If you experienced a sense of déjà vu while watching the Buccaneers take on the Panthers on Sunday, you’re probably not alone. A growing majority of Bucs games have followed a pattern repeated Sunday and it’s not a good one.
Just as they did against the Steelers, Falcons and Bengals, the Bucs fell behind early against the Panthers, caught fire in the second half and made a game of it, then lost.
In this case, it was a 42-28 loss. The good news is the Bucs clearly have the ability to come back from almost any deficit, no matter how big. The bad news is they can’t completely overcome those large deficits.
As a result, the Bucs now stand at 3-5, which means they’ll have to stage a second-half rally much like those that they stage during their games to get back into the playoff race.
Their capable of doing it, but the problem now is that the Bucs are at a point where even a late rally probably won’t be enough to keep them from posting yet another losing season. So, let’s break this one down.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a very Jameis Winston-like game Sunday. He completed 24 of 43 passes for 243 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions and was fortunate a couple more of his throws didn’t wind up as picks.
The question that has to be asked now is, does he really give the Bucs the best chance to win?
Like Winston, Fitzpatrick has moments of brilliance, but he also has moments where he just looks ordinary. Given where they stand and what they’ve invested, it might be best for the organization to go back to Winston, if only because they need to be absolutely sure he’s not the answer before they give up on him.
Another reason it might not be a bad idea to go back to Winston is because, it really doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback now. Granted, turnovers have killed this team and Winston has turned the ball over more than Fitzpatrick has.
But if the defense can’t figure out a way to keep spotting opponents double-digit leads, the Bucs are always going to be chasing the score and there’s no way they’re going to win consistently doing that.
Back in the day, there was a coaching adage that said never try a two-point conversion after a touchdown until you absolutely have to. That adage has pretty much been done away, what with all the trouble kickers are having these days, but the same still holds true for fake punts.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter nevertheless ignored that rule Sunday and it cost him. The Bucs were down 28-7 when Koetter called for a fake punt from his own 26. The fake didn’t work and the Panthers took advantage, turning the mistake into a touchdown that gave them a 35-7 lead.
It’s only fair to explain that Koetter’s thinking on the fake punt was that at that point in the game, the Bucs needed to steal a possession. It’s usually the job of the defense to steal a possession or two, but the Bucs defense failed yet again on Sunday to take the ball away.
It’s pretty hard for a quarterback to play perfect football, but that’s the position the Bucs quarterbacks have been put in by their defense. If they’re not perfect, the Bucs lose.
It was only a couple weeks ago that the Bucs actually led the league in fewest missed tackles. That’s not the case anymore, not after this outing. Their inability to take the ball away aside, the Bucs biggest issue Sunday was their failure to tackle.
A Christian McCaffrey run of 35 yards in the second quarter was a great example. McCaffrey could have been stopped three times along that jaunt, including once for no gain. He wasn’t, though, and despite a series of Panthers mistakes that followed, his run down to the Bucs 1 set the stage for a critical Panthers score.
And while we’re hammering the defense, I don’t want to hear any noise about how great a job their doing a good job of making second-half adjustments. Good teams make adjustment in the second quarter.
If not sooner. The Bucs seeming inability to adjust prior to halftime has cost them at least three games this year, including Sunday’s.
The Bucs have an offense that can score almost at will.
In order for that offense to matter, though, it needs a defense that can keep the game close early as well as late.
It’s not just the defense that’s making life hard on the Bucs quarterbacks. Their running game isn’t helping them much either. If you take away the five runs for 23 yards that Fitzpatrick had, the Bucs ran 16 times for 59 yards (3.6 per carry), with 18 of those coming on a Peyton Barber run and 15 more coming on a Jacquizz Rodgers run.
It’s usually up to the defense to make an offense one-dimensional but the Bucs have managed to do that all by themselves.
I wonder how wide receiver DeSean Jackson feels about this switch back to Ryan Fitzpatrick now. He wasn’t even targeted in this game until 1:53 was left in the first half, and he wound up catching just two of the four passes thrown his way for 32 yards and no scores.
This isn’t like it is in hockey where there is a post-game selection of the three biggest stars of the game, but if there were, Bucs slot receiver Adam Humphries would be my pick for No. 1 star. Humphries caught all eight of the passes thrown to him for 82 yards and a touchdown and even ran the ball once for 7 yards. Humphries often gets lost in the shuffle of weapons the Bucs have at wide receiver and tight end but he’s as reliable and potent a pass catcher as the Bucs have.
I’m starting to wonder if the Bucs might be better off using cornerback Ryan Smith at safety. Smith can’t cover worth a darn, but he’s one of the better tacklers on the team. That’s one reasons he plays gunner on the punt team. This regime may not be around to try it but given his skill set, it might be worth giving Smith a shot at playing box safety and have him run downhill a little bit.
