One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?
Wow. Just wow.
Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick. He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome. How amazing was Fitz? He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score. And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.
Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball? Fitzpatrick had no problem. The two connected for two long touchdowns. Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score. We didn’t see much of that last year. Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.
It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener. Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.
This was not a perfect game by any means. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company. The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack. The secondary had its struggles. They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.
But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.” I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston? Well, they’ve got the first one.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Let’s get it on, ladies and gentlemen.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers kick off the 2018 season in New Orleans against the Saints.
Remember last year when we had to wait half the year to play a division foe? Well, we get one right out of the gate this time.
There are a lot of questions, as always. How can the Bucs do with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Jameis Winston for the first three games? Can the defense actually stop anyone, unlike last year? (Vita Vea and Brent Grimes will not play in New Orleans.) Will Todd Monken keep calling the plays, or will Dirk Koetter re-take control?
I would love to see an amazing turnaround this season to prove the doubters wrong. No one outside of us diehards thinks Tampa Bay’s going to do anything this year. That includes Vegas; trust me, I was just there last week, and saw the long odds we’re facing. But beating the Saints in the opener would be a great start.
So come along for the ride, and I’ll have a few things to say about the game Sunday night, win or lose.
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
Just when you thought the Buccaneers’ season couldn’t get any worse, it has.
Oh, has it ever.
In what is quickly becoming a season to forget, the Bucs were trounced by the Saints in the Superdome today, 30-10. We saw a lot of the same old Bucs: the defense got picked apart again. The running game was non-existent. Jameis Winston was ineffective (before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.) And special teams were problematic yet again, with the Saints blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, and another missed field goal (though that was the least of the problems on this day.)
But here’s the question that a lot of fans – including me – are asking right now: has Dirk Koetter lost this team? The lasting image from this game will be the scuffle on the Tampa Bay sideline, which appeared to be instigated by Winston, and involved Mike Evans annihilating Marshon Lattimore. I am shocked Evans did not get kicked out of the game, but he could very well be suspended for that hit. But look closely at the replay: you see Koetter doing absolutely nothing to diffuse the situation. Nothing. Doesn’t the head coach need to take the control there? Well, Koetter didn’t do that. This is about a lack of discipline, and a lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching. I’ve written the same thing about Lovie Smith in years’ past, and I’m not letting Koetter off the hook, either.
This was supposed to be the year the Bucs made the jump to the next level – the playoffs. Instead, they sit at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC South, and are arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL right now. This five-game losing streak started with the New England game the Bucs could’ve won. There was the early knockout punch in Arizona. There was the late meltdown in Buffalo. And now we’ve seen back-to-back abysmal performances against division opponents. Do the Glazers have the guts to make a change-mid season? We shall see.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
Simply put, that stunk.
There were the Buccaneers, with a chance to creep closer to Minnesota in the Wild Card hunt. Instead, they laid an egg in a 24-17 home loss to the Saints at Ray-Jay. They’re now two games behind the Vikings and Seahawks with three games remaining.
What cost the Bucs against New Orleans? Well, it was the same mistakes that we’ve seen over and over again: bad play in the secondary, too many critical (and some stupid) penalties, and questionable coaching.
Tampa Bay’s defense let Drew Brees have his way pretty much all day. He threw 41 passes. And given the sieve that is the Bucs’ secondary, I’m surprised he didn’t throw it 50 times. They let the Saints convert 12 of 17 third-down conversions. That’s unacceptable for a team fighting for its playoff life.
The Bucs had eight penalties for 80 yards (amazingly, the Saints outdid them in that department with 12.) It started on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play: a long completion to Vincent Jackson that was nullified by a holding call. Then there was Mike Evans getting back-to-back flags in the fourth quarter for pass interference, followed by a personal foul. Mr. Evans needs to get his head in the right place, because we the fans are not happy with him these days. I heard the boos myself during the Atlanta game last week. And just when it looked like the Bucs would get the ball back for one more shot, a defensive holding call gave New Orleans a fresh set of downs.
