So much for running the table. And so much for the slipping into the playoffs.
Hey, it was always a bit of a pipe dream anyway but now, after losing 28-14 to the Saints and losing badly, well that dream is over. Bucs fans can now go back to griping, moaning and debating who their next coach will be, because this loss may spell the end for Dirk Koetter, who seemed to be rising from the dead just a week ago.
Oh sure, Koetter’s Bucs could still rally and win their last three to finish the season strong, but this game against what is arguably the NFC’s best team was their chance to prove their little was real and sustainable.
Not only did they fail, they failed badly, their offense failing yet again to drum up any semblance of a rushing attack, their defense suffering a relapse and their kicker failing to secure key points when they were needed.
Yes, this game looked a lot like the games we saw all of last season. There was little suggest this time around that the Bucs are getting better, so you have to wonder what that means for everyone’s future.
There’s still plenty of time to ponder that, though, so let’s look back at this one and see where it was exactly that the Bucs failed.
The Bucs were 6-for-14 on third down, which isn’t all that bad when you consider that they faced third-and-long (6 yards or more) on all but four of those third-down situations. Of course, that’s what happens when you running backs account for 58 yards on 18 carries (3.2 per carry).
You really have to give Jameis Winston credit for cutting back on the mistakes, because now more than ever it seems he really is the only thing the Bucs have on offense. He was on Sunday anyway.
This was the second week in a row that in addition to naturally accounting for all the passing yards the team accrued, he also led the team in rushing. That’s not good for a team that wants to build its attack around the run game and play-action fakes.
Where was Mike Evans?
He caught a 36-yard pass early on off a ball that Winston dropped into the bucket for him but disappeared after that. Evans is the Bucs best player, period. When he’s limited the way he was on Sunday the Bucs are going to struggle to move the ball and score points, just the way they did on Sunday.
The Bucs were on a roll defensively going into Sunday’s game. Prior to taking the field they ranked second in the NFL in sacks (24), third in third-down percentage (tied at 33.3) and 10th in passing yards allowed per game (216.3) over the course of the previous six games.
Despite some fine individual performances and some big plays, they didn’t play anywhere near that well against the Saints, who allowed just one sack, converted six of 11 third downs and completed all but seven of the passes they threw (24 of 31) for 201 very effective and important yards.
Contrary to popular belief, the free-agency signing period doesn’t end in late April or early May. It continues well into the season, which is why the Bucs signing of end Carl Nassib has to count as one of the best free agent signings of the year. Nassib has done nothing but impress since he was singed off the street early in the season. He continued to impress on Sunday by racking up a big tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
Rookie safety Jordan Whitehead might be the best hitter on this team. At a time when it’s hard to play an intimidating style of defense in the NFL, this kid plays likes he’s got a little John Lynch in him. He’s not at that level, obviously, but the will and want to are there and his hits are leaving an impression.
Cameron Brate quietly took over the team lead in touchdown receptions with his fifth and sixth of the year Sunday. Not bad for a guy who more or less started the season as a second-teamer behind O.J. Howard. Give Brate credit for working hard and making sure he was prepared when his opportunities came instead of griping and making a bunch of noise about a lack of targets and snaps.
Go ahead and laugh and chide, but the decision to draft Roberto Aguayo in the second round was aimed at ending what was already a longstanding kicking problem. Two years and four kickers later that problem still exists as the latest replacement, Cairo Santos, returned to earth Sunday and left six points on the board. Granted, Aguayo only fueled the slump, but I won’t blame a GM for trying to end it, especially when he was drafting the most accurate kicker in college history.
So, in addition to leaving six points on the field, the Bucs special teams also had a punt blocked on Sunday. That blocked punt was arguably the turning point in the game as it sparked the Saints comeback from a 14-3 deficit. Funny, but I doubt we’ll hear anyone screaming for the head of Bucs special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor.
I said a week ago that Brent Grimes has quit. He confirmed that for me on Sunday, when he most watched from his starting spot at left cornerback. Grimes had four tackles because he just happened to be the targeted corner on a few plays but he did little other than that. At this point, the Bucs would be better off giving some kid a look instead of playing Grimes.
Bucs win fourth straight whipping hapless Lions Sunday
For the fourth consecutive game, the Tampa Bay Bucs put together four full quarters and this time, beat a struggling Detroit team 38-17 in the Motor City Sunday.
Quarterback Jameis Winston once again through an early interception, but then, also once again, played brilliantly afterwards, throwing for 458 yards and four touchdowns as the Bucs led 21 – 0 in the first half.
Showing no ill effects from a tiny thumb fracture on his throwing hand, Winston hooked up with Breshad Perriman (above) on the first of two first half scores for a 7 – 0 lead. Then, after a franchise record 99-yard drive, found rookie Scottie Miller on an 33 yard touchdown and it was 14 – 0.
