Back in the good old days, when Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch were protecting the Buccaneers end zone and the Bucs won more often than they lost, the Bucs defense made a weekly promise.
“Give us 17 points and we’ll take care of the rest.”
The current Bucs finally played a lot like those Bucs of old on Sunday. Now, they weren’t special in any way, but for the first time all year, the current Bucs gave up less than 21 points.
And guess what?
They still lost. The final score was a very un-Buccaneer-like 16-3 and it came despite the offense racking up 496 yards. So how did they manage to drop this one?
Here we go
This game came down to red zone play. In particular, it came down to the play of the Bucs offense in the red zone, where we’re going to say Tampa Bay went 1-for-6 on the day. And it was a bad 1-for-6.
The Bucs first red-zone opportunity, which came on their first possession, ended with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception on a ball he underthrew for running back Shaun Williams at the goal line.
Their second red-zone opportunity ended with kicker Chandler Catanzaro missing a 30-yard field goal. Their third resulted in Catanzaro actually making a 33-yard field goal, but then the real fun began.
On their fourth trip inside the Redskins 20, the Bucs got as far as the 16. Then on third-and-7, center Ryan Jensen fired his snap past Fitzpatrick for a 14-yard loss to the 30. Catanzaro then missed the ensuing 48-yard field-goal try.
The Bucs next advance into the red zone won’t go down as an official red zone possession because they never ran a play from scrimmage inside the red zone but we’re going to call it a red zone opp anyway and here’s why.
On a first-and-10 play from the Redskins 28, Fitzpatrick hit running back Jacquizz Rodgers with a short pass over the middle that Rodgers ran 10 yards with to the Redskins 18.’
It was there that linebacker Zack Brown came up from behind and popped the ball out of Rodgers arms so hard that the ball rolled in and out of the end zone for a touchback.
Finally, Fitzpatrick finished off the kind of game that got Jameis Winston benched as the Bucs starting quarterback by losing a fumble at his own 7 with a little more than three minutes left on the clock.
Score there and the Bucs have a chance to win this game, but that ended all hope of the Bucs winning what was yet another winnable game against yet another beatable team, which doesn’t bode well for coach Jason Licht’s future.
The Bucs are a team that simply can’t seem to put all the winning ingredients together on the same day. If it’s not their defense that lets them down, it’s their kicker and if it’s not their kicker it’s their red zone offense.
On Sunday it was the kicker and the red-zone offense, and given that Fitzpatrick was responsible for two of those blown scoring chances, you have to wonder if the time has come to go back to Winston.
The belief here is that it has. The switch back to Fitzpatrick has not provided the Bucs with the spark it was designed to and he’s not playing any worse (better) than Winston was when he was benched.
Granted, the Bucs lost on Sunday for reasons that stretch far beyond quarterback play. But that’s been the case all year.
So why not go back to Winston right now?
It certainly can’t hurt.
Bucs-Winston overcome miscues to win third straight
It wasn’t easy and there were plenty of self-inflicted mistakes, but the Bucs found a way to come from behind, and defeat the Colts for a third consecutive victory Sunday.
Tampa Bay turned the ball over four times and found themselves trailing by double-figure twice, but QB Jameis Winston threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with under four minutes to play and the Buccaneers defense held up to improve their record to 6 – 7.
On a day in which Winston threw for a career-high 456 yards, it actually started horribly This as, he threw an interception, once again, on the opening possession of the game. Darius Leonard’s pick led to a Jacoby Brissett 48 yard touchdown to Marcus Williams and a quick 7-0 lead. It was the third time in five games that Winston has thrown an int on the first Bucs drive.
Winston threw another interception later in the second quarter that was returned by Leonard 80 yards for a score and the Colts led 24-14.
Undaunted, Winston continued to gun-sling finishing 456 yards passing for a career-high yardage and four touchdowns, including a second half score to reserve receiver Justin Watson. And then, he threw the eventual game-winning 12 yarder to Perriman.
#Bucs take the lead!
Jameis connects with Breshad Perriman 🎯#INDvsTB
— PFF (@PFF) December 8, 2019
The Colts gave away two opportunities to potentially put the game away. First, when backup running back Nyheim Hines fumbled inside the Tampa Bay 20 with 10 minutes remaining, and then, later new rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin ,who replaced Adam Vinatieri who’s dealing with an injured knee, hit the right upright on 47 yard field goal that would have put in the Colts up by 7 late in the game.
Winston led the go-ahead drive from there, going 63 yards in eight plays and including converting a fourth down with a pass of 4 yards to Dare Ogunbawale. The touchdown to Perriman came on the very next play.
Tampa Bay stopped Brissett and the Colts on fourth down at midfiled with 1:45 remaining, when DE Jason Pierre Paul hit the QB’s arm. The ball fluttered in the air, Brissett caught it and then desperately and illegally tried to throw it a second time forward to another teammate. That pass was incomplete.
The Bucs ran out the clock for their second win at home this season.
The Buccaneers playoff hopes were dashed even in victory, though, as the Minnesota Vikings won their 10th game on Sunday. That means that even if the Buccaneers win out, they can no longer catch the Vikes in the NFC race.
Still, first year Bruce Arians team is certainly playing hard, and at the right times with three games to go
Bucs looking for three in row leads our primer
Week 14 of the NFL sees two Florida teams at home and the other one facing a familiar foe in New York. The Bucs try to make it three wins in a row hosting the Colts, the Dolphins travel to play the Jets and the Jaguars have gone back to their rookie QB, while hosting the Chargers.
First in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers come off of back-to-back road wins, where they accumulated 11 sacks and six turnovers defeating Atlanta and Jacksonville. They will take on another AFC South opponent in the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are stumbling with three losses in their last four games and have fallen out of the AFC Wildcard picture for the moment.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has played better over the course of the last two games, but returns to Raymond James Stadium, where he threw four interceptions it a loss to the Saints three weeks ago. Winston is working with two of the premier receivers in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin (above) who both have over a thousand yards this season and look to have a big day today.
The Colts have had success this season with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and want to run the ball against what is the best run defense in the NFL, the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay must win to keep slim playoff hopes alive trying to get into a 9 – 7 tiebreaker in the NFC Playoff Picture.
Next, the Dolphins come off a euphoric 37 – 31 win over the Eagles at home for their third win of the season. DeVante Parker had his best game as a Dolphin catching three touchdown passes. And, Miami scored on a trick play that saw punter Matt Haack throw a touchdown pass to kicker Jason Sanders. They now rematch AFC East rival the Jets who were humbled a week ago, as Cincinnati earned their first win of the season at their expense.
The Dolphins also defeated the Jets, and former coach Adam Gase, at home earlier this year
Finally in Jacksonville, the Jaguars have turned back to rookie QB Gardner Minshew. After three dismal offensive showings in a row under free agent Nick Foles, Minshew replaced him in the second half of last week. And, he sparked the Jaguars to a field goal and a touchdown in their 28 – 11 beat down by the Buccaneers.
The rookie did win four games in Foles’ absence due to his broken collarbone earlier this year. Fortunately for Jacksonville, the Chargers come in reeling having lost dramatically in Denver a week ago and questions are swirling whether it is the end of the tenure of Philip Rivers at quarterback.
Jacksonville’s defense is beaten up, including putting Myles Jack on injured reserve earlier this week with an injured kneed.