TAMPA – Football folks have a name they give to only the best of players, those rare few who have displayed the ability to change a game anytime they’re on the field.
Those players are called “game wreckers’’ and despite the fact his game Sunday against the Buccaneers will only be his third in the NFL, former FSU running back Dalvin Cook has already earned that moniker.
He has from Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith, whose notion was seconded by five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy this week as the Bucs prepared to take on Cook and the Vikings.
“He is a game-wrecker,’’ McCoy said of Cook. “I mean, he destroyed New Orleans (22 carries, 127 yards) and he had some big runs last week (against Pittsburgh, 12 carries, 64 yards).
“The thing about him is, he’s not a ‘run-and-get-out-of-bounds’ kind of guy. He’s a ‘get-that-extra-couple-yards’ kind of guy. Anybody like that, you’ve got to bring your big-boy pants with you.’’
The Bucs had to bring their big-boy pants to their season opener against the Bears last week, too, and they did. They limited Jordan Howard and (9 carries, 7 yards) and Tarik Cohen (7, 13) to just 20 yards on 16 carries.
That effort included six tackles for a loss on a day in which the Bucs allowed the Bears to produce just one first down via the run. The challenge Cook presents, though, is much different, Smith said.
“No disrespect to the Bears back that we played last week, but I think (Cook) is a different type of back,’’ Smith said of the Vikings 5-foot-10, 210-pound rookie second-round draft pick. “He’s a little bit bigger.
“And I don’t know that (Cook) has the quicks that we faced last week. But he is a stronger running back. He runs well behind his pads. He has already had two runs of 30 yards or more.
“I mean, all you’ve got to do is show that clip to the team and they’ve got respect for him right away. That’s how good he is. So yeah, we consider him a game-wrecker.’’
Cook can wreck a game in more ways than one. Though he has only caught five passes for 10 yards so far, the Bucs appear to have as much respect for his ability to hurt them as a pass catcher as they do a runner.
“Yeah, he can catch, too, so you’ve got that to worry about,’’ McCoy said. “And when they stretch the ball out, he looks for that hole and once he gets downhill, I mean he’s getting downhill in a hurry.
“And he’s not getting downhill and avoiding contact. When he gets going he really gets going, so yeah, he can wreck your game, just like Coach said. He’s a game-wrecker and we’ve got to be ready for him.’’
Bucs win fourth straight whipping hapless Lions Sunday
For the fourth consecutive game, the Tampa Bay Bucs put together four full quarters and this time, beat a struggling Detroit team 38-17 in the Motor City Sunday.
Quarterback Jameis Winston once again through an early interception, but then, also once again, played brilliantly afterwards, throwing for 458 yards and four touchdowns as the Bucs led 21 – 0 in the first half.
Showing no ill effects from a tiny thumb fracture on his throwing hand, Winston hooked up with Breshad Perriman (above) on the first of two first half scores for a 7 – 0 lead. Then, after a franchise record 99-yard drive, found rookie Scottie Miller on an 33 yard touchdown and it was 14 – 0.
Winston’s third score of the first half was also to Perriman wide open from 25 yards and he topped 300 yards in passing in half number one.
Tampa Bay took a 24 – 3 early in the third, but then the Lions behind rookie free agent quarterback David Blough made a bit of a rally. Blough led two scoring drives that were capped by fellow rookie Wes Hills taking them in from a yard out for TDs and it was 24 – 17 early in the fourth quarter
The Lions actually got the ball back and looked like they might have a chance to go tie the game but that’s when, Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting jumped in front of a Blough pass on the Lions sideline and raced 70 yards untouched for what turned out to be the clinching score. Winston added a third touchdown pass to Perriman in the final three minutes to provide the final margin.
In the win Winston made NFL history, as the first quarterback to ever throw for 450 yards or more in back-to-back games. And, he has all but solidified that he will be brought back as the quarterback for 2020 with the way that he has played down the stretch the season.
Despite throwing his lead reading 24th interception in the first quarter, Winston is in the top free in touchdown passes and yardage, and the Bucs are coming on strong late.
It’s the first time they’ve won four times in a row, since the end of the 2016 season, when they won five straight games. And, Tampa Bay has now levelled their record to 7 – 7. It is only the second time in the last 7 seasons the Bucs have won at least seven games. The Lions loss is their seventh straight and 10th in 11 games.
The Buccaneers will come back home for a special Saturday afternoon game with the AFC South leading Houston Texans. Houston was victorious in Nashville Sunday and will be looking for a win trying to secure a playoff spot.
Bucs in Detroit leads our NFL primer
Three weeks to go in the NFL regular season and all three state NFL teams are in action in winnable situations.
First, the Buccaneers try to level their record at 7 – 7 and win their fourth game in a row, as they travel to take on the lowly Detroit Lions. All eyes will be on quarterback Jameis Winston, who suffered a tiny fracture in his throwing thumb late in the first half of last week’s 38-35 win over the Colts.
After initially missing the first series of the second half while having a thumb x-rayed, Winston came back and led the Buccaneers to a 17-point rally, including throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman the final 5 minutes. Coach Bruce Arians declared Winston ready to go after he was able to throw the ball in Friday practice.
Tampa Bay will be without star wide receiver Mike Evans with a pulled hamstring suffered in the win last week and maybe, without starting left tackle Donovan Smith, who suffered a knee injury Sunday and could not practice this week. Smith is listed as doubtful for the game.
Meanwhile, the Lions are struggling mightily having lost six games in a row and are down to 3rd string quarterback David Blough and backup running backs. This is a very winnable game for the Buccaneers inside of Ford Field.
As for the Dolphins, they’re back in the Meadowlands for the second consecutive week in a scheduling quirk. Seven days after losing in heartbreaking fashion 22 – 21 to the Jets on a last-second field goal, they will play MetLife Stadium’s other tenant, the New York Giants.
The Dolphins have played much better football down the stretch of the season and had they taken advantage of the five red-zone opportunities last week with something other than Jason Sanders field goals, we would probably be talking about a fourth win in five games for them.
Miami gave wide receiver DeVante Parker a lucrative contract extension on Friday, but he is questionable to play after suffering a concussion last week and will be a game-time decision. As for the Giants, they have gone back to veteran QB Eli Manning, who was benched earlier in the year in favor of rookie QB Daniel Jones.
Manning lead the Giants out to a 17 – 3 lead in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football only to see the offense stall and the Eagles rally to win in overtime.
This is also one of several teams that Miami is competing with for a better draft position next April, but you get the sense that Brian Flores’ team is not worried about that right now.
Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars stumble into Oakland for an historic final game for the Raiders at their home for the last 60 years.
The Jags have lost five straight games and Coach Doug Marrone acknowledged this week that he and everyone in the front office and on the field is on notice that they may be out of a job. The Jaguars benched Nick Foles after the first half of the loss two weeks ago to Tampa Bay, but QB Gardner Minshew got very little going on offense last week in their blowout loss at home to the Chargers.
It would not be surprising if Minshew struggles again this afternoon, that Marrone turns back to Foles try to spark the team.
As for the Raiders that they were looking good in the AFC playoff picture at 6 – 4, but have now lost three straight games including a blowout loss to Tennessee at home last week, which has all but eliminated them
Derek Carr and the Raider offense will look to take advantage of a poor and banged up Jacksonville defense that has been surrendering over 25 points a game each of the last five weeks.
The Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas next year and this is their final scheduled game to be played in the nostalgic Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. So the Jags will be the answer to a trivia question, as well.
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