The Buccaneers didn’t do much to silence the critics that want to see Dirk Koetter ejected from the coach’s seat on Monday night. Quarterback Jameis Winston might have silenced a few of his critics, however.
Though it wasn’t enough to keep the Bucs from dropping their fourth straight game, Winston put together one of the best games of his career during a 24-21 loss at Raymond James Stadium.
Winston completed 27-of-35 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns and had the Bucs on position to tie the game at the end when Patrick Murray’s 54-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
The loss came on a night when the Bucs inducted former coach Jon Gruden into their Ring of Honor, which created a bit of an awkward situation for Koetter, whose future seems uncertain.
But if it’s improvement from Winston that the Bucs owners want to see to consider keeping Koetter in place for a third season then this game should leave him in good standing.
The 77-percent completion rate was the best of Winston’s career and it came on a night when he was asked to hit mostly on short throws and quick timing routes, an approach the Bucs have seldom used with Winston.
The Bucs were seeking to avenge an earlier loss to the Falcons in which Atlanta wideout Julio Jones caught 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 loss.
The Bucs kept this one closer and did a much better job of containing Jones, was limited to three catches for 54 yards, all of which came in the first half. Not that it really mattered all that much.
After going three and out on their first possession, the Falcons shifted their attack into high gear and scored on each of their next three possessions to build a 17-7 halftime lead.
A 6-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hardy accounted for Atlanta’s first score while the second came when tight end Levine Toiolo recovered a Devonta Freeman fumble the end zone.
The Bucs scored a touchdown of their own in between when tight end O.J. Howard took a short outlet pass and turned into a 30-yard touchdown with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs were in position to tie the game one series later but that opportunity was ripped from their hands when safety Keanu Neal forced a Peyton Barber fumble at the end of a 4-yard run to the Atlanta 5.
The Falcons used that fumble to put together a series that culminated with former Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant kicking a 57-yard field goal to finish out the first half scoring.
The Bucs cut the Falcons lead to 17-14 midway through the third quarter when Winston hit Evans with a deep throw into the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
The Bucs came up with another big play with 1:16 left in the third quarter when Will Gholston blocked a 33-yard Bryant field goal try but the Bucs failed to build any momentum off it.
Instead, it was the Falcons who scored next, this time on a 24-yard run by Freeman that came with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter and gave Atlanta a 24-14 lead.
The Bucs bounced back again, though, driving the length of the field on their ensuing possession to cut the lead back to three again with a 16-yared Winton touchdown pass to Adam Humphries.
Bucs got good injury news Thursday starting with rookie DT Vea
Despite their 2 – 0 start, the Buccaneers have been battling early-season injuries, but they got good news on Thursday. In particular, mammoth rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea returned to the practice field for the first time, since injuring his calf in the first week of training camp in late July.
The former number 1 pick out of Washington was on the practice field with a helmet and shoulder pads during the time period that the media was allowed to view and film practice. There is eager anticipation on Vea being able to get in the lineup and be paired next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy on the Bucs defensive why.
Tampa Bay officially listed Vea as “limited” in Thursday’s workout, as they prepare for Monday night’s match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The good news on the defensive side of the ball, has lockdown defensive back Brent Grimes also returned to practice for the Bucs Thursday. Grimes has missed the last two weeks after injuring his groin just before the opening game at New Orleans. He was also officially listed as limited by the team on their injury report.
Grimes will be counted on even more heavily now that the Bucs have lost another starting Corner in Vernon Hargreaves, who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury. Last week, Tampa Bay played a mix of rookies and a veteran, whom they had just picked up during the week.
Second round picks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis played significantly in last Sunday’s 27 – 21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay was also forced to use veteran free agent Marcus Williams for a couple of series, who they had picked up off of waivers during the game onSunday. Third-year veteran Ryan Smith played significantly, as well in the game and will also be counted on moving forward.
The Bucs also listed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week back to back to start the season, is also on the injury report with a knee, but he was able to practice.
Also, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is battling a knee injury and was not able to work out on Thursday. Pierre-Paul hurt the knee in New Orleans, but played that entire game and all of the Philadelphia game.
It’s cool to be a Bucs fan, again
(Please welcome a new contributor to F.F.I. Jeff Pantridge is a long time resident of the Tampa Bay area who has formerly hosted on the Tampa Bay sports radio scene, and also most recently in Virginia Beach, VA. He will be giving us his unique humor and insight into everything involving Florida’s college and NFL teams. Welcome “Pants!”)
In a country that’s as divided as ever; we don’t have many things that we agree on in 2018. Despite all of our differences though, there is one thing that we share. We all want to be cool.
