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
Wait a minute – you mean the Buccaneers really do have a defense?
For at least one week, the answer is yes.
The Bucs throttled the Jets today at Ray-Jay, 15-10. Heading into this game, the defense had eight sacks all season. They sacked former Buc Josh McCown six times in this game.
Thank goodness for the stellar defense effort, because the offense was not in rhythm for much of the day. Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 50% of his passes, and listening to the radio broadcast, I can’t tell you how many times legendary Tampa Bay broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff described one of Fitzpatrick’s passes as nearly being picked off. He did throw one INT, had another that was nullified by a penalty, but in the fourth quarter he threw the only TD pass of the game to Charles Sims.
Speaking of unusual things, Sims scored a touchdown. This is the same Charles Sims I’m not a big fan of. Oh well, I guess I have to give him props this time around.
Patrick Murray made all of his kicks. The Buccaneers have stabilized their kicking situation…..finally.
But consider this: the Bucs won this game with their backup QB, with no running game, poor offensive line play, and they were without their star receiver, Mike Evans. The highlight reel won’t be one that you’ll want to see over and over again, but we’ll take the wins anyway we can.
The next three games are on the road, starting with next Sunday in Miami. This was originally the season opener, but it got postponed because of Hurricane Irma.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
And the winner of the Buccaneers’ kicking sweepstakes is: a former Tampa Bay kicker.
Patrick Murray is back. The Bucs signed him today, and fans hope he can make us forget about Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo.
You remember this guy, right? Sure, you do. He was the Bucs’ kicker three years ago. And he was pretty good. He made 20-of-24 field goals, and connected on all of his extra points (keeping in mind PAT’s were much shorter back then.)
Why did the Bucs get rid of him? He was injured for most of 2015, and they let him go. Cleveland picked up him, but he got hurt again after just two games last year.
All I want is for Murray to kick the ball through the uprights on a regular basis. Doing that would ease the nerves of fans like me nervous every time the Buccaneers line up for a field goal or an extra point.
That’s all, Folk.
It’s just about time to kick things off for real.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open the regular season on Sunday, September 13 at home against the Tennessee Titans. Today, we preview each facet of this year’s team.
After last year’s dismal performance, this is the unit that will get the most attention. The biggest addition, of course, is Jameis Winston, taken by the Bucs with the top overall pick in this year’s draft. The rookie had his ups and downs during the preseason. He did not throw a touchdown pass in the three games he played in, though he did rush for a pair of scores. He actually has a real-life offensive coordinator this year in Dirk Koetter, who comes over from division-rival Atlanta. Here’s a thought: get the ball in the hands of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as much as possible.
The second most-watched group will be the offensive line. With a rookie quarterback running the show, it will be up to this group to take some of the pressure off Winston, and open up holes in the running game. Last year, these guys were awful in both categories.
Speaking of that, will Doug Martin bounce back, in what could be his final season in Tampa? In his rookie season in 2012, he was fantastic. Since then – not so much.
Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy are the leaders of this group. There is no doubting that. Tampa Bay improved in the secondary even more by signing two-time Pro Bowler Jim Jennings just this week. Dashon Goldson, Mason Foster, Michael Johnson and Da’Quan Bowers are all gone.
For the second year in a row, the Buccaneers have a rookie kicker. Kyle Brinzda won the starting job over last year’s kicker, Patrick Murray, and former Buc Connor Barth (remember him? He’s briefly re-joined the team after Denver cut him.) Brinzda made two field goals over 50 yards in the preseason finale against Miami to seal the deal.
The team also has a new punter. Michael Koenen is no more. The new guy in town is Jacob Schum, who was claimed off waivers from the Jets. Hopefully he will be an upgrade from Koenen, who struggled big-time last year.
The whole unit needs to be much better than last year, especially on kickoff and punt returns. We the fans are sick of seeing a flag for illegal block in the back on nearly every return.
Is Lovie Smith on the hot seat in just his second year? If the Bucs get off to a slow start, I say the answer is yes. Admittedly, this season could be also be challenging because of a rookie starting quarterback. But if the team doesn’t at least show some improvement, then the fire’s going to start burning a lot more under the head coach.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today
In this mess of a season for the Buccaneers, you have to look far and wide to find a bright spot here and there. Today, I’m going to shine the spotlight on their rookie kicker, Patrick Murray.
It’s important to remember what the Bucs’ kicking situation looked like before the season began. Connor Barth was coming back from a season-ending injury, but the rookie out of Fordham won the job.
What has Murray accomplished in 2014? He’s connected on 81% of his field goal attempts (17-for-21.) He’s had two kicks blocked. But in the last six games, he’s made nine straight field goals. And he has five FG’s of 50+ yards, including a 55-yarder and a pair of 54-yarders.
Has he been perfect? No. But he has definitely proven that the coaches made the right choice. If only he had a few chances to make potential game-winning kicks this year…
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
This was yet another game that was there for the taking for the Bucs.
It was sloppy (on both sides.) Yet there was Tampa Bay, appearing to be in position for a game-winning field goal with about 20 seconds left on the clock after Louis Murphy caught a pass down to the Cincinnati 20. The Bucs were rushing up to the line to run another play when everything stopped.
Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis wanted to challenge the previous play, claiming the Bucs had 12 men on the field. In the final two minutes of the game, all reviews come from upstairs. But what Lewis effectively did do, was give the replay official more time to consider taking another look. And upon further review, you guessed it: there was one too many Buccaneers on the field.
12 men on the field? That’s unacceptable. That’s bad coaching – plain and simple. Are you listening, Lovie Smith and Marcus Arroyo?
Instead of being in position for Patrick Murray to win the game, the Bucs were back to the 46. The next two plays went nowhere. Then on 4th and 20, our lovable quarterback, Josh McCown, threw a completion to Mike Evans that was well short of the first down. With only nine seconds left, why wouldn’t you just heave it toward the end zone at that point? Who cares if it gets picked off; you’re going to lose the game anyway.
14-13 was the final.
The Bucs had 13 penalties in this game. Same old story there. I don’t know the official stats, but Tampa Bay has to be one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. It is unbelievable how often this team shoots itself in the foot. If Greg Schiano deserved to be blasted for his players’ lack of discipline last year, then Smith is worthy of the same amount of criticism.
The defense only allowed 14 points to a high-powered Bengals’ offense, including three interceptions of Andy Dalton. Cincinnati had less than 300 yards of total offense, just like the Bucs. But Tampa still couldn’t win a game they had a chance to pull out at the end.
Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com
Now that the Buccaneers have reached the midway point of the 2014 season, it’s time for a midterm report card. As you might expect, there are more bad grades than good ones on a team that’s 1-7. I’m not going to grade each and every player, because that would take forever.
LOVIE SMITH AND JASON LICHT: F
When the Bucs hired Smith almost immediately after firing Greg Schiano, there was a sense of hope among Tampa Bay fans, a sense that things would start to turn around. There was hope that Smith’s defense would be as fierce as what we saw in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Licht and Smith brought in a ton of free agents on defense (while letting Darrelle Revis go.) They spent their entire 2014 draft on upgrading the offense. Eight games into the season, the Bucs are second from the bottom in both total offense and defense. Some of the pundits predicted the Bucs could be a sleeper team for the playoffs. I was just hoping for some improvement. It hasn’t happened. We should’ve known something was up when they dropped their first two games at home to backup quarterbacks. Even coming off a 4-12 year, the Bucs have been a major disappointment in my opinion.
OFFENSE – OVERALL GRADE: D
The Bucs started the season with Josh McCown as the starting quarterback. In 2 ½ games, he threw two touchdowns, four interceptions, and put the ball on the turf a number of times. He’s been sidelined with an injured thumb suffered during the Thursday night debacle in Atlanta.
Enter Mike Glennon. He’s completed 57% of his passes so far. At times, he’s looked OK. Other times, like Sunday in Cleveland, he looked terrible. Now, he’s in danger of losing his job back to McCown. While the quarterback position is hardly the only problem on this team, it should be priority #1 in next year’s draft.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F
This group has also been a big disappointment. Remember back to just before the season began, when Tampa Bay acquired pro bowl guard Logan Mankins from the Patriots? That hasn’t helped a unit that has struggled in both the running game and pass protection. Left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith have not played well at all. The line has given up 21 sacks through the first eight games, and that doesn’t count all of the times the quarterback has been running for his life. It’s worth noting that Smith and Licht also overhauled this unit from last year as well.
MIKE EVANS: B
He was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, and we’ve gotten a glimpse of what he can do. While he hasn’t been perfect, he leads the receivers in yards (460) and touchdowns (4) and is tied with Vincent Jackson for the team lead in receptions. He has the potential to be a star down the road, no question about it.
DEFENSE – OVERALL GRADE: D-
Let’s think back to the defensive players Smith brought in: Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner and Clinton McDonald come to mind. Have any of them made an impact? I don’t think so. I hadn’t heard Verner’s name much at all until Sunday, when he was beaten soundly for the winning touchdown in Cleveland. This is the guy who supposedly has to fill Revis’ shoes in the secondary. As mentioned early, Tampa Bay is 31st in the league in total defense behind only Atlanta. They’ve given up the third most points; only Jacksonville and the Jets are worse. They’re near the bottom of the league in sacks. And turnovers – something Smith prides himself on – have not come as often as the fans would like. Oh, and former first-round pick Mark Barron is now with the Rams.
GERALD MCCOY: B+
I’m giving McCoy a grade, because he’s one of the leaders of this defense, and recently signed a 7-year, $98 million contract. He has been one of the few bright spots on defense. His five sacks lead the team. And this guy was playing with an injured hand for a few games.
LAVONTE DAVID: A
You mean there’s a player on a 1-7 team that deserves such a grade? Like McCoy, David is a leader on defense. He leads the team in tackles. This guy is everywhere on the field. I look forward to watching #54 in person when I travel to Ray-Jay this weekend to see the Bucs play the Falcons.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Rookie kicker Patrick Murray has been so-so this year. He is 8-of-12 on field goals. He’s had two kicks blocked, one of them coming in the most recent loss to the Browns. The mistakes on special teams on Sunday actually caused me to lower this grade from a C to a D.
Photo Courtesy: AP