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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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Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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