We’re halfway through the 2018 season, and the Buccaneers sit at 3-5, in the cellar of the NFC South. So, it’s time to hand out some midseason grades.
I’m starting here, because this is the no-brainer. What other grade can I possibly give a unit that’s giving up 34 points a game, can’t cover, can’t tackle, can’t take the ball away, etc. This was the worst defense in the league last year. There has been no improvement, with the exception of Jason Pierre-Paul, who has eight sacks. Mike Smith got canned, and he may just the first person to lose his job over this pathetic unit.
Here’s the crazy thing about this team. As bad as the defense is, they’re ranked second in the NFL in terms of total yards per game, and they’re averaging 28 points a game. And yet, they’re doing almost all of it through the air – no running game to speak of. Why isn’t this grade higher? Oh, those turnovers…all 21 of them. The Bucs are -15 in turnover ratio. If they’re going to make a second-half run, the mistakes need to go down dramatically.
I mentioned Mike Smith finally getting canned for his awful defense. But geez, doesn’t Dirk Koetter deserve some of the blame for his team’s performance? You’d better believe he does. Tampa Bay is one of the ten most-penalized teams in the league. A lot of that is attributed to coaching. And what kind of coach calls for a fake punt from deep his own territory, trailing by 21 points? If the Bucs don’t get hot down the stretch, it’s adios, Dirk.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Chandler Catanzaro has missed four extra points this season. That’s four too many. He’s 10-of-12 on field goal attempts, which actually isn’t that bad, but it just feels that way. Remember how shocked we all were when he hit from 59 yards out to beat the Browns in overtime? As for punt returns, why isn’t DeSean Jackson getting more touches? He’s an explosive player. Remember that punt return for a TD against Pittsburgh that was called back? Yes, I know it didn’t count, but this guy has the knack to make big plays on special teams, and I don’t understand why he’s not getting more touches.
The Bucs face the Redskins on Sunday at Ray-Jay.
Photo courtesy: USA Today
Let’s face it: when your team loses by a score of 48-10, there is absolutely nothing positive worth writing about. I could go on and on about so many things that happened in Chicago on Sunday.
But the bulk of my anger – and the anger of many Tampa Bay fans – is pointed directly at defensive coordinator Mike Smith. I have seen enough. If I’m the Bucs, I send him packing by noon tomorrow at the latest, and bring in someone who can try to fix this laughingstock of a defense. And if they don’t fire him during this bye week, I will gladly borrow someone’s blowtorch and literally set him on fire.
The Bucs have given up 139 points through four games. In two of them, their opponent scored at least 40, and Pittsburgh put up 30. And it’s not just all those points. We the fans are sick of seeing wide-open receivers on just about every play. How many of those touchdowns they’ve allowed could be classified as “too easy?” The answer: too many. And it’s not just the first four games of this season: we saw too much of this in 2016 and 2017.
This team brought in, and drafted, a lot of defensive talent. Yes, I know there are injuries. Yes, I know they’re young. But for goodness sake: can we please get someone who can cover somebody?
There are other problems, of course: I think we’ve seen the end of Fitzmagic. And the Bucs still don’t have much of a running game to speak of. But the defense – or lack thereof – is by far the biggest problem. To those in charge of the organization: you’ve got a week off to make what appears to be an easy decision. Please, throw Smith in one of the cannons and fire his ass out of Ray-Jay, and into a bay full of alligators.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports
They made too many mistakes.
When you turn the ball over four times and make other costly miscues – like committing a holding penalty on what would’ve been a punt return for a touchdown – you usually don’t win in the NFL. The Buccaneers dug themselves a big hole on Monday Night Football against Pittsburgh, and there wasn’t enough Fitzmagic left in the air at Ray-Jay to complete a miraculous comeback.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, including one in the red zone and one from his end zone that ended up being a pick-six. He played much better in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. The Steelers gave the Bucs every opportunity to pull it out, but there was no miracle on this night.
Let’s look at the big picture here. After three games without Jameis Winston, the Bucs are 2-1. And they’ve done it with a backup quarterback, Mike Smith’s still-awful defense (especially the secondary) and no….and I mean no…running game whatsoever. I will gladly take a 2-1 record given those facts.
So now that Winston’s suspension is over, now what? Who gets the start at Soldier Field next Sunday? Will Koetter stick with Fitzpatrick for one more game, knowing the bye week follows? Or does he think Winston will be ready to go? That will be a very interesting decision the coach has to make.
