Jameis Winston has done it again to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the fan base. With a new coaching staff, it was supposed to be different. Bruce Arians and new OC, Byron Leftwich were supposed to be able to mold Jameis into the QB he was drafted to be. They were supposed to be able to tame the turnover beast that is Winston’s alter ego.
One game into the 2019 NFL season it seems that that may not be the case, after all.
Yes, it was only one game, and it is only week one under the new regime.
Yes, the offensive line is not particularly very good, and the 49ers had an active defensive line. But, at this point, it is a problem. And, today? This was a breaking point for a lot of people.
This is Jameis Winston's 17th career game with multiple interceptions, passing Blake Bortles for most in the league since Winston entered the NFL in 2015. pic.twitter.com/2jiXnz9E8w
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 8, 2019
The First INT of the day wasn’t all on him though. O.J. Howard had the ball bounce off of his hands and into the hands of a linebacker.
The second interception was terrible. With a 5-wide set, the Bucs puzzlingly had RB Peyton Barber on the outside matched up on Richard Sherman. This didn’t go well, as you would expect, and Winston threw a pass that looked like it was meant to be an out route that ended up right in the hands of Sherman. And, he took it to the house as Barber sat his route and didn’t break out.
The third pick is the one that sealed the fate of a lot of Bucs fans. Down 6 with the ball with a little over two minutes left, the Bucs had a chance to win the game. Winston could right the wrongs of the day and get a signature moment for his career.
To start the drive the Bucs called a running back screen that the 49ers sniffed out. With RB Dare Ogunbowale smothered by white and gold Winston was also pressured by the D-line. However, instead of throwing the ball away or even into the ground, he elected to try to somehow find Oguenbowale, who could hardly, if at all, be seen on our T.V. screens or in the stands in the mass of bodies.
The pass was floated over the RB and lineman and picked off by the Niner’s Ahkello Witherspoon who raced 25 yards for the return, and easily into the endzone for the second pick six of the second half.
This was a pass that a 5th year QB just CAN NOT MAKE. Period.
You can not make that kind of throw, that late into a game and not expect the doubters to come for you.
The Bucs this offseason will have a decision to make.
Winston will be up for a new deal and plays like that one and games like today, are just making it easier and more comfortable for the Bucs to go in a new direction. Winston his whole career has delivered great plays like his touchdown to Chris Godwin earlier in the third quarter, to crazy plays like the one called back to Cameron Brate, but to downright bone-headed ones like today’s last pick.
With a short week coming up with a trip to Carolina on Thursday, Winston will need to tighten up. We have heard him say multiple times the games are on him, he needs to do better, and he needs to take care of the ball.
At the end of the day, we have not seen those things happen for a full stretch of games consistently.
Winston is playing for his Bucs future, and the front office and scouting department are probably already planning trips out to Tuscaloosa, Eugene, and Athens.
With 15 more games to go this season, Jameis Winston, you are already on the clock.
Bucs will face two former head coaches at once Sunday
On the surface, the Bucs matchup with the Falcons that has both teams sitting at 3 – 7 doesn’t appear to have a lot of intrigue or subplots However, it is history-making for Tampa Bay and for their opponent.
That’s because, for the first time In franchise history the Bucs will go against a team that has two of their former head coaches on the opposing sideline at the same time.
Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (above) was previously Tampa Bay’s head coach from 2016 – 2018. He was fired at the end of last season after back-to-back 5 – 11 finishes. Koetter has returned to Atlanta, where he was the offensive coordinator prior to coming to the Buccaneers in the same role in 2015.
The Falcons offense had been struggling, as the team began the year 1-7, but has come on strong the last two weeks behind perennial Pro Bowl QB, Matt Ryan.
And, Tampa Bay will see another one of their former coaches, Raheem Morris, on Sunday in Atlanta, too. Morris has been switched in midseason to the new secondary coach for the Falcons. He had been serving as the wide receivers coach for the past few seasons under coach, Dan Quinn.
