How Bout them Bucs?
Few saw it coming but the Bucs, who many gave up for dead a few weeks ago, have now won two in row, the second of those victories coming in the form of a 24-17 outlasting of the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
The hero this time?
The defense, and in particular safety Andrew Adams, who became the first Buccaneer to pick off three passes in a game since Aqib Talib did it in a loss to the Redskins in 2009.
Adams three-pick effort was part of a continued resurgence by the Bucs defense, which has actually been on quite an impressive role since the Bucs fired former coordinator Mike Smith and replaced him with Mark Duffner.
The Bucs went into Sunday’s game ranked second in the NFL in sacks (22), fifth in third-down defense and 12th in total yards allowed since that move was made, which makes it difficult to argue with.
About the only thing the Bucs haven’t done consistently well with Duffner at the helm is take the ball away, but with two takeaways last week against San Francisco and four more Sunday, they’re starting to do that as well.
Here’s something else, the Bucs are allowing an average of only 16 points per game at home this year, and that’s including the games when Smith was in charge. The problem is, they’re allowing 38.6 points per game on the road.
This uptick in performance is just the kind of thing the Bucs owners like to see, which makes you wonder if head coach Dirk Koetter just might be able to hold on to his job after all.
The foregone conclusion for weeks is that Koetter will be fired at the end of the year, but a strong finish could change all that. And considering the way the Bucs are playing right now, maybe it should.
Let’s face it, few teams can produce yards and points with the Bucs and Koetter deserves most of the credit for that. If the defense can keep playing the way it has under Duffner, there’s cause to keep him as well.
It all makes for what should be an interesting finish to what was once a lost forgettable season for a team that is no longer in the cellar and, believe it or not, still in the playoff race.
The Jameis Winston redemption tour rolls on. Winston turned in another strong performance Sunday, completing 20-of-30 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 114.4 passer rating.
The TD passes gave Winston 81 for his career, which are the most in franchise history, one more than Josh Freeman, which is sure to elicit plenty of wise-ass remarks.
Those remarks may be valid, but the bottom line is that this was further proof that Winston can indeed be the franchise quarterback the Bucs want and need him to be and why it would be a mistake to quit on him at this point.
Winston is far from a finished product, but if the Bucs cannot guarantee they can procure a better quarterback before the start of next season, there’s no reason not to stick with Winston, for at least another year.
Boy, the Bucs really missed DeSean Jackson on Sunday, huh? Well, actually, they didn’t. Look, it’s glaringly apparent that Winston and Jackson have very little chemistry together. But that makes Jackson the outlier on this team.
On Sunday, for example, Chris Godwin caught five of the six passes thrown his way, Mike Evans caught four of six; Adam Humphries caught seven of nine and Came Brate caught three of six while dropping two.
It seems pretty obvious that Winston has a good chemistry with just about everyone on his team except Jackson, which makes you wonder if Jackson will or even should play again this year.
Jackson missed Sunday’s game because of a sore thumb, but the Bucs didn’t need him to beat the Panthers and you really have to wonder if they’ll need him to beat anyone else left on the schedule.
A lot of people criticize DT Gerald McCoy for not making enough big plays. Whether he does or doesn’t is debatable but one thing that’s certain is that when McCoy does make a play, it really is impactful.
Take, for example, the quarterback pressure he recorded midway through the fourth quarter Sunday. It was that pressure that created the duck of a pass that Adams picked off for his second interception.
Adams went on to grab another one of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s passes, and for those keeping score at home, he had more picks in one game (three) than Darell Revis (two) had during his entire Bucs tenure.
Bucs QB Winston in limbo with injured thumb
The Bucs are very much concerned and waiting to see the status of quarterback Jameis Winston injured thumb suffered in Sunday’s wild victory over the Colts.
And they have to be prepared to be without their starting quarterback this weekend in Detroit.
First, credit to Pewterreport.com which was at teammate Mike Evans’ charity bowling event Monday evening, and where the fifth year quarterback participated bowling left-handed with a brace seen on his right hand and thumb:
#Bucs QB Jameis Winston bowling at his teammate @MikeEvans13_ charity bowling event tonight in Tampa to raise money for Mike’s foundation. Winston was wearing a brace on his right hand, and bowled his left. pic.twitter.com/fsIAXIc9fc
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) December 10, 2019
Winston injured the thumb at some point late in the second quarter of the 38 – 35 victory over Indianapolis. Coach Bruce Arians relayed after the game that Winston came out for the second half warm up and couldn’t grip the ball, when he was trying to get ready for the third quarter.
