Yet Another Frustrating Bucs Loss

You have to admit this about the Buccaneers: they keep finding creative new ways to lose the game.  In their 27-23 loss to the Titans, let’s take a look:

Jameis Winston committed four more turnovers: two interceptions, two lost fumbles, though the first fumble was arguably more of Ryan Jensen’s fault for a bad shotgun snap.  Tennessee’s first two TD drives covered a total of 16 yards.  Winston is responsible for ten turnovers in the last two games.  Ten.

Now let’s go to the touchdown by Mike Evans – who had monster game – right before halftime.  The score was 17-15.  Bruce Arians decided to go for two, and the Bucs were unsuccessful.  Why would you go for two that situation, with a whole second half to play?  Had they just kicked the extra point to pull within one, they would’ve needed just a field goal down the stretch.

Then there’s the play that we’re ready to murder the refs over.  Late in the fourth quarter, the Titans tried a fake punt.  Devin White clobbered the runner, forced a fumble, and Andrew Adams picked it up and ran it all the way back.  But for some ridiculous reason, the officials blew the play dead after the fumble recovery.  Why?  That play would’ve given Tampa Bay the lead with just over three minutes remaining.

And finally, at the two-minute warning, the Bucs had 4th-and-1 from the Tennessee 32.  They line up in the shotgun and…. hand the ball off to Peyton Barber?  What kind of a play call is that?  You’ve got Evans and Chris Godwin as weapons.  In my opinion, Ronald Jones is a better back that Barber.  But once Barber got the handoff – in the shotgun, 4th-and-1 turned into 4th-and-5.  And naturally, he got stuffed.  Heck, if you’re going to run, why not try a quarterback sneak?  Byron Leftwich deserves all the criticism in the world for that decision.

Speaking of play-calling, I’m baffled as to why players like Dare Ogunbowale and Breshad Perriman get their numbers called.  They are terrible.

All in all, this was yet another case of the Bucs beating the Bucs.  They made mistakes, and the Titans made them pay.  Tampa Bay is now 2-5, with a cross-country trip to Seattle staring them in the face.  Oh, my.

Photo courtesy: Tennessee Titans

Bucs at the Bye: Plenty of Blame to Go Around

With the Buccaneers on their bye week and sitting at 2-4, it’s time to use this break in the action to do some finger-pointing at four areas that I think deserve to be singled out.

Jameis Winston.  You have to start with the quarterback, right?  Winston’s had some good games this season, and then he’s had games like the one in London where he was responsible for six of the team’s seven turnovers.  He has plenty of critics.  He also has a lot of supporters.  You may be surprised to hear about the latter, but if you read what I read on social media, it’s true.  Winston’s defenders will tell you that the bad pass protection, receivers dropping the occasional big play, the secondary giving up too many points, are bigger problems.  Well, they’re all right.  But the bottom line is, Winston’s been too inconsistent.  And in his fifth season as the number-one overall pick in the pick, that is disappointing and unacceptable.

The offensive line.  This group has given up 25 sacks, tied for second most of the NFL with the Jets.  Only the Titans (the Bucs’ next opponent) is worse.  The running game is still largely non-existent.  Tampa Bay is ranked 23rd in rushing.  A lot of fans will say some of those sacks fall on Winston holding onto the ball too long.  I’ll buy that.  But the overall numbers don’t lie.  The GM also deserves some blame here.  More on that in a moment.

The secondary.  It’s been awful for several years now, and this year is no different.  The Bucs are dead last in pass defense, allowing over 300 yards a game through the air.  And yet, Tampa Bay is best in the league at stopping the run.  But with the dreadful coverage in the secondary, you’re inviting teams to throw the ball 50 times a game.  The Bucs have spent many, many draft picks on this area.  They’ve changed coaches.  They’ve changed schemes.  And yet, there’s been no improvement whatsoever.  That brings me to my fourth item.

Jason Licht.  He drafted all those guys in the secondary with no improvement.  Doesn’t he deserve some of the blame for this unit’s failure?  I think he does.  Licht has also done little to address the offensive line.  Doesn’t he deserve criticism for that as well?  I think he does.  He was the only one to survive the housecleaning at the end of last season.  Many fans, including me, don’t think he should survive this one if Tampa Bay keeps playing like this.

Photo Courtesy: SportsWire

Bucs Fans: Stop Panicking (For Now)

Relax, everyone. Just relax.

