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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rapid Recap – Concern for Winston, defense in wake of ugly Bucs loss

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

GLENDALE, AZ – You can say all you want about that nice 20-point rally the Buccaneers made here in the desert late Sunday afternoon. The bottom line is, they were never really in this game.

Not from the very first snap.

The worst thing about it is, that’s not even the biggest of their concerns.

When the final whistle blew on what proved to be a 38-33 loss to the Cardinals, one in which the Bucs trailed 31-0 early in the third quarter, their biggest concern was the condition of quarterback Jameis Winston. 

And their defense.

Let’s start with Winston. He was pulled from the game late in the second quarter and did not return after he suffered a right shoulder injury at the end of the Bucs first offensive series in the first quarter.

Winston’s throwing shoulder hit the ground hard when he was taken down while trying to complete a third-down pass to running back Charles Sims off a roll out to his right.

He returned to the game after testing the shoulder on the sidelines but in his last series he threw the ball away twice before watching a pass for tight end Cameron Brate fall incomplete because of a drop.

The Bucs were trailing 24-0 at the time Winston was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick so it’s possible Winston was pulled more or less as a precautionary measure after completing 5-of-10 passes for 61 yards.

As ordinary as that was, his was actually one of the better performances of the game for the Bucs, who from the opening kickoff just didn’t look like they were very well prepared for this game.

When the Bucs gave up 40 points to the Cardinals a year ago it was in part because Winston committed five turnovers and in part because the defense just wasn’t quite sure what it was doing.

There’s no was no leaning on either of those excuses this time around. Before he was pulled from the game, Winston had been ineffective but he hadn’t given the ball away.

The defense, meanwhile, was coming off a mostly impressive outing against the Patriots in which it allowed just 19 points to further extend a renaissance that began after the bye week last season.

The Bucs had supposedly figured out all the nuances to coordinator Mike Smith’s complex zone scheme, but their effort Sunday represented a significant step backwards. Veteran Pro Bowl defensive back Brent Grimes said after the game “it’s like we weren’t ready to play.”

The Cardinals took control of this game immediately, like on the very first play from scrimmage, when running back Adrian Peterson gained the first 8 of his 130 rushing yards.

One play later, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer completed the first of what would be 14 straight passes before one finally fell finally incomplete in the third quarter.

That first completion, by the way was to Larry Fitzgerald, who caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, including 128 yards and a touchdown in the first half as Arizona built a 24-0 halftime lead.

Peterson for his part accounted for two of the touchdowns in his remarkable Arizona debut:

That lead became 31-0 before the Bucs finally cut into it and they cut into it significantly, scoring 20 unanswered points, including six on a 21-yard Lavonte David fumble return, before the Cardinals got on the board again.

The Bucs rally, generated with veteran back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, included touchdown passes of 4 yards to DeSean Jackson and 10 yards to Cameron Brate, but they proved to be little more than window dressing.

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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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Embarrassing Monday night for NFL with roughing passer calls

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

As the old cliche’ goes, “too much of a good thing can be bad.” And unfortunately, with the NFL having safety in mind first in trying to protect quarterbacks, the emphasis and enforcement of “roughing-the-passer” has gone overboard.

And we mean overboard.

Like horiffic look on Monday Night Football between the Buccaneers and Steelers, overboard.

The Steelers won an important game for both teams 30-27, but there’s way too much conversation about the QB hits coming out of this game.

There were five personal foul calls by referee Pete Morelli and his crew against pass-rushers on a quarterback last night. In fairness, on the occasion that Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was scrambling in the first quarter and Steelers linebacker James Bostic clearly left his feet and hit him in the head (above), as he was attempting to slide down, it was correct.

That was a legitimate call that the NFL is emphasizing and trying to erase.

However, the argument can be made that on three of the other four calls of roughing either Fitzpatrick or Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the officials, and Morelli specifically, overreacted and made a call that should have been let go.

We at F.F.I. understand the point of emphasis that referees are being instructed to stop defenders from wrapping up a quarterback and driving him into the ground. More on a specific call about that in a second.

First, at the beginning of the second quarter and with the Steelers backed up near their own end zone, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy did exactly what players are being instructed to do. He let up and did not tackle Roethlisberger to the ground, avoiding landing on him after he threw the football.

And yet, Morelli threw his flag anyway.

On the play the Steelers had completed the pass to Juju Smith- Schuster for 43 yards, but still, it was an example of a call that did not meet the criteria and emphasis and should not have been made.

Later in the second quarter, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was flagged for a hitting Big Ben in  the head while Roethlisberger was in the pocket. However, it was clear both live and on the replay that Pierre-Paul made very little contact with his arm and Roethlisberger flopped to the ground.

Again, it should have been let go.

Now, with six minutes remaining in the first half, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an incomplete pass and Steelers defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt textbook grabbed him around the waist and drove him into the ground landing on him. This is the example that is exactly what the NFL wants called and Morelli got that one right.

However, by and large the calls were bad on this specific point of emphasis.