This is how life works. You’re born. You learn how to walk. You learn how to talk. You run around the playground for a few years and once you hit 8 years old or so; you figure things out. You want to be cool. You realize that the cute sweater with the sailboat on it that mom got you when you were 7 sucks and you want to start picking your own clothes. From that point on, pretty much until we die, while we may have a few more meaningful purposes; we’ll always on some level, just want to be cool.
I’ve been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, since I was 7 years old. I started watching and listening to their games with my dad in 1984. I loved my Bucs and I would go to school every morning and let all of the other kids know it. They weren’t impressed. The Buccos finished 6-10 that year and 7 year old kids don’t like losers. Then 1985 hit. I ditched that stupid sweater and got me a brand new orange Tampa Bay Bucs shirt. I traded in my sailboat for a menacing pirate ship. I had to be cool at this point, right?
Nope. The Bucs went 2-14 that year. Unfortunately, 8-year old me had no idea that my football team hired a former used RV salesman (Leeman Bennett) to be their head coach. Meanwhile, the coolest team ever assembled shuffled their way to a Super Bowl by dismantling everyone in their path. They also danced, they rapped, they appeared on TV shows and redefined what cool was. Just about every 8-year old kid in my class and in every other class, was a Chicago Bears fan. After that 2-14 season, the Bucs had another 2-14 season. And then 10 more losing seasons after that. The Bears would go on to wear out their welcome at the cool kids table too.
The thing is; coolness is fleeting. Trends fade over time. For the rest of my youth, many teams sat at that cool kids table. The Giants were cool. Then the Redskins were cool. Then the 49ers were cool. Then the Cowboys were cool… It seemed like every team was getting to eat lunch at that table except my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then it happened…
In 1997; everything changed. The Bucs had just hired a new Head Coach (Tony Dungy) in the previous year. (This guy didn’t sell RV’s.) They were led by Hardy Nickerson and 2 first round draft picks in their 3rd year who were destined to become first ballot Hall of Famers. They ditched those comically uncool creamsicle uniforms and they were off and running.
While most people will tell you that 2002 was their favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers season for obvious reasons; I will always lean towards 1997, because that’s when my football team became cool. They started 5-0 that year, and to this day; I’ve never seen The Bay Area buzzing like that.
Not when the Lightning won The Cup. Not when The Rays got to the World Series. Not even when the Buccaneers themselves brought the Lomabardi trophy home 5 years later. EVERYBODY was talking about the Bucs!
21 years later; everybody is talking about these Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again. It might be a new cast of characters, but your Pewter Pirates are the coolest team in America, led by the coolest athlete in America; Ryan Fitzpatrick. Who would’ve thought that a guy like him would ever fit that title? He’s a 35-year old backup quarterback that went to Harvard. This is 2018 though. Nerds are cool now. Marc Zuckerberg (another Harvard nerd) is worth more than the entire NFL. LeBron James wears glasses, when he doesn’t need to wear glasses.
Heck, I just watched SportsCenter do 10 minutes on some dude that plays video games for a living. By the way, this nerd also hangs with Drake, Paul George and a bunch of other really cool people that don’t hang out with any of us.
Do we know how long this ride is going to last? No. Will it be a long ride? Probably not. Like I said… coolness is fleeting. I’m just happy to be sitting at that cool kids table once again.
Bucs QB Fitzpatrick repeats as NFC Player of the Week
The role continues for “Fitzmagic” in Tampa Bay. As for the second straight week, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, off of yet another 400 yard, four touchdown performance Sunday against the Eagles.
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2018
As we have been writing, Fitzpatrick has had two record-breaking weeks at the Helm of the Buccaneers. He has become the only quarterback in the 99 year history of the NFL to throw for at least 400 yards and four or more touchdowns in the first two games of any season.
And, those outstanding numbers have led Tampa Bay to a surprising 2- 0 start against a schedule that most believed would be very difficult at New Orleans and against the champion Eagles.
Fitzpatrick was great on the very first play of the game Sunday, hitting DeSean Jackson with a 75-yard bomb for a touchdown. That is the longest play in Buccaneers history on the opening play of any game. He went on to spread the ball around throwing another 75 yard TD to tight end O.J. Howard in the first half, and then TD passes to receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the red zone.
Fitzpatrick is also the first Buccaneer player in history to garner player of the week honors in back-to-back weeks. He also is now tied with Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger for third place for most player of the week honors since the start of the 2014 season with six.
Aaron Rodgers has eight and Cam Newton has seven in that same time frame.
The voting is significant again this week, as Fitzpatrick could have easily lost out to Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins, who also threw for over 400 yards at Lambeau Field against the Packers in a wild 29-29 tie.
However, the “Fitzmagic” is just too much, apparently, at the moment.
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