 

What happened to the Buccaneers on Monday happens to every team in every sport at some point: players jumping ship for more money to play elsewhere.

 

For those who haven’t heard the news, here are the big headlines: Kwon Alexander struck gold in San Francisco. DeSean Jackson is going back to Philadelphia. And Adam Humphries is trading in red and pewter for Titan Blue.

 

Judging by my social media feeds, you’d think the world is about to end. Well, D-Jax turned back into a crybaby when he stopped getting the ball thrown to him. People loved Kwon’s passion but I read today that he missed a lot of tackles – a big problem for this defense over the past couple of years. Humphries is the loss that hurts me the most. Here’s a guy coming off a career year. But hey – money talks, and Tennessee offered more than Tampa. End of story.

 

Everyone is replaceable, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s see who the Bucs get in the draft, and more importantly, what Bruce Arians does with the players they acquire.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

The Good – and Bad – From the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

Here are some quick thoughts on the Bucs’ preseason victory over the Titans Saturday night.

 

On the plus side, the headline is Jameis Winston.  He played the entire second quarter, and was sizzling.  He even showed an ability to connect on the deep ball, something that was sorely missing last year.  He is still making a couple of “what the heck were you thinking?” throws, but overall there was more good than bad in Nashville.

 

Staying with the passing game, the Buccaneers appear to have a formidable group of wide receivers.  Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, etc. all look strong in the early going.

Chandler Catanzaro was perfect on all of his kicks.  Amen.

 

Now for the negative: the penalties, oh those penalties.  Tampa Bay was sloppy in this department, and many of the flags were thrown while the first-teamers were on the field.  Hey coach: clean this up immediately.

 

After playing well against Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was…well, “meh.”  Lest we forget….he’s the starter for the first three games.

 

For all the hype surrounding the revamped defense, they didn’t put much pressure on the quarterback.  They also missed some tackles.  Sound familiar?

 

If you watch any preseason game, watch the next one against the Lions on Friday night.  The third game is the so-called “dress rehearsal” in which the starters play the longest.  Stay tuned.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Monday Column: Blame Lovie for the Bucs’ Opener

At first glance, it’s easy to look at the numbers from Sunday’s embarrassing 42-14 loss to the Titans, and place blame accordingly.

Sure, Jameis Winston struggled mightily in the season opener. He completed less than 50% of passes while throwing two ugly interceptions, the first of which was returned for a touchdown. His quarterback rating was a measly 6.7. I don’t know a lot about that stat, except to say that 6.7 is probably very bad.

I’m not letting Winston off the hook here, not in the least. But as a rookie quarterback, I’m willing to bet he’s going to have a lot more days like he had on Sunday. Even the great QB’s in the game today struggled in their first season. All I’m looking for from him is improvement as the season progresses.

No, there’s one guy who deserves the bulk of the blame: head coach Lovie Smith.

The short version is this: he did not have his team ready to play, in a much-anticipated opener, in front of a (briefly) energized fan base. When the Buccaneers walked off the field at halftime, that fan base was booing his players – loudly. I was listening to the radio broadcast; I heard it loud and clear.

For those who don’t know, Smith is now calling the plays on defense. So he deserves to be slammed for allowing Marcus Mariota to find wide open receivers, playing pitch and catch with them for three quarters before sitting out the fourth.  Smith has known for five months that he’d be facing the Titans in the opener, and that was his game plan?  His “Tampa 2” defense has not worked well from the minute he stepped foot at One Buc Place.

Smith deserves to be slammed for all of those penalties – 12 of them in all – and that doesn’t count the ones that Tennessee declined. Penalties=lack of discipline. Lack of discipline=bad coaching. Heck, the Bucs were the most penalized team in the league last year. Based on what we saw in the opener, they’re going to do it again in 2015 unless something changes in a hurry.

Is Lovie on the hot seat, just one game into his second season? If not yet, it won’t be long before he is. He has coached nine regular-season games at Ray-Jay, and is 0-9. Based on reading social media after Sunday’s debacle, most of the fans are irate with the head coach right now.

Count me as one of them.

Photo Courtesy: PewterReport.com

 

Drink Heavily, Bucs Fans

Earlier in the day, I wrote about how important it was for the Bucs to make a good first impression – in the season opener – in front of the home crowd. Well, my first impression is: this season could end up being a lot like the last one.

OK – it’s only one game. But geez, that 42-14 shellacking at the hands of the Titans was downright awful.

Let’s focus on the quarterbacks, since that was the headline coming into the game. Jameis Winston struggled in his professional debut. You knew it was going to be a bad day when his first pass turned into an ugly interception that was run back for a touchdown. He later threw another pick, and also fumbled twice (but recovered both.) He was sacked four times. He did throw two TD passes to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but one of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was far out of reach.

On the other hand, the defense made Marcus Mariota look like a superstar. They let him throw four touchdowns…in the first half. Naturally, a lot of casual fans are already saying Mariota is a better quarterback than Winston. After one game, that is 100% true. Let’s see what happens when he goes up against a bunch of defenders that will allow the other team’s receivers to get wide open in the middle of the field.

I’ll have more to say about this debacle in the Monday column, including perhaps a few harsh words for Lovie Smith.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Tribune

 

GAMEDAY: Bucs vs. Titans

It’s time to get this party started.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off their 2015 season today at home against the Tennessee Titans.   And based on what I’ve seen on Twitter, Ray-Jay will be very close to packed.  It’s not every day we can say that.

First impressions are worth a lot.  Tampa Bay needs to make one by coming out strong and winning the opener.

We’ll all have something to say about the game after it ends, so check back here this evening to get my take.

Enjoy the game, and go Bucs!

-Bri

The Bucs are Back, and so is Buccaneer Bri

The calendar has flipped to August. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training camp is now a couple of days old. And Buccaneer Bri is back for my third season of writing about Bucs’ football.

 

We can only hope that this season will be better than last. Heck, it can’t get any worse, can it? OK, so it can: 0-16 or 1-15. But there is a buzz surrounding the team, thanks to the drafting of some guy named Jameis.

 

But we’ll see how it all plays out – in training camp, the preseason, and most importantly starting on September 13 against the Titans. As for the blog, I am grateful to all of you who read it. I plan to add some new features as the season gets closer, so stay tuned for that.

 

For now, enjoy the return of football, and go Bucs!

 

Photo Courtesy: USA Today

 

Make Those Travel Plans: The Bucs Schedule is Out

If you’re an out-of-town fan like me, you live for the day when the NFL schedule is released.  Now we can all start planning trips to Tampa et al.

Without further commentary, here is the 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedule:

 

9/13     Tennessee

9/20     @ New Orleans

9/27     @ Houston

10/4     Carolina

10/11   Jacksonville

BYE

10/25   @ Washington

11/1       @ Atlanta

11/8       NY Giants

11/15     Dallas

11/22      @ Philadelphia

11/29      @ Indianapolis

12/6        Atlanta

12/13       New Orleans

12/17       @ St. Louis (Thurs.)

12/27       Chicago

1/3            @ Carolina

A note to my readers: now the draft is over (and you all know who the Bucs picked, from Jameis Winston on down) I will be going into hibernation for a little while until training camp/the preseason gets going.  I am grateful to everyone who reads this blog, and I look forward to reconnecting with you for the 2015 season!

 

So, If the Bucs End Up With the #1 Pick….

Here’s one thing about this painful-to-watch season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

The Bucs are 2-11 right now, and are tied with the Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Raiders for the worst record in the NFL. As of this writing, Tampa Bay would own the top pick due to strength of schedule (or lack thereof.) Anyway, it’s some tiebreaker that could change between now and the end of the regular season.

The Buccaneers need a quarterback – badly. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, who was named a finalist for the Heisman trophy on Monday night, is the name that keeps popping up. If he is still available whenever Tampa Bay is on the clock, the Bucs need to grab him. But taking Mariota will not solve the problems for an offense that has been painful that has trouble just scoring 20 points in a game.

Mariota won’t do well in Tampa if nobody can protect for him. The offensive line, which was overhauled before the season, needs to be revamped again. As bad as Josh McCown has been this year, I would argue that the guys in charge of protecting the quarterback have been the biggest disappointment in 2014. Players like Evan Dietrich-Smith, Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins, Demar Dotson have not produced. And Logan Mankins – who was acquired before the season began – has only made headlines when he gets called for holding. They are also partly responsible for the abysmal running game. Tampa Bay is 31st in rushing yards, averaging only 78 yards per game.

So for all the fans (including me) who would love to see Mariota in a Bucs uniform, I say bring it on. But let’s hope Lovie Smith and Jason Licht also draft some guys who can do damage in the trenches.

Photo Courtesy: AP