Winston’s third score of the first half was also to Perriman wide open from 25 yards and he topped 300 yards in passing in half number one.
Tampa Bay took a 24 – 3 early in the third, but then the Lions behind rookie free agent quarterback David Blough made a bit of a rally. Blough led two scoring drives that were capped by fellow rookie Wes Hills taking them in from a yard out for TDs and it was 24 – 17 early in the fourth quarter
The Lions actually got the ball back and looked like they might have a chance to go tie the game but that’s when, Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting jumped in front of a Blough pass on the Lions sideline and raced 70 yards untouched for what turned out to be the clinching score. Winston added a third touchdown pass to Perriman in the final three minutes to provide the final margin.
In the win Winston made NFL history, as the first quarterback to ever throw for 450 yards or more in back-to-back games. And, he has all but solidified that he will be brought back as the quarterback for 2020 with the way that he has played down the stretch the season.
Despite throwing his lead reading 24th interception in the first quarter, Winston is in the top free in touchdown passes and yardage, and the Bucs are coming on strong late.
It’s the first time they’ve won four times in a row, since the end of the 2016 season, when they won five straight games. And, Tampa Bay has now levelled their record to 7 – 7. It is only the second time in the last 7 seasons the Bucs have won at least seven games. The Lions loss is their seventh straight and 10th in 11 games.
The Buccaneers will come back home for a special Saturday afternoon game with the AFC South leading Houston Texans. Houston was victorious in Nashville Sunday and will be looking for a win trying to secure a playoff spot.
Bucs in Detroit leads our NFL primer
Three weeks to go in the NFL regular season and all three state NFL teams are in action in winnable situations.
First, the Buccaneers try to level their record at 7 – 7 and win their fourth game in a row, as they travel to take on the lowly Detroit Lions. All eyes will be on quarterback Jameis Winston, who suffered a tiny fracture in his throwing thumb late in the first half of last week’s 38-35 win over the Colts.
After initially missing the first series of the second half while having a thumb x-rayed, Winston came back and led the Buccaneers to a 17-point rally, including throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman the final 5 minutes. Coach Bruce Arians declared Winston ready to go after he was able to throw the ball in Friday practice.
Tampa Bay will be without star wide receiver Mike Evans with a pulled hamstring suffered in the win last week and maybe, without starting left tackle Donovan Smith, who suffered a knee injury Sunday and could not practice this week. Smith is listed as doubtful for the game.
Meanwhile, the Lions are struggling mightily having lost six games in a row and are down to 3rd string quarterback David Blough and backup running backs. This is a very winnable game for the Buccaneers inside of Ford Field.
As for the Dolphins, they’re back in the Meadowlands for the second consecutive week in a scheduling quirk. Seven days after losing in heartbreaking fashion 22 – 21 to the Jets on a last-second field goal, they will play MetLife Stadium’s other tenant, the New York Giants.
The Dolphins have played much better football down the stretch of the season and had they taken advantage of the five red-zone opportunities last week with something other than Jason Sanders field goals, we would probably be talking about a fourth win in five games for them.
Miami gave wide receiver DeVante Parker a lucrative contract extension on Friday, but he is questionable to play after suffering a concussion last week and will be a game-time decision. As for the Giants, they have gone back to veteran QB Eli Manning, who was benched earlier in the year in favor of rookie QB Daniel Jones.
Manning lead the Giants out to a 17 – 3 lead in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football only to see the offense stall and the Eagles rally to win in overtime.
This is also one of several teams that Miami is competing with for a better draft position next April, but you get the sense that Brian Flores’ team is not worried about that right now.
Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars stumble into Oakland for an historic final game for the Raiders at their home for the last 60 years.
The Jags have lost five straight games and Coach Doug Marrone acknowledged this week that he and everyone in the front office and on the field is on notice that they may be out of a job. The Jaguars benched Nick Foles after the first half of the loss two weeks ago to Tampa Bay, but QB Gardner Minshew got very little going on offense last week in their blowout loss at home to the Chargers.
It would not be surprising if Minshew struggles again this afternoon, that Marrone turns back to Foles try to spark the team.
As for the Raiders that they were looking good in the AFC playoff picture at 6 – 4, but have now lost three straight games including a blowout loss to Tennessee at home last week, which has all but eliminated them
Derek Carr and the Raider offense will look to take advantage of a poor and banged up Jacksonville defense that has been surrendering over 25 points a game each of the last five weeks.
The Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas next year and this is their final scheduled game to be played in the nostalgic Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. So the Jags will be the answer to a trivia question, as well.
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