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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs open sharp then let one slip away

Roy Cummings

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Aug 24, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) celebrates his sack on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (not pictured) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve made it quite clear that while the preseason generally doesn’t mean much, this preseason does have some meaning for the Buccaneers. The Bucs, we believe, needed to establish a culture of winning during this preseason and they can still do that, but it’s going to take some work now.

After winning their first two games of the preseason, the Bucs dropped a 33-30 decision to the Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night. What’s really bad about that is that at one point, the Bucs led 27-6.

This is one the Bucs let get away. With that in mind, let’s look back at what stood out about the Bucs play against the Lions.

Running back Peyton Barber just seems to get better every week. He went into Friday night’s game having run 10 times for 53 yards through the Bucs first two preseason games and he continued to chalk up yards at that pace, running five times for 34 yards and a touchdown on the Bucs first drive.

Barber, who was running behind a largely makeshift offensive line, was responsible for keeping that opening drive alive, turning an early third-and-1 into an 8-yard gain. His 14-yard touchdown run came on a third-and_1 play as well.

Barber has been one of the best players in a Bucs uniform all preseason and there’s nothing to suggest he can’t be that during the regular season as well.

The Bucs got a little of the old FitzMagic out of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in this one. The projected starter for the first three games of the regular season was razor sharp, completing six of seven passes for 82 yards during his lone quarter of play.

Fitzpatrick, who struggled a week ago after performing splendidly in the preseason opener led the Bucs to their first score of the game and was sharp even on his lone incompletion, opting to throw the ball away after scrambling out of the pocket.

If Fitzpatrick can play like this during that three-game stretch to start the season the Bucs won’t have any complaints.

Another strong outing from quarterback Jameis Winston. He was under pressure a lot during the second quarter of play but still managed to complete six of 10 passes for 60 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions for a 110 passer rating. Winston has now thrown three touchdown passes against no picks this preseason.

This is as sharp as he’s looked since coming to the NFL. It’s just a shame he has to miss the first three games of the season. The Bucs can only hope that he plays this well when he comes back, If he does, he’ll eliminate any concern the Bucs or their fans might have about sticking with him as their franchise quarterback.

How about that Bucs return game?

Aug 24, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Adam Humphries (10) returns a missed field goal attempt by Detroit Lions punter Matt Prater (not pictured) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 24, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Adam Humphries (10) returns a missed field goal attempt by Detroit Lions punter Matt Prater (not pictured) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did rookie running back Shaun Wilson return four kicks for 113 yards (a 28.3-yards-per-return average), but Adam Humphries finished off the first half by returning a 63-yard missed field goal attempt for 109 yards and a touchdown. That return by Humphries was worth the price of admission, and we all know admission prices for preseason games are ridiculously high.

You have to hand it to the Bucs first-team defense. They were strong when they had to be yet again in this one. Despite allowing the Lions to reach the red zone during each of their first two possessions, the Bucs forced Detroit to settle for field goals on both of those drives. Not only that, but the pass rush came to life.

The Bucs first-team D generated very little pressure in the first two preseason games but recorded three sacks of Matthew Stafford in the first half alone in this one. Rookie safety Jordan Whitehead, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Will Gholston scored the takedowns for a unit that has looked stronger than it’s been given credit for this preseason.

Ronald Jones’ struggles continued Friday. After running 12 times for 11 yards through the first two preseason games, the rookie running back out of USC ran six times for just seven yards against the Lions.

You could argue that Jones struggles aren’t all his own doing. After all, he was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on nine of his 12 carries prior to Friday, per ProFootballFocus and that trend continue against the Lions.

That said, Jones is not running with any authority whatsoever. He’s feeling his way and while it still seems unlikely that he’ll be cut, there’s a growing possibility that if this continues, the Bucs will pick up a running back off the street to back up Barber.

Another missed PAT for kicker Chandler Catanzaro in this one. We remind you that he was a perfect 29-for-29 on PATs last year.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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