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Bucs turn back to “Fitz-magic,” but rally comes up short

Roy Cummings

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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Sunday started with the news breaking that Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson had not just asked for a trade, he’d demanded one. By the end of the day, Jackson had reason to rescind that request.

It’s uncertain what was behind Jackson’s original request, but if it had anything to do with the fact the Bucs had moved on from his preference of Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, well, that may no longer be an issue.

Largely on the arm of Fitzpatrick, the Bucs rallied from 21-points down in the first half to tie the Bengals before losing 37-34 on a last-second 44-yard Randy Bullock field goal.

The loss left the Bucs at 3-4 on the year, which does nothing for their fast fading playoff hopes, but Fitzpatrick’s play should earn him the opportunity to lead this team back into the race.

So, let’s break this one down:

This game was lost in the first half, when the Bengals built a 27-9 halftime edge and the Bucs played the kind of ball that gets coaches and general manager fired.

The Bucs did nothing in that half to suggest they’re getting better. Once again, their defense was porous and mistake-prone; they struggled to move the ball on offense and gave it away too often, and the kicking game was inconsistent. This team looked like it was regressing at that point.

That they rallied will probably save jobs, but the regression that was evident throughout the first half is just the kind of thing the Glazer family looks at when it contemplates making major changes.

He who hesitates is lost, and the Bucs lost on Sunday because coach Dirk Koetter hesitated to bring Ryan Fitzpatrick into the game. Koetter said after the game that he thought about bringing Fitzpatrick in after starter Jameis Winston threw his second interception. He waited, however, until after Winston threw two more picks, including a pick-six that gave the Bengals a 34-16 lead.

Koetter continued that he isn’t ready to make a decision regarding who his quarterback will be next week, but it seems obvious that if he wants to keep this season from going completely off the rails, he’ll start Fitzpatrick.

The biggest reason Winston needs to take a seat is because he is clearly regressing. Winston made big strides in his last five games last year and for what it’s worth he carried that over into the preseason this year.

Overall, however, he hasn’t been the same since returning from his three-game suspension at the start of the season. If Winston doesn’t pick his game back up soon the Bucs may have little choice but to permanently move on from out of fear that, much like Sunday, he will become more of a liability than an asset.

So, does anyone miss Mike Smith yet?

Oct 28, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans react in the stands during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

OK, no one is going to go that far. But the fact of the matter is, the Bucs defense doesn’t look all that better under new coordinator Mark Duffner than it did under Smith.

Granted, it’s only been a couple of games but the Bengals are ordinary at best offensively and the Bucs allowed them to look special at times on Sunday.

Sure, the Bucs forced a string of three-and-outs in the second half, but so what?

They couldn’t keep the Bengals from moving into field goal position when they needed to at the end, so really, little has changed here

It’s hard to win football games when you’re penalized as much as the Bucs were on Sunday. The Bucs were flagged 11 times for 75 yards, and the biggest culprits were defensive and offensive linemen. Bucs D-linemen were flagged five times for offsides or encroachment Sunday, with four of those being accepted.

The offensive line wasn’t any better.

That unit was called four times for penalties that wiped out sizeable gains. The Bucs were even called for delay of game on the play in which the Bengals finally moved into field-goal position at the end of the game. It’s hard to know for sure, but on a wind day, those extra 5 yards may have been the difference between Bullock making and missing that game-winning kick.

The problems with the offensive line go far deeper than the penalties they earned on Sunday. That unit allowed six sacks, nine QB hits and constantly forced the quarterback it’s supposed to be protecting to scramble out of trouble on Sunday. This O-line was supposed to be a Bucs strength this year. It has been anything but so far, and that has to change

Peyton Barber ran once again on Sunday with the authority that earned him the starting running back job in the first place. Good thing, too, because it looks like the Bucs may have to lean on him even more going forward.

Rookie Ronald Jones left the game early with a sore hamstring and injuries of that sort tend to take a while to heal. Depending on the severity of it, Jones’ sore hammy could bring a premature end to what has been a very disappointing season.

Jason Pierre-Paul had two more sacks on Sunday and now has eight on the year. He’s almost certain to become the first Buccaneer since Simeone Rice in 2005 to record 10 or more sacks. That will no doubt satisfy a lot of fans who have eagerly awaited the addition of anyone capable of recording sacks in that fashion but JPP’s likely accomplishment just goes to show that individual sack totals really don’t matter. If JPP gets 15 sacks and the Bucs finish the year with the most forgiving defense in the NFL, what will have been gained?

