Before the season began, it was understandable why so many Bucs’ fans were expecting a playoff year in 2017. After all, Tampa Bay did go 9-7, and added a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball.
The Buccaneers finished 5-11.
So what happened? Was the bar set too high? I don’t think so, based on the success of last season. But let’s break down what turned out to be a disappointing season in Bucs’ country.
Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball. This was the biggest area of concern on 2016, the feeling that Mike Smith’s unit couldn’t stop anybody. Well, in 2017, they still couldn’t stop anybody. Guess where the Buccaneers finished in total defense (based on total yards allowed per game.) They were dead last. When it came to stopping the other team on third down? Yep, dead last. Guess which team had the fewest sacks in the NFL? That would be Tampa Bay. The defense gave up nearly 24 points a game, which puts them in the bottom ten in that category. Sometimes stats can be misleading. These aren’t.
And yet, Dirk Koetter said Monday that he expects Mike Smith to return with him next season. Right.
Offensively, this was supposed to be the year Jameis Winston made the jump to the next level. He’s shown flashes of brilliance. The biggest one that comes to mind was just a day ago, when amazingly he led his team 95 yards in the final two minutes (with no timeouts) to beat the eventual NFC South champions. But the turnovers are a problem – a big problem. He continues to force the ball into double coverage (even triple coverage.) And the fumbles are just as big an issue. He has to do a better job hanging on to the football. Period.
Finally, there was the disaster known as special teams. Nick Folk started the year as the team’s kicker, taking over for Roberto Aguayo. Folk was just as bad. He single-handedly cost the Bucs the game against the Patriots. Patrick Murray returned and stabilized that position a bit, though he missed some important kicks down the stretch. And we won’t soon forget the other mishaps: allowing 100+ kickoff returns in each of the last two games, the punt block that the Saints ran back for a score in the Superdome.
So where do the Bucs go from here? I was hoping Mike Smith would get fired, but Koetter says that’s not going to happen. Koetter also said he’s going to keep calling the plays. Good Lord. The Buccaneers have a top-ten pick in the draft. They need help just about everywhere, but fixing the defense should be the first priority (though other areas aren’t far behind.)
Finally, I conclude with some thank yous. Thank you Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, TJ Rives and the rest of the people at the Buccaneers radio network for keeping me entertained all season long. Thank you to bloggers like JoeBucsFan and Pewter Report for their excellent coverage during the season (and offseason.) If you don’t follow them on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.
But most of all, thank you to my readers who come here for my sometimes silly take on my favorite football team. Without you, I would not be doing this. I live in the greater Boston area, and not everyone here is a diehard Patriots fan. I just wish there were more Buccaneers’ fans around here. This blog will remain mostly dormant until the NFL Draft. But if something big happens before then, I’ll offer my take here.
Happy New Year, God Bless, and Go Bucs!
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you’re like me, you’re still trying to comprehend how the Buccaneers beat the Saints in the season finale.
Jameis Winston threw three more interceptions, including a horrendous one into triple coverage. The Bucs gave up a 100+ yard kickoff return for the second week in a row (but scored their own special teams touchdown in the fourth quarter.) A missed extra point by Patrick Murray was looming large. There’s no way Winston would drive his team 95 yards in the final two minutes.
Oh, but he did. Yes, the recent turnover machine hit Chris Godwin on a deep ball with nine seconds left in the contest to win it. And before all of the Saints fans in attendance could wipe away their tears of disbelief, they found out they’d won the NFC South anyway, because Carolina choked against Atlanta.
This Godwin kid is pretty good, the more I see of him. He’s made some acrobatic catches, and with the disappointing season turned in by Desean Jackson, Godwin could be the number-two receiver on next year’s team.
Was this game perfect? Of course not. I mentioned the interceptions and the kickoff returns. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve. The lack of a pass rush was a problem all year, though they did sack Drew Brees twice.
But it was nice to finally win a game. I’d much rather see them win than intentionally lose to improve their draft pick order. Heck, this team needs help just about everywhere, so any decent player will do at this point.
Coming on Monday: my ‘year in review.’ As you might expect, with a 5-11 season, it won’t be pretty. But tonight is a night to be joyous, because the boys in Pewter finally won another game. Happy New Year, and good night.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
How many ways can a football team lose a game? When you’re 4-11, you find new ways every single week.
There were the Buccaneers, nursing a four-point lead in the closing minutes on Sunday against the Panthers. They had a chance to extend it to seven. Patrick Murray – who had already made four field goals – missed one that would’ve put Tampa Bay up by seven.
Admit it: you just knew Carolina would go down the field and win the game after that. That’s what 4-11 teams do. There was Chris Baker – jumping offside on 4th down – giving the Panthers new life. Then Cam Newton – arguably my least-favorite player in the NFL – fumbling the shotgun snap, only to pick it up and run it into the end zone for the game-winner.
Carolina 22, Tampa Bay 19.
Winston continues to struggle with ball security. He lost three more fumbles, the last of which led to a meltdown which I’m sure is already on every highlight reel across the country. And lest we forget about the 100+ yard kickoff return that featured several missed tackles by the Bucs.
Does all of this sound familiar? It should. I’ve been writing about it all season, and Bucs fans have been seeing it for themselves all year.
Anyway, from all of us at Buccaneer Bri (which is actually just a one-man band for those who don’t know) Merry Christmas. Some of us have to work our real jobs on Christmas Eve, and that group includes me. And to my fellow fans: one more week of this torture!
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
With another loss in the loss column, we’re getting closer to finding out what happens to Dirk Koetter and his cast of characters at the end of the season.
The Buccaneers lost again last night. For the second week in a row, the score was 24-21. For the second week in a row, the defense couldn’t stop anybody or get any pressure on the quarterback. Oh, wait: that’s been the case all season.
I’ll be honest: I thought the Bucs would get blown out by the Falcons. That didn’t happen. Jameis Winston was outstanding, having arguably his best game of the season, even with his teammates dropping like flies due to injuries. But Tampa Bay did what 4-10 teams do. The fumble by Peyton Barber in the red zone was costly. Twice the Falcons put the ball on the ground – including once in the Bucs’ end zone – and twice they couldn’t come up with a key takeaway. As for Patrick Murray’s missed 54-yard FG attempt that would’ve forced overtime, well it’s been that kind of year. At least Murray’s been light years ahead of guys named Aguayo or Folk.
So, what’s my big takeaway from this one? Mike Smith’s defense still stinks. Sure, he didn’t let Julio Jones go for 250 yards this time (but did you notice the times he was all alone in the middle of the field?) So, Smith contained Jones, but he had no answer for Devonta Freeman. If anyone deserves to get canned in two weeks, it’s Mike Smith. Koetter may very well be done as well. But if I had to pick one to get rid of, it’s the defensive coordinator.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today
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.