Photo courtesy: Associated Press
File this one under the “better late than never” category.
I took this video when I was at Ray-Jay last Sunday, but am just getting around to putting it on the site now. Hope you enjoy it.
On Sunday, I saw in person what I’ve been listening to on the internet and seeing on social media all season long: the Bucs are a bad team. On Buccaneer Bri’s annual trip to Ray-Jay, the Bucs lost to the Lions, 24-21, on a field goal in the closing seconds. But honestly, it shouldn’t have even been that close.
I saw with my own two eyes all of the reasons the Buccaneers are now 4-9. They had five turnovers. The tackling was terrible. They have no pass rush. None. They never laid a finger on Matthew Stafford. Heck, by my unofficial count, they only chased after him once….in the entire game…and that one play ended with a roughing the passer penalty. The play-calling was questionable at times, as was the use of timeouts at the end of the game.
And yet, there they were, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Do you think Mike Smith’s defense could do the job from there? (insert sarcastic laugh here.)
Instead of me rambling on about how Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith are doomed after the season, I will dedicate the rest of this article to my personal Ray-Jay experience, since I only get down there once a year.
It was chilly. No, really. I brought my jacket and wore jeans, and I needed both. The two ladies who came to the game with me were shivering as well as the game went on. This was, by far, the coldest game I’ve ever been to in Tampa. But it beat the snow that fell back home while I was gone.
I know Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans. But geez, did the entire state of Michigan fly in for this game? It felt like there were as many Lions’ fans there as Bucs’ fans. Detroit fans deserve praise for traveling en masse to support their team. But it’s depressing for Tampa Bay fans like me, and ownership needs to do something to change that.
This was also my first time sitting in the upper deck. I don’t think I will do it again, and it had nothing to do with how far away I was from the action. There was absolutely no vibe upstairs. It was like being in a library for much of the game. I didn’t feel like I was part of the festivities at all. Oh well, I chose to sit upstairs because the area where I usually sit was just too expensive. From now on, I think I will just spend the extra bucks and go back down to the lower bowl.
There was a nice couple from Detroit sitting behind us. They left before halftime, after Stafford threw his second pick. The guy said, “same old Lions!” I overheard the lady he was with talk about going to the movies. I hope they made it in time, if that’s in fact where they ended up. For all I know, they may just have been sick of me yelling and trying to the enjoy the game in a morgue-like atmosphere, and they have just moved to another section. Where they ended up is a question I will likely never know the answer to.
So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The Bucs have three more games left – all of them against division opponents – and in case you haven’t noticed, the rest of the division is really, really good. I can easily see the Bucs finishing 4-12. They’re on Monday Night Football next week against Atlanta. Jon Gruden will be calling the game, then he’ll be honored at halftime. If the ceremony is streamed live someplace, that may very well be the best part of the night.
Photo Courtesy: Me
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.
This time, the Buccaneers waited until overtime for the pain and agony to become official: a 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay. Let me count the ways:
Jameis Winston gift-wrapped a Green Bay touchdown when he fumbled the ball right into the arms of Dean Lowry, who took it to the house. Winston almost cost the Bucs more points in the fourth quarter due to miscommunication on a snap in the red zone. He’s lucky he recovered the fumble, and ended up throwing his second TD pass of the game to Cameron Brate, which put Tampa Bay in the lead with about six minutes to go.
That brings me to my next point: Mike Smith’s joke of a defense couldn’t hold on to that slender lead late in the fourth. The Packers tied it with a field goal, then won it on the first possession of overtime. And on that drive, did you happen to notice the shoddy tackling? Someone remind me again why Smith is still on the staff.
Of course, after the Green Bay field goal made it 20-20 with about two minutes to go, Jameis and company got the ball back, with a chance to go down the field and win the game. They didn’t even come close.
While the Buccaneers have solved their field goal kicking situation, they had a punt blocked that led to a Packers’ touchdown. Another mistake that you cannot make in any game, much less this one.
And then there were all of the penalties, and all of the sacks – seven of them in all – that cost the Bucs big-time. The pass protection was a mess, yet they managed to have a nice game on the ground courtesy of Peyton Barber. Go figure.
Last year, the Bucs finished 9-7. This loss means they will not match their win total of last year. It’s just one more sign of what a disappointment this season has been.
Next week, they’ll host the Lions and Ray-Jay. Buccaneer Bri will be making his annual trip down south for that one. So be on the lookout for some photos, videos and hopefully other fun stuff next Monday.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
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