Well, where do we begin to dissect this one?
There is so much that happened in this wacky game. But for now, let’s focus on the guy who, in the words of Gene Deckerhoff, puts “toe to leather”: Chandler Catanzaro.
For the second game in a row, he missed an extra point that came back to haunt the Bucs. Then, with the game tied, he had a chance to it with a 40-yarder at the end of regulation. Nope – wide right.
Fast-forward to late in overtime. There was Catanzaro, sent back on to the field with less than two minutes remaining in OT. It was a 59-yard attempt. The ball starts out heading toward the right upright, then curves back in. And it had the distance.
Ballgame. My goodness.
Remember when the Bucs had Matt Bryant? Sure – that guy was money. Every other kicker Tampa Bay has had, with the exception of a brief flash of brilliance from Connor Barth, had been terrible. Was this remarkable kick in overtime enough to save his job? Stay tuned.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s about time this happened. But what took them so long?
On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the news that I and every other Bucs fan have been waiting to hear: Mike Smith is out as the defensive coordinator.
Under Smith, Tampa Bay had the worst defense last year, and so far, the worst defense this year. The Bucs have given up 30 or more points in four of their five games. Remember that fantastic win over the Saints in the season opener? Yes, I do. It’s easy to overlook at Smith’s defense still allowed 40 points. This, even though the team supposedly upgraded the defensive side of the ball during the offseason.
This move should’ve been made a long time ago – as in, say, nine months or so ago. But the Bucs finally pulled the trigger.
So now what? Linebackers’ coach Mark Duffner will take over as defensive coordinator in the interim.
How this plays out over the next eleven weeks remains to be seen. We’d all be shocked if this defense pitches a shutout against an improved Cleveland team on Sunday. But finally, the Bucs have rid themselves of the guy responsible for the biggest weakness on this team.
Before I rip Mike Smith to shreds again, let’s start off with the final play of the game.
On one hand, it seems crazy: with the ball at the Atlanta 20, they call a play featuring a couple of laterals, that could’ve ended with DeSean Jackson running into the end zone with no time on the clock. D-Jax never caught the lateral from Mike Evans, so it was a moot point. Had Jackson caught it, would he have scored? He says he would have. But after watching the play over and over, there were three Falcons closing in on him. It would’ve been VERY close.
Now, here’s my beef: you had the ball at the 20. You have guys like Evans, D-Jax, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on your team. This wasn’t a 50-yard Hail Mary. Why wouldn’t you take a shot in the end zone with those stud receivers/tight ends? I don’t understand that.
Let’s talk about Jameis Winston’s first start. He had four touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions: an overthrown deep ball, and a pass that ricocheted off a defender in the end zone. You can’t have those kinds of plays.
Then there’s the kicking game, featuring a missed PAT by Chandler Catanzaro. That was huge, because when the Bucs cut the lead to 24-22 early in the fourth, they had to go for two to try to tie the game. They failed.
And now, let’s get to that so-called “defensive coordinator” with a last name of Smith. This was the fourth time already that his unit has allowed at least 30 points. And again, the opposition racked up over 400 yards of offense, with wide open receivers all over the field. And lest we forget that final 26 seconds of the first half when the Bucs had cut the lead to 21-13. Smith’s defense allowed the Falcons to easily get into field goal range to add three points before going to the locker room.
And Koetter refuses to fire him. Well, if this keeps up, Koetter will also be gone at the end of the season.
There is still time to right this ship. There are still eleven games remaining. But based on the unwillingness of Tampa Bay to make changes on the defensive side of the ball, this has the potential to get very ugly, very quickly. I hope I’m wrong.
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
This week, I start a new feature called “Bucs Extra.” It will focus primarily on other elements of the game that might otherwise go unnoticed.
What a little pass rush can do
The Buccaneers sacked Nick Foles three times in this game, and disrupted him on many other plays. Remember when Tampa Bay had no pass rush whatsoever? Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kwon Alexander all sacked the Super Bowl MVP. That helped ease the pressure a bit on an injury-plagued secondary. Ryan Smith also had a strong game. The defense allowed over 400 yards for the second week in a row, but they made enough key plays to be a factor.
Struggling running game
As great as the offense has been, the Bucs have struggled to get much of a running game going through two weeks. 43 yards rushing isn’t going to cut it. Second-round pick Ronald Jones has been a healthy scratch for each of the first two games. What’s up with that? He did struggle in the preseason, but I wonder if there’s more we don’t know.
Can this issue please go away someday? Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point that really could’ve come back to haunt the Bucs. The PAT needs to be automatic; end of story. He also missed a FG last week in New Orleans. Ever since Connor Barth’s basketball injury way back in the day, our kicking situation has been a mess.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like this whole FitzMagic thing that’s going on right now.
Two games, two wins. And we’re not talking about wins over cellar-dwellers. The Buccaneers have started the season by beating the NFC South champs and the defending Super Bowl champs.
Take that, so-called experts who had the Bucs losing their first three games.
There is no question who the story is right now: it’s backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sure, other players stepped up on Sunday. I’ll get into that in another article. But Fitz is the headliner right. He threw four more touchdown passes, two of which went for 75 yards apiece. He had over 400 yards passing. He did throw his first interception of the season, which was more the result of O.J. Howard’s inability to hang onto the ball after making a catch.
Fitzpatrick has eight touchdown passes in the first two games (and a rushing TD to boot.) He is just the third player in NFL history to have at least four TD passes in each of his team’s first two games.
Let that sink in for a moment. We’re talking Ryan Fitzpatrick here. A Buccaneer quarterback is doing this! Keep pulling magic out of that beard, sir.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers