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Bucs coordinator Leftwich defended his offense Thursday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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On the heels of a 34 – 17 defeat to the Saints that dropped the Bucs to 3 – 7, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich had his weekly scheduled media session Thursday. And, he did his best in trying to defend some of their shortcomings they’ve had.

Leftwich was on the podium for approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers:

Most interestingly were when the subjects of the Bucs lack of run game balance came up and the struggles with Jameis Winston’s interceptions.

First on the lack of mixing the run (Tampa Bay ran it only six times with running backs in Sunday’s defeat) Leftwich told the media,

“We were just down early (13-0 in the first quarter). When you’re trying to win the game when it’s like that? You’re not going to have a lot of rushing attempts in that situation. It’s just how the game went.”

Still, the lack of a consistent run game has been obvious all year for Tampa Bay, and it also hinders them wanting to use play action passing.

Next, when he was pressed about Winston’s career-high 18 interceptions through 10 games, Leftwich deflected off of that by saying,

“I think we’re better as a whole…We’re trying to win football games. We’re doing things to put ourselves in the best position to win football games. When that doesn’t happen, it allows you guys (the media) to have this conversation, right? But, if we’re winning football games, it’s different, because all the numbers are not bad, right? …It’s just what you choose to pick. We got to have awareness on where we are not as good and try to improve on that.”

Some of the numbers are good, as Winston has thrown for 300+ yards, five games in a row, which is Tampa Bay record. And, WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are at the top of the NFL in combined receptions and yards.

As we wrote earlier this week, it’s the first time that coach Bruce Arians has not called the plays while being an offensive coordinator and a head coach over the course of the last 15 years in the NFL. And, there are many wondering if he shouldn’t take back over the play-calling down the stretch of this season?

For his part Leftwich made it clear in a joking manner that Arians has not let him know that anything is wrong, but that he would if he did feel that way,

“I know if he felt I was doing something wrong, he’d let me know. (Laughing) if he (Arians) felt something wasn’t going the right way, he’d let me know. That, I know.”

The Bucs head into Atlanta with a Falcons team that has stifled the Saints and the Panthers in back-to-back games, holding each without a TD.  And, it will be a challenge for Leftwich, Winston, the Run game and the offense as a whole, to get it done this week.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs QB Winston still not throwing football Thursday

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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All eyes continue to be on Buccaneer quarterback Jameis Winston’s injured thumb and while for the second straight day at practice he was unable to throw a football, he was seen at least throwing a ball of some kind.

First, Winston injured the thumb late in the first half of Sunday’s wild 38 – 35 win over the Colts and after having two opinions on what to do, was once again on Thursday, at least in the portion open to the media, he was going through reps without holding or throwing the ball.

ESPN beat reporter Jenna Laine tweeted this photo that showed Winston practicing with a tennis ball:

Coach Bruce Arians admitted after the game Sunday that Winston had suffered what he termed “a slight slight fracture of the thumb” on his throwing hand just before halftime. When the team came out to warmup for the second half, Winston was unable to grip the football and went back inside for an x ray.

Backup quarterback Ryan Griffin worked the first series of the second half and the Buccaneers got one first down before punting. Griffin is in his sixth season, but Sunday was his first action for the Bucs in a regular season game.

Winston came back and threw for over 200 yards and two more touchdowns, as the Bucs put on a rally after trailing 35 – 21. He threw the game winning TD pass to WR Breshad Perriman with under five minutes remaining.

Wednesday, Winston met with the media at his usual news conference, and repeated twice that he is “day by day” with the thumb.

Arians said he believes the 5th year quarterback will play Sunday at the Lions. And more than likely, Friday’s practice will be the critical day to see if Winston can grip the ball and throw it, especially with some velocity down the field.

The Bucs still have to decide whether they will get a third quarterback to have, just in case Winston cannot play, to be Griffin’s backup?

Winston has been a lightning rod of both praise and criticism, as he currently leads the NFL with 23 interceptions, including three more Sunday. However, he is also second in the NFL in touchdown passes (26) and total passing yards going into play in week 15.

Tampa Bay is on a three game winning streak and gets to play two-win Detroit Sunday.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs moving up in our latest power rankings

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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With conference championships now over, all focus will shift to bowl games in college. Florida Atlantic was the lone state team playing for a title last week, defeating the UAB Blazers in blowout fashion. In the NFL, the Bucs made it three straight victories.

The Dolphins almost made it two in a row before the late-game drama. The Jacksonville Jaguars offense fell flat at home in a blowout defeat. That all leads into how our top 5 looks heading into this weekend:

Florida Gators- The Gators stay on top despite not participating in the SEC title game. They may not have played a game, but they still got a win by being selected to the Orange Bowl. Dan Mullen is now two for two in his Gators career in gaining entry into the “New Years Six.” Two seasons of a row with a big bowl win can only help the gators getting back to where they want to be, and that is competing for championships.

Florida Atlantic- The Owls were able to win the C-USA championship destroying UAB 49-6. This was the second title in three years for the Owls, and their great success under Lane Kiffin. All good things come to an end in this day and age in college football for non-power five schools. And so, Kiffin is now on his way to “the Grove” and will be the head coach of Ole Miss. The Owls reward is to play host to SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs are riding a hot streak right now. They are now on a three-game winning streak. The offense continues to put up big numbers behind QB Jameis Winston. Winston, who threw for a career hight 456 yards Sunday, has the second-most yards and touchdowns, but leads the league in INTs by a large margin.

The defense has been playing very well during this winning streak. Next, the Bucs will go on the road to face a struggling Detroit Lions team.

UCF Knights- The Knights had a rare off week during the AAC Title game. They had won the previous two and Saturday the Memphis Tigers won this one, avoiding the Knights. UCF, however, still won 9 games and will look to make it 10 in the bowl game. They will head an hour south to play Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

Many wanted the Knights to draw an in-state team like FSU or Miami; instead, it will be Marshall. It is important for UCF to end the year strong with a decisive victory.

Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins didn’t win this past weekend over the New York Jets. They did, though, show a lot in this contest. For a team that looked down and out the whole first half of the season, they have completely turned it around.

If it wasn’t for a late review on pass interference, the Dolphins likely would have won their fourth game in their last six. Head coach Brian Flores was livid after the game, and that heart and passion has put his name in the running for coach of the year.

No, he won’t win the award, but what he and this team have done has been impressive with the lack of talent on the roster.

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