The Bucs bounced back Sunday night in a huge way, upset the defending NFC champion Rams 55-40, and matching their franchise single-game scoring record to now sit at 2-2, being undefeated on the road.
Similarly to last week, the Bucs jumped out ahead early, and snagged a 21-point lead with just over 8 minutes to go in the first half.
The Rams gained some momentum and moved down the field pretty quickly in their next drive. From 13 yards out, RB Todd Gurley, one Arian’s biggest concerns heading into the game, took a hand off from Jared Goff and fought his way through to the end zone for a touchdown. This was followed by another Rams touchdown in their next drive from tight end Gerald Everett, cutting the Bucs’ lead to 21-14.
In their last drive of the half, Jameis Winston found Chris Godwin on multiple third down completions, and then handed it off running back Ronald Jones in the red zone for a TD. The Rams responded with a field goal to make it 28-17 going into halftime.
Both teams traded field goals to start the half, and then after an interception by Shaq Barrett, the Bucs extended their lead to 38-20 at the start of the fourth quarter.
With the help of a gift, roughing the passer penalty from the Bucs, the Rams moved the ball down the field pretty quickly and Gurley finished with an easy 5-yard run into the end zone.
Winston responded with his 4th TD pass for the game in a flashy 67 yard throw to Mike Evans, who danced into the end zone in single coverage, putting the Bucs up by 18. Jameis finished with an impressive 385 yards against the Rams defense. However, there was too much time left on the clock for anyone to starting getting comfortable, especially coming off of last week.
This is when the Rams scored two unanswered touchdowns, cutting the Bucs lead to just 5 points with just under 7 minutes left to play. Then kicker Matt Gay, who missed a 34-yard field goal with no time left last week to lose the game, hit his second field goal of the night to put the Bucs up by 8.
Important to note, the rookie Gay ended the game making all six extra points and two field goals, including one from the 58 yards away in the fourth quarter.
Still a one score game, The Rams were moving down the field with 2 minutes to go. That is, until Shaq Barrett got a strip sack to knock the ball out of Goff’s hands.
Former Ram Ndamukong Suh recovered it, and ran it back for the touchdown to put the Bucs up 55-40 to seal a crucial road win for Tampa Bay.
With Evans being tied up by Rams Pro Bowl DB Aqib Talib, Godwin was Winston’s favorite target of the night, catching 12 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 14 targets. Ronald Jones was the game’s leading rusher, going for 70 yards and one touchdown on the ground, and also had one reception for 12 yards.
This is a huge momentum boost for the Bucs as they head into a long stretch of road games before they come back to Tampa in mid November.
Should RT Jack Conklin be on Bucs free agent radar?
As NFL teams continue to do their due diligence on not only their own potential free agents, but what others might be out there too, an interesting name has emerged that could give the Bucs, and other teams, some offensive line help.
It appears that the Titans, fresh off a tremendous playoff run into the AFC Championship game may be willing to part with former number 1 pick, starting right tackle Jack Conklin. And if they’re going to let the former Michigan State star test free agency, Tampa Bay may have a real interest.
First, the Bucs are looking at options on their line, as the senior member of their roster, right tackle Demar Dotson, who’s played his entire 11 year career in Tampa and will be 35 years old this fall, is slated to be a free agent, as well.
And while Dotson has been a mainstay over the course of the last decade on the Bucs offensive line, GM Jason lick and Coach Bruce Arians maybe looking to get younger and some better play out of that position.
Tennessee elected not to pick up Conklin’s fifth year option on his rookie deal and there are some concerns about his ability to pass block. However, there’s no doubting that with power back Derrick Henry, Conklin was part of the unit on offense that played “smash mouth football” throughout the postseason. And, they scored upsets of the Patriots and the Ravens in part behind their tough ground game before falling at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.
Conklin did suffer an ACL injury in his second season but is fully healed from that now, and he could be a very cost-effective option four teams looking to solidify their offensive line. Conklin made only $2.7 million in the final year of his initial four year deal with the team declining his $12.9 million option.