The move has already paid off, as Atlanta’s secondary has seen improved play, as has the defense overall, in back-to-back victories at New Orleans and that Carolina. In those two games since the switch was made, Atlanta has not allowed a touchdown in either.
Morris was the Bucs head coach from 2009 – 11 and is the last coach to have a 10-win season for Tampa Bay. That came in 2010 when the Buccaneers finished 10 – 6. Greg Schiano, and Lovie Smith were both fired after two losing Seasons at the helm. Then, Koetter actually had a winning season at 9 -7 in 2016, but then the team regressed.
For his part, the new Falcons offensive coordinator said to the media this week that he will approach this game with his most recent team, as just any other game. And, that he’s actually a fan of Jameis Winston’s “except for the two games out of the year.” Those would be the ones where, they play Atlanta starting now.
Morris has kept a low profile and hasn’t had much to say, but his defense has done the talking the last two games.
If you are wondering, the last time the Bucs faced a former head coach before this weekend was in 2003. That’s when they very famously suffered a 21-point fourth-quarter collapse and lost to Tony Dungy (whom they had fired two years before), Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in overtime on Monday Night Football.
As for Winston, he currently leads the NFL with 18 interceptions and despite having thrown for 300 yards or more in each of the last five games for the Buccaneers, they have only won one of them.
So now, the pressure will be on for he and his teammates to try to get back on the winning track in a hostile Mercedes-Benz Stadium with two of their former coaches staring back at them.
Bucs coordinator Leftwich defended his offense Thursday
On the heels of a 34 – 17 defeat to the Saints that dropped the Bucs to 3 – 7, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich had his weekly scheduled media session Thursday. And, he did his best in trying to defend some of their shortcomings they’ve had.
"We’re trying to win every time we go out, and whatever the situation holds within the game, we’re going to do that to try to win the football game.”
➡️: OC Byron Leftwich pic.twitter.com/icf5qLsDNP
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 21, 2019
Most interestingly were when the subjects of the Bucs lack of run game balance came up and the struggles with Jameis Winston’s interceptions.
First on the lack of mixing the run (Tampa Bay ran it only six times with running backs in Sunday’s defeat) Leftwich told the media,
“We were just down early (13-0 in the first quarter). When you’re trying to win the game when it’s like that? You’re not going to have a lot of rushing attempts in that situation. It’s just how the game went.”
Still, the lack of a consistent run game has been obvious all year for Tampa Bay, and it also hinders them wanting to use play action passing.
Next, when he was pressed about Winston’s career-high 18 interceptions through 10 games, Leftwich deflected off of that by saying,
“I think we’re better as a whole…We’re trying to win football games. We’re doing things to put ourselves in the best position to win football games. When that doesn’t happen, it allows you guys (the media) to have this conversation, right? But, if we’re winning football games, it’s different, because all the numbers are not bad, right? …It’s just what you choose to pick. We got to have awareness on where we are not as good and try to improve on that.”
Some of the numbers are good, as Winston has thrown for 300+ yards, five games in a row, which is Tampa Bay record. And, WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are at the top of the NFL in combined receptions and yards.
As we wrote earlier this week, it’s the first time that coach Bruce Arians has not called the plays while being an offensive coordinator and a head coach over the course of the last 15 years in the NFL. And, there are many wondering if he shouldn’t take back over the play-calling down the stretch of this season?
For his part Leftwich made it clear in a joking manner that Arians has not let him know that anything is wrong, but that he would if he did feel that way,
“I know if he felt I was doing something wrong, he’d let me know. (Laughing) if he (Arians) felt something wasn’t going the right way, he’d let me know. That, I know.”
The Bucs head into Atlanta with a Falcons team that has stifled the Saints and the Panthers in back-to-back games, holding each without a TD. And, it will be a challenge for Leftwich, Winston, the Run game and the offense as a whole, to get it done this week.
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