He went inside for an x-ray and backup quarterback Ryan Griffin ran the team for the first series of the second half. Winston returned and threw for over 200 yards in the second half including the game-winning touchdown to Breshad Perriman in the final five minutes of the game.
After the game Arians revealed that Winston had what he described as “a slight, slight crack in the thumb” that showed up on the X-ray.
On Monday afternoon at his regular news conference, the Buccaneers coach said that it would be day by day evaluation, that Winston had swelling on the thumb and would be getting a second opinion from a specialist:
"We’re going to come, we’re going to work. We’re going to try to win four in a row, five in a row and then six in a row.”
➡️: HC Bruce Arians pic.twitter.com/XrdtIA2yQQ
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 9, 2019
The injury comes at a time of great debate about whether Winston will be kept on for the Buccaneers beyond this season.? He’s currently playing on the 5th year option of his rookie contract for $20 million.
As we wrote last week, Arians made it clear that the evaluation will begin after the season as to whether Winston will be back for 2020 and long-term.
The former number one overall pick is still leading the NFL in interceptions this season with 23, but he is also second in the NFL in touchdown passes and yardage. And, the Bucs have responded with three straight wins late in the year to keep their NFC wild-card hopes barely alive.
Tampa Bay had hoped use veteran Blaine Gabbert, if something happened to Winston, but Gabbert was hurt in the preseason with a separated left shoulder, placed on injured reserve and will not be able to be activated down the stretch of the season.
So that means if Winston cannot play, Griffin, a six year veteran who has played well in the last two preseasons, will be expected to get his first start Sunday.
Bucs-Winston overcome miscues to win third straight
It wasn’t easy and there were plenty of self-inflicted mistakes, but the Bucs found a way to come from behind, and defeat the Colts for a third consecutive victory Sunday.
Tampa Bay turned the ball over four times and found themselves trailing by double-figure twice, but QB Jameis Winston threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with under four minutes to play and the Buccaneers defense held up to improve their record to 6 – 7.
On a day in which Winston threw for a career-high 456 yards, it actually started horribly This as, he threw an interception, once again, on the opening possession of the game. Darius Leonard’s pick led to a Jacoby Brissett 48 yard touchdown to Marcus Williams and a quick 7-0 lead. It was the third time in five games that Winston has thrown an int on the first Bucs drive.
Winston threw another interception later in the second quarter that was returned by Leonard 80 yards for a score and the Colts led 24-14.
Undaunted, Winston continued to gun-sling finishing 456 yards passing for a career-high yardage and four touchdowns, including a second half score to reserve receiver Justin Watson. And then, he threw the eventual game-winning 12 yarder to Perriman.
#Bucs take the lead!
Jameis connects with Breshad Perriman 🎯#INDvsTB
— PFF (@PFF) December 8, 2019
The Colts gave away two opportunities to potentially put the game away. First, when backup running back Nyheim Hines fumbled inside the Tampa Bay 20 with 10 minutes remaining, and then, later new rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin ,who replaced Adam Vinatieri who’s dealing with an injured knee, hit the right upright on 47 yard field goal that would have put in the Colts up by 7 late in the game.
Winston led the go-ahead drive from there, going 63 yards in eight plays and including converting a fourth down with a pass of 4 yards to Dare Ogunbawale. The touchdown to Perriman came on the very next play.
Tampa Bay stopped Brissett and the Colts on fourth down at midfiled with 1:45 remaining, when DE Jason Pierre Paul hit the QB’s arm. The ball fluttered in the air, Brissett caught it and then desperately and illegally tried to throw it a second time forward to another teammate. That pass was incomplete.
The Bucs ran out the clock for their second win at home this season.
The Buccaneers playoff hopes were all but dashed even in victory, though, as the Minnesota Vikings won their 9th game on Sunday. That means that even if the Buccaneers win out, they can no longer catch the Vikes in a head to head tiebreaker in the NFC race. Tampa Bay could benefit from a multi-team tie at 9-7, but likely not.
Still, first year Bruce Arians team is certainly playing hard, and at the right times with three games to go