It’s obvious after the controversy involving the Packers Clay Matthews hit on the Redskins quarterback Alex Smith Sunday, where he drove him to the ground in the pocket on a sack, that the NFL is in “full spin mode” on making that call and doing it consistently.

Further, players are trying to adjust, not just McCoy last night, but also Dolphins defensive end William Hayes who was trying to keep from wrapping up Derek Carr Sunday and ended up tearing his ACL because of it.

The bottom line is in a stand-alone Monday Night Football national television game, it was not a good look for the NFL to repeatedly see flags on the field for roughing the quarterback that weren’t really roughing.

Take for example, this tweet on Tuesday morning from ESPN’s Booger McFarland who called the game from field level Monday night:

He’s right. The NFL and its ongoing evaluation has to reign in how and when roughing-the-passer is going to be called.

Otherwise, the officiating continues to be one of the main story lines, and no one pays to see the officials.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Steelers hung on as Fitzpatrick rally came up short

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

That old “FitzMagic” still has the NFL in it spell.

That old FitzMagic that Ryan Fitzpatrick weaves so well.

He was at it again on Monday. Just when it seemed as if that old FitzMagic had run its course, Fitzpatrick nearly pulled a victory out of the jaws of defeat, rallying the Bucs to within a field goal of their third triumph in as many weeks.

It didn’t happen. The Bucs wound up losing Monday, 30-27, in part because Fitzpatrick struggled through most of the first half, throwing three picks during that span, including one that was returned for a touchdown. But, look at the overall body of work.

For the third time in as many weeks, Fitzpatrick threw for more than 400 yards (411 to be exact). And that’s an all time NFL record for three consecutive games.

He fell just short of throwing four touchdown passes for a third straight week, but the three he did throw for were one of the big reasons the Bucs remained alive on this game until the very end.

Once again, and even on a night when he wasn’t at his best, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the Bucs best player. And therein lies the problem with the Bucs. Right now, Tampa Bay is a one-dimensional football team and that dimension is Fitzpatrick.

Sure, he’s getting plenty of help from his receiving corps, which is easily the best in the league. But he’s getting little or no help from anyone else on this team.

The Bucs ran for 63 yards on Monday. Their defense took the ball away just once. While surrendering 416 total yards. Their kicker didn’t miss a field goal or a PAT but that was a first for this year.

That the Bucs will go into Chicago next week tied with two other teams for first place in the NFC South thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they hope to stay there, they’re going to need contributions from other sources. And fast.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has carried this team this far. There’s nothing to suggest he can’t carry them a but farther. But for the Bucs to go as far as they believe they’re capable of, they’re going to need someone or something else to shoulder some of the load.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gamenight- Bucs look to continue rolling in battle with Steelers

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Buccaneers (2-0) vs. Steelers (0-1-1)

When: Monday Night 8:15 p.m.

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Spread: Steelers by 1 (Courtesy VegasInsider.com)

It’s a massive early season game for both the Bucs and the Steelers for different reasons. Tampa Bay is trying to be 3-0 for the first time since 2005, while Pittsburgh doesn’t want to drop to 0-2-1 already on the young season.

Here’s what to watch:

Will “Fitzmagic” continue?

Through two weeks, there’s no better story involving a journeyman player than the Buccaneers QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in back to back weeks, which is the first time in Tampa Bay franchise history that anyone has done that. Fitzpatrick has also become the first QB in league history to have 400 or more passing yards and four or more passing TDs in the first two games of the season.

Will it continue tonight against a Steelers defense that was butchered at home a week ago by the Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes? Mahomes threw six touchdown passes in a K.C. rout in the Steel City.

Clearly, the Bucs weapons, WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson plus tight end O.J. Howard are on fire, too. So, the stage is set for the 14 year vet to play another good, if not great game, now will he?

Steelers in disarray

There is no doubt that Pittsburgh has talent, but they currently are a mess. As we documented already, All Pro RB Le’Veon Bell is a holdout, refusing to sign his “Franchise Player” tender offer for the second straight year. You couple that with back to back poor performances on the field in a tie at Cleveland and then, the bad loss last week, and the Steelers are reeling.

And it didn’t help to see coach Mike Tomlin call the entire defense around him on the sideline in the first half last week to scream at them about they way they were playing. Then, you had star WR Antonio Brown visibly upset during discussions on the sideline with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner last Sunday, too.

Can the Steelers rally around Roethlisberger? Or will they continue to flounder?

Finally, will Bucs defense rise in Monday Night Spotlight

So much has been made of Fitzpatrick’s success, but the Buccaneers defense also has come up large, when needed. This would include last week in the home opening win over the Eagles. LB Kwon Alexander had a sack fumble, and the Buccaneers defensive line not only stuffed the run but pressured, harassed and knocked down/sacked Nick Foles repeatedly.

Players like Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy (above), Jason Pierre-Paul, LaVonte David, and Brent Grimes (who’s expected to play despite groin injury) are chomping at the bit to win a game like this with the country watching.

The Bucs haven’t been dominant, but rather opportunistic with stops and turnovers (three so far in two games), and that must continue tonight, if Tampa Bay wants to remain unbeaten.

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