Familiar Problems Plague Bucs in Loss to Saints

After scoring 55 points in a big win over the Rams last week, Bucs fans were hoping Tampa Bay could keep it going in a divisional matchup against the Saints.

Nope.

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 31-14.  The biggest problems continue to be the pass defense and the offensive line.  For a team that’s made a living of making backup quarterbacks look like superstars, the Bucs did just that with Teddy Bridgewater.  And Jameis Winston was sacked six times.

Mike Evans did not have a catch in this game.  The Bucs defensive line barely touched Bridgewater.  Credit New Orleans for that.

But let’s get back to the secondary for a moment.  The coordinator has changed.  The formations have changed.  And while the run defense has been impressive, the pass defense is once again among the worst in the league.  That is mind-boggling, given all of the draft picks spent on this unit.  One player who’s really drawn the ire of us fans is former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III.  But he is not alone.  The entire secondary is abysmal.  The Bucs have allowed 103 points in the last three weeks (that includes 40 to the Rams in a game the Bucs won.)

Yes, there is time to turn this around.  Beat the Panthers (who have turned things around since losing to the Bucs in Week 2) in London, and Tampa Bay will be 3-3 heading into the bye.  But for the love of God, something has to be done with the awful secondary.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans Saints

Week 4 Preview: Bucs at Rams

So here we go – the start of the most brutal part of the Buccaneers schedule, in which they’ll be away from home for the next six weeks.  First up: a matchup against the NFC Champion Rams in Los Angeles.

Can the Bucs recover from last week’s meltdown against the Giants?  Can Matt Gay get back on track?  How will the Bucs be able to control Aaron Donald, not to mention Sean McVay’s high-powered offense?  These are just some of the things to look for on Sunday.

Tampa Bay will be without their first-round draft pick Devin White again.  And center Ryan Jensen is questionable.  Lord help the offensive line if they’re not healthy and Donald is already licking his chops.

The Bucs are a heavy underdog in this one, as you’d expect.  But if they can pull off the upset, it would be a huge confidence booster moving forward.

Fox has the game on Sunday, with Chris Myers and Daryl Johnson in the broadcast booth at the Coliseum.

Finally, a note to my readers: I am going on vacation on Sunday, so I will not be providing a recap here after the game.  But I will be keeping tabs on it from fabulous Las Vegas.  I will resume the blog with coverage of the next game against New Orleans.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An Awful Loss For the Bucs

Attention Tampa Bay fans: after a gratifying win over Carolina, we have just been reminded that the Bucs are still…the Bucs.

They lost to the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 32-31.  It was a game in which Matt Gay missed two extra points, and a 34-yard field goal as time expired that would’ve won the game.  That’s five points left on the field.  I guess I was wrong when I wrote before the season began that this team appeared to have solved its kicking problems.  That is a resounding ‘no.’

In my game preview, I wrote that the Buccaneers have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Well, Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones led his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit, and scored the game-winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining.  I rest my case.  This defense may be improved over last year, but still has a long way to go to become elite.

Jameis Winston did not lose this game.  Mike Evans did not lose this game.  Evans had three touchdowns, and the two connected on a huge pass in the final minute to set up what should’ve been a game-winning kick.  And this may be lost in the shuffle: the Bucs got hit with a delay of game penalty before Gay’s final miss.  Would that five yards have made a difference, given how close the kick was?  Either way, Matt Gay HAS to make that kick.

There’s more to write about, but I am sick to my stomach.  And I am angry.  With the next six weeks away from home, this was a game Tampa Bay had to have.  They didn’t get it.

Week 3 Preview: Buccaneers vs Giants

The Buccaneers will go for their second straight win on Sunday when they host the Giants at Ray-Jay.

The headline for this game – at least on a national level – is the quarterback change made by the Giants.  Eli Manning is on the bench, and rookie Daniel Jones gets his first career start.  For any Tampa Bay fans who think this is great news, I will politely remind you that the Bucs have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Remember Derek Anderson?

In addition to preparing for Jones, one of the keys for the Bucs will be stopping Saquon Barkley, much like they were able to contain Christian McCaffrey last Thursday night.

Offensively, this is stating the obvious: the Buccaneers have to protect the football and cut down on penalties.  The latter has been a big problem in the first two games.

Another reason this is an important game: Tampa Bay won’t play another game at Ray-Jay until November 10.  The next six weeks consist of four road games, a “home” game in London, and the bye week. Yikes.

Kickoff is at 4:05, and will be televised around here on Boston 25.  For the second time in three weeks, Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber are the announcers.  Barber will be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor at halftime.  His pick-six in against the Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship game is arguably the greatest play in team history.

Bucs Get First Win in Dramatic Fashion

Here are some thoughts on the Bucs’ first victory of the season: a 20-14 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.

