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
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
If you were worried about any rust from the Buccaneers’ season being delayed by a week, worry no more. Tampa Bay dominated the bumbling Chicago Bears at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 29-7.
You don’t have to look far to find the story of this one. The Bears were sloppy, and the Bucs made them pay. Tampa Bay’s first TD came one play after Chicago fumbled while deciding to scoop up a punt. A Mike Glennon (remember him?) fumble led to another touchdown. And the icing on the cake, if you will, was Robert McClain picking off Glennon, and running it back for a “pick six.”
And that was all in the first half.
Mike Evans is poised for a gigantic year. He caught his first TD pass of the season following the fumbled punt return, and finished with 93 yards on the day. The addition of DeSean Jackson is huge. Even though D-Jax only had 3 catches, his presence allows for a lot of 1-on-1 coverage for both receivers, and Evans is already reaping the benefits.
Jacquizz Rodgers had a decent day that included a 1-yard touchdown run. Speaking of the running game, can we please get rid of Charles Sims? He’s terrible, and I’ve been saying that for a while.
So, what about Jameis Winston? I’ll call his day ‘efficient.’ He did have the nice TD to Evans, and he didn’t throw a pick. But he still needs some work on the deep ball. There were several times where he missed an open receiver on a long ball.
For the defense, it was all about the turnovers. Good thing, because Glennon was finding open receivers, and had a number of dropped passes. But if you can take the ball way, who cares?
Nick Folk made all 3 of his field goal attempts. But he missed an extra point. Oh, Roberto Aguayo, where are you? That’s right – he’s unemployed. He could’ve been on the field for this one, but he didn’t make the Bears’ roster after the Bucs let him go.
It’s great to win the opener. It gives us fans hope that this season will be special. Next week: the Bucs head to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There will be no playoffs in Tampa this year. But at least the Buccaneers won more games than they lost. We haven’t been able to say that in six years.
The Bucs edged the Panthers in the season finale on Sunday, 17-16. The game wasn’t decided until the Bucs prevented Carolina from getting a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.
It’s always nice to beat Cam Newton, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
This game was all about the defense. It was the defense that intercepted Newton three times, including Brent Grimes’ pick-six that put gave the Bucs the lead for the first time. The other two came from Keith Tandy, who really played very well down the stretch.
It was the defense that sacked Newton three times.
It was also the defense that allowed the Panthers to tie the game in the closing seconds, but came up with the big play when Ron Rivera decided to go for two and the win (by the way, I applaud Rivera for going for it; he had nothing to lose in that situation.)
Jameis Winston struggled for much of the day, but his TD pass to Mike Evans broke a 10-10 tie late in the fourth quarter. Winston is the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He also set a franchise record with 28 touchdown passes. But he also threw a pick and lost a fumble, and overthrew a lot of receivers. In the end, I guess you could say he did just enough to get the win.
While Mike Evans gets all the headlines for the receivers – and rightfully so – let’s give some props to Adam Humprhies: 10 catches for 94 yards.
Robert Aguayo was an adventure yet again. Of his three field goal attempts, he made the first, missed the second, and had the third one blocked. GM Jason Licht is going to have to make a decision about Aguayo’s future. My gut tells me it won’t happen in the offseason, but he just didn’t perform as well as any kicker should, let alone a second-round draft pick.
It’s been a fun season, Bucs fans. In my next column (whenever I get some free time) I’ll put a bow on the 2016 Bucs with the best and worst of the past four months.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Once a year, I make a trip down to Tampa to see the Buccaneers in action. Sunday’s game against the Saints was this year’s pilgrimage. And I left Ray-Jay with a big smile on my face; the Bucs hung on to beat New Orleans, 16-11.
I’ll get to my personal gameday experience in a moment. But first, a few thoughts about the game itself:
This was the definition of winning ugly. There was only one touchdown in the game, scored by Doug Martin, in the end zone near where I was sitting. Sprinkled in to the mix were flags – a lot of them: 13 for the Saints, 7 for the Bucs. It just breaks up the flow of the game when it seems like there’s yellow on the field every other play.
Then the mistakes came, most of them at the other end of the field from where I was. The first was the miscue by Josh Huff, muffing a kickoff at the 1-yard line and pinning the Bucs back to their goal line. On the next play, the Saints got a safety. The ensuing free kick went out of bounds, giving New Orleans the ball at midfield. The Saints had 1st and goal at the 1, but couldn’t punch it in, thanks to a penalty at a sack. They ended up with a field goal. So the screw-up by Huff cost his team five points.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, it looked like the Saints had taken the lead with a Drew Brees TD pass. It sure looked like it on the replays, too. So it was a pleasant surprise when the official came out and said it was an incomplete pass. I watched the FOX replay this afternoon, and the ball did hit the ground. Good call. But at the time, I thought the Bucs caught a big break. New Orleans settled for a field goal.
There were more key plays in the fourth quarter, all of them made by Tampa Bay: two on special teams, two on defense. Twice, the Bucs pinned the Saints deep inside the 5. One of them was an amazing save to down the ball at the 1. The other backed the Saints up to the 3.
With two minutes to go, Drew Brees had to take his team 97 yards with one timeout to win the game. He only got 45 of those yards. Keith Tandy made the game-clinching pick with :51 to play. The Bucs picked off the New Orleans QB three times.
Now to my personal experience: normally I fly solo when I go to the game. But this time, I was happy to be joined by two of my Vegas fanatics. One rooted for the Bucs, the other cheered for the Saints (she grew up in the New Orleans area.) She was hardly the only Saints’ fan at Ray-Jay: there were thousands of them scattered around, including a loud (but fun) group right behind us. I’ve heard enough of the “who dat?” chant for awhile, though we Bucs fans got our revenge at the end. To make a long story short, I was so excited to be joined by two of my friends this time around. We also had a memorable time at the Hard Rock casino the night before. Since this is a Bucs blog, I’ll spare you the details of that adventure.
In the third quarter, the skies opened up. The forecast was only for a 10 or 20 percent chance of a shower, but that most of the region would stay dry. Well, we got that 10-20 percent. A lot of fans ran for cover. Not me. I don’t mind getting a little wet, especially since Florida showers usually come and go quickly. When it did stop raining, it also got a lot more humid. Say what you will, but the rain seemed to stop what momentum the Saints had at the time.
I was disappointed that the game wasn’t a sellout. The team is on its longest winning streak in 14 years, and they’re tied for first place with an 8-5 record. How much more does it take to have a butt in every seat? Imagine what the crowd would’ve looked like without all of the Saints fans. Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans, so I wasn’t surprised by that at all.
The bottom line: the Bucs are 8-5, still tied with Atlanta atop the NFC South, and will face Dallas on Sunday Night Football. And the game times keep changing: the following week’s game in New Orleans has been pushed back to 4:25 now.
I have photos and videos from my Ray-Jay experience. I will share those with you on Tuesday.