We’ve said this before but it bears repeating yet again: the Bucs are no better off with Chandler Catanzaro as their kicker than they were with Roberto Aguayo or Nick Folk. Catanzaro missed yet another PAT on Sunday – his third in 20 tries – and the Bucs never really recovered.

Oh, sure, they rallied to tie the game late, but the Bucs wound up chasing that point all day, and who knows how the game would have turned out had he made it.

The trade deadline is Tuesday. The Bucs said Sunday they have no plans to move Jackson, but at 3-4 they may have no choice but to change their minds. There are sure to be a lot of internal discussions over the course of the next 48 hours about where this season is headed, so don’t be surprised if the Bucs ship out not only Jackson but a few other players worthy of a draft pick.

The Bucs are at a crossroads and based on their incredible lack of consistency on the field, it may be time to look further into the future.

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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Fantasy Football “Start/Sit” for Florida players Week 14

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Everyone’s favorite time of year has arrived, that is if you had a good season. The fantasy playoffs are here, and if you made it, chances are some Florida players helped get there.

This week the Buccaneers will host the reeling Colts. The Jaguars will host the under-performing Chargers, and the Dolphins travel to play the ever-disappointing Jets.

The Buccaneers will entertain the Colts, who have the 13th overall defense. The Colts are 1-4 in their last five games and desperately need a win. Last week, they were torched on the ground by Titans RB Derick Henry. However, this was the first 100-yard rusher against the Colts this season.

The Bucs again surprised fantasy players last week, when Ronald Jones was benched in the first half for not picking up a blitz. This led to Peyton Barber scoring two touchdowns, while Jones had zero points. The Colts have surrendered two passing touchdowns in each of their last three games. Last week the Tampa Bay offense didn’t have to do nearly as much as usual.

This week, expect the Bucs vertical passing to be back throwing the ball at least 35 times. With a stout run defense, Jameis Winston will need to be at the top of his game in a big test for this Bucs team.

The Jaguars offense has been rough through the air with Nick Foles back. Now, Foles is back on the bench in favor of rookie, Gardner Minshew. The Chargers come into town with the 4th ranked pass defense, but let Drew Lock and Cortland Sutton connect for 74 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers own the 18th ranked rush defense, and that is music to the ears of Leonard Fournette.

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the running back facing some stout run defenses. This weekend look for Fournette to get back on track. With the return of Minshew means the D.J. Chark becomes even more attractive. Chark was still the top guy with Foles in, but he and Minshew have a good connection.

The Dolphins are coming off one of the stunners of the year beating the Eagles in a 37-31 shootout. This week they set their sights on the Jets, who just gave the Bengals their first win. The Jets have the leagues’ best-run defense, which is usually significant. However, the Dolphins can’t run the ball effectively at all.

That means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be throwing a lot against the 19th ranked pass defense.

Last week Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker destroyed the Eagles secondary. This week they will have all the opportunities to do the same thing to the Jets. With the tight end position a mess, Mike Gesicki is an option again, who has scored in two straight games.

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Colts Kicker Adam Vinateri out for Bucs game

Abbey Radeka

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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The Colts are traveling to Tampa Bay but will likely take on the Bucs without their future Hall of Fame Kicker, Adam Vinatieri.

Before the matchup last week against the Titans, Vinatieri had began to experience a bit of pain in his left knee, the leg he plants to kick with his right leg. He told reporters that the pain began to increase through the week which led him to be placed on the Colt’s injury report for the first time this season.

Later Friday afternoon, Indy made Vinatieri’s “out” status official:

Vinatieri who is currently the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, has struggled to be consistent this season and has made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts. He’s cost the Colt’s a couple of games in his missed eight field goals and six extra points.

Colts head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that Vinatieri saw some doctors and got scans to figure out the severity of the problem. From there, they’ll consult with doctors and make a decision, which could potentially end his career. He’s currently sitting at 599 made FGs in his 24 seasons, just one shy of the 600 mark.

Earlier this week, Indianapolis secured rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers and the 45 year old Pro Bowler had said on Thursday that if he got the go ahead from everyone, he’d take the field on Sunday.

“Docs and trainers and everybody will put their two cents in and we’ll see if we can go,” Vinatieri said. “If I can go, I’ll go.”

Obviously, he did not get good news, and that means the rookie McLaughlin is in to kick at Raymond James Stadium.

The Colts are looking to stay in the race for the AFC wild card spot, in a similar situation as the Bucs, so this Sunday (and really every Sunday from here on out) is a do or die for both teams.

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