off the 2017 season against the Dolphins in Miami. Here are some things I’ll be keeping an eye on as the games begin to count:
THE OFFENSE: by all accounts, the Bucs are loaded. Jameis Winston is starting his third year in Tampa Bay, and does he ever have weapons. The names are many: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Doug Martin (after he finishes serving his suspension.) On that last note, I want to see how they’re going to run the ball in Martin’s absence. It appears Jacquizz Rogers will be the featured back, along with Charles Sims (who I’m not a big fan of.)
Here are two things to look for: can Winston cut down on his mistakes? And perhaps an even bigger question: can this team finish off drives with touchdowns? It’s one thing to move the ball at will down the field, but if you can’t finish it off with six, that’s disappointing.
THE DEFENSE: this is the group I’m most concerned about. I know what you’re thinking – ‘well, they looked great during the preseason.’ The key word there is the last one. This is a unit that gave up a lot of big plays last year, especially in the passing game. The Buccaneers play in a loaded NFC South – with quarterbacks named Ryan, Brees and Newton. The tackling has to be better. The secondary has to be a lot better than it was in 2016. I think the Bucs are going to score a lot of points, but I can also see them giving up a lot as well. We’ll see.
SPECIAL TEAMS: the kicking game was solved during the preseason. Nick Folk is the guy now. Roberto Aguayo was cut, and is now unemployed. He signed on with the Bears, but they let him go, too. Given all of the issues in the kicking game last season, Folk will be under intense scrutiny, and will surely hear about it when he misses a kick.
It’s playoffs or bust for the Bucs. They went 9-7 last year and missed the postseason by one game. There’s only way 2017 will be considered a success is if Dirk Koetter’s guys are still playing football come January.
Until then, it’s on to Miami for the season opener….
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers