Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter walked into his post-game press conference following his team’s 16-11 victory over the Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday with a big smile on his face.
All it took to erase the smile was a question about the play of his offense.
Yeah, the Bucs won their fifth straight game to further solidify their place in the NFC playoff race but for the fourth straight time in that streak their offense failed to score more than 19 points.
The problem is the Bucs inability to score inside the red zone, where they have ventured 18 times during this most recent win streak but have scored a touchdown on only seven of those journeys.
“Yeah, I’m not satisfied at all with how we’re playing on offense,’’ Koetter said after the Bucs went one-for-two inside the Saints 20 on Sunday. “We definitely left points out there.
“We’re going to get a chance to play these guys again in two weeks and I’m sure both (team’s) offensive coaches are going to be feeling the same way, that we’ve got to play better.’’
A sudden inability to move the ball effectively on the ground is part of the problem. The Bucs on Sunday gained 104 yards rushing, the third time in the last four games they’ve passed the century mark.
Those numbers are a bit deceiving, though, because the Bucs have now failed to gain an average of 4.0 yards per carry in each of their last seven games. Of course, it’s not just the run game that’s struggling.
While quarterback Jameis Winston has played some of the best football of his career during this stretch, he has not always been at his best in the area of the field where it matters most.
On Sunday, for example, he failed for the first time in his career to produce a touchdown, either passing or running, and that point was not lost on the Bucs unquestioned team leader.
“I know I didn’t get a touchdown, but wins – I love wins,’’ Winston said. “As long as we get a win, touchdowns don’t mean much. Unless it’s a touchdown to win the game. So thank God for our defense.
“I mean, what they did to Philip Rivers last week and to Drew Brees this week, what they did to Russell Wilson the week before that, we are playing good Buccaneers football right now.’’ (See Brent Grimes leaping interception in the fourth quarter above)
That’s just it. Good Buccaneers football has always been characterized by good defensive play, play so good that the offense often doesn’t have to contribute much to the victories.
But how long can the Bucs count on their defense to bail them out? Yes, it’s true, as Winston said, that defense wins championships. But offense, Winston said, wins games and in order to win championships you first have to win games. Lots of them.
And you can’t deny the Bucs are doing that.