As for the Bucs, they already have massive money invested in center Ryan Jensen, guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith on their line, but at the same time, the Bucs also have close to $85 million under the cap once free agency begins.
Clearly, their top priorities are figuring out whether to bring back QB Jameis Winston (and at what price?) and also, how many free agent to be defensive linemen out of Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre Paul and Ndamukong Suh they can also fit under their cap.
Still, you cannot have enough good lineman, and perhaps grabbing the Titans former starter off a playoff team would improve their run game, which sputtered a lot of 2019.
Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”
It’s the start of another week, and speculation about “quarterback musical chairs” in NFL free agency continues. And a prominent NFL media member believes that current Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater might leave New Orleans and he sees a possible fit with the Buccaneers.
Peter King, now with Pro Football Talk, gave analysis on numerous quarterback situations and potential free agents to be in his Monday morning column. And, while he is not reporting that the Saints will allow Bridgewater to be a free agent and/or that the Buccaneers would be his destination, he does lay out a solid case for a marriage between the two:
“Has there ever been a year with so many QB questions?” one NFL head coach asked me Friday.
From Tua to Tom, and Teddy to Taysom: Let's make some educated guesses on how all the 2020 movement might shake out.
— Peter King (@peter_king) February 17, 2020
Obviously, the Saints must first decide what to do with veteran Hall of Famer to be, Drew Brees, who is slated to become a free agent and cannot be franchise tagged. And, Bridgewater more than acquitted himself a year ago coming off the bench, when Brees was out with a fractured thumb. That included a four-touchdown performance in October in a a win at home against Tampa Bay.
Teddy Bridgewater: Tampa Bay makes sense
I can hear it now: Bridgewater doesn’t have the deep arm Bruce Arians needs. I would dispute that. When Arians put Carson Palmer in the pilot’s chair in Arizona, his previous NFL yards per attempt in Cincinnati and Oakland was 7.2. Bridgewater’s career NFL yards per attempt: 7.2.
…..I noticed something with Arians this season. He defended almost every (Jameis) Winston miscue for the first three months of the season. In December, though, that changed. Tampa was 7-7 entering the last two games, both at home. In game 15, against Houston, Winston threw interceptions on two of the first five Buc snaps, and Tampa was down 10-0 after four minutes.
The Bucs lost by three. Next week: Overtime against Atlanta. First play, Winston somehow didn’t see lurker linebacker Deion Jones on tight end Cameron Brate. Pick six. “It smells as bad as it could possible smell,” Arians said after the game. The Bucs had a clear path to a redemptive 9-7 seasons, but six interceptions in the last two weeks ruined that.
….. This is the story about Bridgewater I appreciate: After Drew Brees was lost with a hand injury in Week 2 and Bridgewater took over, Bridgewater hosted a dinner in Seattle—site of the next game—for all the offensive players, basically to say, All is not lost. We’ll be fine. Minus Brees, the Bridgewater-led Saints went 5-0.
Maybe the Bucs will think Winston deserves another chance with Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. But I won’t be surprised if they go after Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill, the best free-agent quarterbacks on the market.”
Definitely a compelling argument, but, again, it still has to play out as to whether the Saints don’t re-sign Bridgewater and how, interested are the Bucs vs. other potential teams when the free agency mayhem begins?
As for Tampa Bay are obviously trying to decide what to do with their own free agent-to-be, Winston. As we wrote late last week, coach Bruce Arians remained non-committal on whether to bring back their starter of the last five seasons. This is mainly due to Winston’s inconsistent play, numerous interceptions and the fact the Bucs have had only had one winning season in his five years at the helm.
It this type of “connect the dots” free agency talk will only continue to build until either Tampa Bay commits to Winston or free agency begins without the Bucs having signed Winston to a long term deal or given him the one year franchise tag. The clearest of indications that they’ve moved on and want a new QB.
And, everyone continues to wait on those decisions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers1 week ago
First hint by Bucs of uniforms- color scheme change coming?
USF Bulls1 week ago
New USF coach Scott buys home of ex-Bucs coach Lovie Smith
News7 days ago
XFL Vipers QB Murray ruled out- Quinton Flowers to start Saturday?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4 days ago
Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”