The play-calling? The Bucs were facing the worst defense (in terms of yards allowed per game) in the NFL. New Orleans is dead-last against the run. So why the heck did Doug Martin only get eleven carries? He was averaging more than seven yards a carry, and the game wasn’t really out of reach until the very end. And why did Evans – dropsies and all – not even see a pass thrown in his direction until the second half?
Oh, and don’t throw the ball to Donteea Dye (who?) anymore. That was a critical drop late in the game that would’ve kept the potential game-tying drive alive. I know Vincent Jackson was out with an injury, but wasn’t there a better option?
It was a disappointing, frustrating game. I’ve seen so many.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
After Tampa Bay gave up four touchdown passes to Marcus Mariota in the season opener, the obvious question crossed my mind: if a rookie can do that, imagine what a seasoned pro like Drew Brees would do against this defense.
Count me as one of the fans who was pleasantly surprised by what played out at the Superdome on Sunday.
The Buccaneers held Brees under 300 yards passing and sacked him four times. They also forced three turnovers, which was huge given that the Bucs’ offense turned it over on consecutive series in a bizarre fourth quarter.
When Tampa Bay took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, I had a feeling the Saints would make a game of it. I’ve seen this movie too many times before. Sure enough, New Orleans found the end zone twice in the final period.
But the defense – and special teams – made enough key plays. After the first Saints’ TD made it a 10-point game, they foiled the two-point conversion, meaning it was still a two-score game. After another touchdown made it 23-19, perhaps the biggest play of the game came when William Gholston blocked the extra point. That means the Saints would need a touchdown at the end of the game to win, instead of a potential-tying field goal. And yes, they were in field goal range in the closing seconds.
That missed FG by the saints earlier in the fourth helped. I’m not going to lie to you there.
One more note on the three sacks: Jacquies Smith now has four in the first two games. He’s leading the league in that category. That bears repeating: a Buccaneer is leading the NFL in sacks. Sure, it’s only two games, but when the last time (before now) that statement was true?
Sunday’s victory in New Orleans wasn’t perfect – not by a long shot. The Bucs still need to do a better job of closing out games when they’ve got the lead in the fourth quarter. But after a 2-14 season, we’ll take any positives that we can, and Sunday produced enough of them.
Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com
As a journalist, I’m supposed to come up with new and creative ways to state my opinion. After seeing the same old story from the Buccaneers on Sunday in Carolina, I’m open to new terminology.
Josh McCown is pathetic. All three of the Bucs turnovers can be traced directly to him: two lost fumbles and an interception. Sure, you can argue all you want about that phantom fumble that was revered on a challenge by Ron Rivera. But the bottom line is, this guy is dreadful when it comes to protecting the football. Then there’s the lack of a sense of urgency. Down by two scores late in the fourth quarter (before McCown found the end zone with his legs) he took forever getting his team organized at the line of scrimmage. Even Dave Moore, the Bucs’ radio commentator, was all over him for that. Would Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers ever play like that? No way.
And yet, Mike Glennon, who stood on the sidelines once again, wonders if he’ll ever take another snap for this team. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue saying it: Glennon is not the answer at quarterback, but he’s sure looked a LOT better than the guy now known as “McClown.” Josh needs to be benched, but if Lovie Smith hasn’t done it by now, it’s probably not going to happen.
And the defense? They lost to backup QB Derek Anderson for the second time this season. They made him look like a star. He threw for 277 yards. The entire Bucs offense only had ten more than that. Carolina held the ball for over 37 minutes, as the defense could not get off the field. We saw this in the season opener, and we saw it again on Sunday. They did force a turnover down by the goal line, but there were other chances – especially in the fourth quarter – to get the ball back and they couldn’t capitalize. An interception of Anderson was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty. Then there was Alterraun Verner’s inability to hang on to a sure pick.
Again, we’ve seen these problems all year long. Why should they change now? The Packers will be angry when they come to Ray-Jay next weekend, having lost to Buffalo. And in the season finale, the Saints may need that game to win the division that nobody seems to want.
But hey – the Bucs are still in the running for the No. 1 draft pick!
Photo Courtesy: AP