Bucs coach Arians again non-committal Tuesday on QB Winston
It’s become increasingly apparent, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to move on from potential free agent quarterback Jameis Winston. And Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, coach Bruce Arians gave the latest example that he and the Buccaneers front office will look at the other options available first.
Arians spoke at a podium on numerous subjects, but the most prominent is what Tampa Bay will do in the coming days with Winston?
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) February 25, 2020
Arians was asked directly about potential for a franchise tag for his starter a year ago and what the Bucs might proceed to do? But, he refused to endorse that option on the former number one overall pick Winston. And, the Bucs coach maintained that the team will possibly us the franchise tag for defensive end Shaq Barrett.
Further, Arians gave a pointed specific answer on Winston’s poor play last December as the team finished 7-9 and that has the team looking at other options,
Arians on Winston and why it’s still uncertain: “December wasn’t what I wanted to see.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) February 25, 2020
Arians has consistently refused back Winston since the off-season began. This included at an NFL coaching seminar earlier this month in Tampa. He said to the media at that time:
“Really nothing has changed,” Arians said. “What’s Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now.”
“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?
The Buccaneers faltered in the middle of the season to drop to 3-7 and then, Winston and Co. blew its final two games to finish 7 – 9 with Winston throwing a career-high 30 interceptions.
After their final loss at home to Atlanta in overtime, where Winston threw the game losing “pick six,” Arians was candid after the final game by saying about Winston’s play that it would have to be evaluated pass by pass and game by game in the off-season. Further, he told the media then, that there “was some great and some terrible…. and you have to decide, if the great outweighs the terrible.”
While Winston did throw for a career-high 5000 + yards in 2019, his interceptions and total turnovers continued to be his downfall throughout the season. The Buccaneers finished 1 – 6 in games against teams with winning records and Winston had 17 total turnovers in those seven games. He finished with the 30 picks that included 10 of them in the Bucs final four games.
Tampa Bay obviously will have the opportunity to go after a free agent quarterback or two, as there is much speculation about the likes of Tom Brady with the Patriots. Plus, Philip Rivers will not be re-signed by the Chargers and is available come March. And, now that Drew Brees has announced he wants to play at least one more year for the Saints, their backup Teddy Bridgewater will be in demand on the market.
The Bucs are also continuing the evaluating the QB class for the Draft the next few days in Indy, which could have some interesting names still available in the second and third rounds and beyond.
Bucs confirmed Monday they will have new uniforms in 2020
On Monday, the Bucs confirmed what they have been hinting at, they will have new uniforms in 2020. But the real question is: what does “new” mean in this instance?
We heard you!
New uniforms coming April 2020. pic.twitter.com/e7qNUsNWZb
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 24, 2020
The Bucs also released a statement through their website confirming that April will be the unveiling of the new uniforms, as well as, potential new color scheme, logo, etc. and had these comments from co – owner, Ed Glazer:
“We have heard the feedback from our fans loud and clear and have been working with the NFL and our league partners at Nike to usher in a new look as we enter this next decade of Buccaneers football. We look forward to revealing more details in the near future about our official unveiling event which will take place later this spring.”
As we wrote earlier this month, the Buccaneers have been hinting at trying to enhance their uniforms and there is some belief there will be more orange, the original color of the franchise. There is also educated speculation that the team may go back to a white helmet, which will enable them to have “throwback uniform games” that they’ve not been able to have for the last seven seasons.
This is because under league concussion protocol, players must have the same helmet all season and the Bucs primary one has been pewter in color since their chance in colors and logo in 1997,
The Bucs last altered their uniforms in 2014 by brightening the color red and slightly changing the logo and making it bigger on their pewter helmet. Teammates Ryan Jensen and Mike Evans are shown in the current color scheme, etc. above.
NFL teams have to submit changes in their colors and logos a year in advance. So obviously, this has been in the works for the Glazer family that owns the team for some time.
It should be noted that the Buccaneers NFC South Rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, have already made mention that they are changing their uniforms and color scheme. And, it’s believed that they will go back in 2020 to their original base color of red including possibly red helmets and potentially, primarily gray pants that they wore for over twenty years.
The Falcons have had black helmets for the better part of 30 years going back to Jerry Glanville changing the color scheme to primarily black jerseys in his days at the Falcons coach in the early 1990s.
Back to the Bucs. There is no other team in the NFL that has orange as their primary jersey color. The Bengals Broncos and Browns have occasionally worn orange “alternate jerseys” but not full time.
So, if the Glazers are again embracing a change to mostly orange jerseys, it will be unique. The video Monday showed a red jersey on a sewing machine, which could be a clue or could be misdirection of what the team actually intends to unveil in April.