It is amazing what Todd Bowles has done with this defense in just two games.  Take Mike Smith’s swiss-cheese defense, and flip it 180 degrees.  Bowles’ unit kept the Panthers out of the end zone, and has only allowed one offensive touchdown in eight quarters.  After Carolina, not surprisingly, marched down the field for a final drive, Vernon Hargreaves made the play that everyone’s still buzzing about, stopping Christian McCaffrey at the two-yard line with less than 90 seconds to play.  It was a night where the Bucs stifled McCaffrey all the way around.

Another star was Shaquil Barrett.  He’s another new face on defense, and he sacked Cam Newton three times. 

The Buccaneers gave up some long plays in this one, but tightened up in the red zone.  I remember Tony Dungy’s teams winning a lot of games like this.  I’m just throwing that out there.

On offense, Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over.  That is huge.  Everyone (including me) rips him when he screws up, so it is only fair that I praise him when he has a good game.  His stats may not jump out at you, but again, no turnovers.

Chris Godwin is a beast: 121 yards and a TD.  He, not Mike Evans, is the Bucs’ leading receiver after two games.

Peyton Barber churned out 82 tough yards on the ground, and scored a touchdown.  He had to work for every one of those yards against a tough Carolina defense.

This was not a perfect game by any means.  There were way too many penalties again (p.s. – someone tell Bruce Arians and Bowles that you can’t call back-to-back timeouts.)  Going 2-for-12 on third down isn’t going to cut it, either.  But at the end of a late night, the Bucs beat a division opponent on the road.  That is huge.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Bucs Lose To 49ers in Ugly Opener

Here are some quick thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers in the season opener at Ray-Jay:

As ugly as this game was, I will start with some positives.  The Bucs actually had a running game, led by a rejuvenated Ronald Jones.  The defense looks much, much better than past years.  Vernon Hargreaves III came up with a rare pick-six.  This unit only allowed one offensive touchdown.  So how did San Francisco get 31 points?  Oh, I’m getting to that.  But first, one more positive: rookie kicker Matt Gay was perfect on the day.

Now, let’s get to the ugly stuff:

Jameis Winston had an awful game.  He had three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.  The other one, admittedly, went right through O.J. Howard’s hands.  But Winston was consistently off-target.  He fumbled a snap.  This is the year he has to break out and play like a No. 1 overall pick.  This was not a good start.  And if Twitter was a member of the Bucs coaching staff, Winston would be out on the street right now looking for work.  He MUST do better than this, or his ass is going to be on the bench very soon.

I said I was concerned about the offensive line before the season began.  They did not perform well against the ‘Niners.  Winston was sacked three times, and Demar Dotson was penalized twice for holding, which nullified would-be touchdowns.  The offensive line play makes the running game’s performance even that much more amazing.

Now, I want to take about the curious decision by Bruce Arians early in the fourth quarter.  The score was 20-14.  The Bucs kicked a field goal, but the 49ers were penalized for offsides.  Instead of making it a three-point game, Arians decided to go for it on 4th down from the 2.  Winston’s pass was batted away.  So instead of it being 20-17, the Bucs still needed a touchdown to pull it out – a score they would not get.  So, Arians is a gambler, eh?  He’s 0-for-1 so far.

Next up: the Panthers on Thursday night.  This is the Gerald McCoy Bowl, part one.

Photo courtesy: San Francisco 49ers

Buccaneers 2019 Season Preview

The 100th NFL season kicks off tonight with the Packers and Bears.  On Sunday, the Bruce Arians era begins against the San Francisco 49ers at Ray-Jay.

Here are some things to keep an eye on: not just on Sunday, but as the season moves along:

OFFENSE: Can Jameis Winston finally have the breakout season we’ve been expecting from a former No. 1 overall pick?  Will there actually be a running game?  And as a sidebar to that, can the offensive line open up holes in the ground game, and protect Winston?  If the preseason is any indication, this could be a big area of concern.

DEFENSE: Everything has changed here.  Todd Bowles is the new coordinator, and he’s showing a lot of different looks.  This until simply cannot have a repeat of the past several years, which were nothing sort of dreadful.  We saw promising signs in the preseason.  Can they carry over to Sunday?

SPECIAL TEAMS: All eyes on rookie kicker Matt Gay, who won the kicking job over Cairo Santos.  Gay has been sensational in preseason and training camp.  He needs to continue that success, or he’ll be considered the next coming of Roberto Aguayo.

Kickoff is on Sunday a 4:25.   The game is not televised here, because FOX is sticking us with the Cowboys and Giants.  But that’s why NFL Redzone was created.  Your announcers are Kenny Albert and former Buc Ronde Barber.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times