THE SEASON IS OVER. THE END.
At least that’s how it feels sitting at 2-6 after losing a fourth straight game on the road to the 6-2 Seahawks 40-34 in overtime. Did I expect the Bucs to win this one? Not really. I was hoping. Hoping they would be mad enough to win after folding in Tennessee last week. Hoping they were tired enough of losing at this point to will themselves to a win. Hoping they would pull out a win against a good Seattle team to validate the two wins they do have this season. Hoping they would spark a late-season run and finish this year with some pride.
Nope, not this team.
All we heard after that Titans game last week was that this team sounds like they’re pissed off and tired of losing. Apparently not. At least the defense doesn’t look that way. They just look tired, period. I know Bucs fans are tired of watching this team lose. We’re tired of defending these losers every week. We’re tired of spending our time, money, and energy on these losers every week. We’re tired of losing with these losers every week. So why aren’t these players tired of it? Is it because they get paid no matter if they win or lose? Is that the problem? Maybe the solution is that the players don’t get their game checks UNLESS the team wins the game. Would that make them be more competitive? Would that make them tired of losing?
There was plenty of GOOD, BAD & UGLY in this game, so I’ll just dive right into it.
THE GOOD, BAD & UGLY
The “Franchise”– Jameis Winston played a solid game against a decent Seahawks defense finishing 29 of 44 for 335 yards, 2 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He did have a fumble; HOWEVER, it was not his fault even though it goes on his ever-growing turnover tab. Left tackle Donovan Smith got pushed back into the pocket, and his left elbow hit Winston’s arm as he was drawing it back to throw, causing him to lose grip on the ball.
Jameis gets a bad rap for “not winning” enough football games and not getting his team into the playoffs yet. But I saw an interesting statistic that blows a hole in that narrative. Have you ever heard of ANY/A? It stands for Average Net Yardage per Attempt, and it’s about 5.35 yards on average. It’s a calculation based on five different passing statistics: passing yards, passing touchdowns, interceptions, times sacked, and yards lost to sacks. (Don’t ask me about the formula because I’m terrible at math). Statistics show that when a QB has an ANY/A of 8.0 yards or better, their teams typically win the game. Since 2015, there are 20 quarterbacks with at least 13 of these such games. Those quarterback’s teams won 85% of those games. Jameis Winston is 9-9 in his 18 games with an 8.0 or better. What does that tell you about the teams and players that he’s had around him? It tells me that it’s NOT all on Jameis. It tells me that the guys around him need to be better. Much better. Especially on defense. It almost happened against the Seahawks as he finished with a 7.8 average.
The “Monster”– Mike Evans is a beast. He finished this game with 12 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. It’s his third game with 180+ yards this season. The rest of the NFL only had seven such games going into this week. The Buccaneers have only had four such games in their first 43 seasons, including one by Evans. Unfortunately, the Bucs are now 0-3 this season when he has such a game.
The “Big Uglies”– The Bucs o-line played solidly in Seattle, giving up just 2 sacks both to blitzing linebackers and allowing Bucs running backs to rush for nearly 4 yards per carry. The original starting five were back together for the first time in 3 games.
The “New Starter”– Running back Ronald Jones FINALLY got the starting nod in this game, and he took advantage of the opportunity rushing 18 times for 67 yards (3.7 YPC) and a touchdown. I like Peyton Barber, but it was nice to see Jones get the extra touches. I’d like to see what he could do in a full-time role as the Bucs starting running back, and I think we’ll start seeing more and more of him in this offense during the second half of the season.
The Rookie LB – Devin White is starting to settle into his role as the quarterback of this Buccaneers defense. He finished this game with a team-high 12 tackles, a half-sack, which he split with Shaq Barrett, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He’s well on his way to being worthy of that fifth pick in this year’s draft.
The Rookie Kicker – Matt Gay had another solid game in Seattle even though he did suffer his first miss (from 50 yards) since the Giants game. Other than that, he made both of his other field goals (45, 41) and all four of his extra points.
The Offensive Output – The Buccaneers were able to put up 34 points against the Seahawks. That’s the seventh time out of 8 games this season that they’ve scored 20+ points in a game. They are 2-5 in those games. Other teams’ records when scoring 20+ points this season: Saints 5-0, Panthers 4-1, Titans 4-0, Texans 5-2, Raiders 4-2, Vikings 5-1, Eagles 5-2, Bills 4-0, Seahawks 7-1, Packers 6-1, Chiefs 6-2, Ravens 5-2, Patriots 7-1.
YEAH, THANKS DEFENSE!
This team has scored 230 points over these first 8 games, which is a franchise record. They’re 2-6. Last season, they scored 229 points in their first 8 games. They were 3-5.
The Rookie CB – Jamel Dean had a busy day. He was thrown into the starting role opposite Vernon Hargreaves after Carlton Davis got injured in pregame warmups. Russell Wilson picked on him all game long, but Dean did finish with 5 tackles and 4 passes broken up. The rest of the Bucs defenders only had 2 passes broken up combined. Dean possesses all the necessary tools and attributes to be a solid NFL corner. He has the height, the arm length, the speed, the physicality, and the ball skills. He just needs reps. I think that we’ll see him and Davis as the starters outside with Hargreaves at nickel at some point during the second half of the season. Todd Bowles needs to do something to shake up this secondary, and maybe that’s it.
The Defense – This Buccaneers defense is now ranked 23rd in total defense. They’re still ranked 1st in rush defense, but they’re 31st in pass defense. They allowed their first 100-yard rusher of the year in Seattle when running back Chris Carson finished with 16 carries for 105 yards and a 6.6 yards per carry average. However, that stat is a bit misleading. One of his carries went for 59 yards when the Bucs front seven lost their gap integrity, which means he was held to just 3 yards per carry on his other 15 carries.
Unfortunately, this defense allowed 30+ points for the sixth time in their first 8 games, which ties for the most in the NFL since the 1964 season. Who are they tied with? The 2018 Buccaneers defense who did the same thing last year.
The Penalties – Once again, this team’s lack of discipline and poor technique probably cost them a win in Seattle. They finished with 11 penalties for 82 yards, including three that directly cost them points on the scoreboard. One was a holding call on right tackle Demar Dotson that negated a rushing touchdown by Jameis Winston. One was a receiving touchdown by rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller that was called back because he stepped out of the back of the endzone before catching the ball. The other was a pass interference call on rookie Devin White in the endzone that lead to a Seahawk touchdown. That’s 21 points due to dumb mistakes. Absolutely unacceptable at this point of the season.
The “Secondary”– I say it every week, and it’s getting redundant at this point. This group is terrible. We thought that Mike Smith’s pass defense was bad last year? This one is on pace to be even worse. They gave up 13 catches for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns to Tyler Lockett as well as 6 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown to rookie DK Metcalf. They allowed Russell Wilson to complete 29 of 43 passes for 378 yards and 5 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl era, there have only been 19 games where a QB has thrown for 375+ yards and 5 touchdowns.
On the bright side, they’re no longer the worst pass defense in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders are now 32nd, and the Bucs have moved up to 31st. Right about now, Mike Smith is kicked back in a hammock on a tropical beach somewhere wearing a Speedo and sipping a Mai Tai saying, “I told you it wasn’t me!” Maybe he’s right. Maybe it wasn’t the system. Maybe it was the players all along.
The “Collapse”– The Bucs defense, or lack thereof, not only cost them a 21-7 first-half lead, but it nearly cost them the game in regulation, and it did cost them the game in overtime. For the second straight week, this defense gave up a fourth-quarter lead. Injuries played a small part this week. Carlton Davis got hurt in pregame warm-ups and didn’t play. Carl Nassib and Anthony Nelson both got hurt during the game. Bruce Arians said there were a few plays where the Bucs had five rookies on defense. Still no excuse for the kinds of defensive collapses that have been happening this season. These guys need to step it up, or they’ll be stepping on to a plane out of Tampa Bay soon.
The “Unlucky Coinflip”– This felt like a game where whichever team had the ball last would win. That was almost the case had it not been for a missed field goal by Seattle at the end of regulation. Unfortunately, that was the case in overtime. Team captain Mike Evans called “tails” on the coinflip, and it came up heads. Seattle took the ball and drove down for the winning score on their very first possession of overtime. Had that coinflip come up tails, I believe the Bucs would’ve won this game. But it didn’t, and they didn’t.
The “Lucky TD”– Jameis Winston made one terrible decision in this game, and it resulted in a touchdown. He tried to squeeze a ball into double coverage to Mike Evans in the end zone, but it was deflected up in the air. Luckily, Breshad Perriman ran under the ball and caught it for an unusual touchdown, and his first score of the year.
The Record – The Bucs are now 2-6 for the season. They are who their record says. They are a bad football team. Sure, a few plays here and there, and they could easily be 6-2 or even 7-1, but they’re not. They’re 2-6. Only five teams have a worse record this year (Jets, Dolphins, Bengals, Falcons, and Redskins). They have a chance next week to improve on that with the 3-5-1 Cardinals coming to town. I’m done talking about “must-win” games. The time for those has come and gone. Now it’s all about pride. Even if they somehow win the rest of their games (it’s not happening), then they could finish 10-6, but still, miss the playoffs. I doubt that Bucs fans would be complaining about that.
The Streak – The Bucs have now lost four straight games, all on the road. They have a good chance to end this losing streak next week against the Cardinals. However, if they don’t win that game, they’ll be in real trouble with the Saints coming to Tampa the following week. If they lose to Arizona, they’ll be staring down the barrel of a six-game losing streak and a 2-8 record. That just can’t happen.
A little less talk and a lot more action. That’s what I want. I don’t want to hear about “moral victories”. I don’t want to hear about how this team is getting better each week. I don’t want to hear how they need to watch the film to see what went wrong and learn from it.
JUST DO IT!
Stop talking about wanting to be better and wanting to win games and JUST DO IT ALREADY! I’m so sick of hearing the same broken record over and over and over again. If you were really tired of losing, then you wouldn’t give up that sack. You wouldn’t give up that catch. You wouldn’t miss that block. You wouldn’t get blocked. You wouldn’t miss that tackle. You wouldn’t throw that pick. You wouldn’t drop that pass. You wouldn’t miss that field goal. I realize that nobody is perfect and people make mistakes. The thing is that those people need to learn from those mistakes. If a person continues making those same mistakes over and over again, week in and week out, then THAT is the problem. We have an old saying in the fire service, “It’s okay to make mistakes, just don’t make the same mistake twice.” That basically means that when you make a mistake, you learn from it and move on, hoping you never make that same mistake again. For whatever reason, this Bruce Arians team continues to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. It’s unusual since Arians likes for his teams to be disciplined and accountable.
Maybe it’s because this is the second youngest team in the NFL, or maybe they’re just not a very good football team. I have to believe it’s just the youth and maturity thing. I refuse to believe that a team with this much young talent on the roster and this good of a coaching staff (supposedly) can be this bad of a football team. These guys are a couple of plays away from being 4-4 right now. And if Jameis Winston had taken better care of the football in three other games, they could at least be 6-2 or even 7-1 this season.
The NFL is fickle. You never know what will happen from week to week. This past Sunday the Dolphins finally won their first game of the year, and the Patriots lost their first game of the year. The 3-5 Chargers beat the 7-1 Packers. And every single home team won on Sunday. The Bucs could possibly get on a roll in this second half of the season. Five of their final eight games are at home in Raymond James Stadium. I don’t even know if that’s a good thing for this team since they’re 0-2 there so far this year, but it could be. Half the season is done (maybe the entire season), but the Bucs have a chance to make things right over the next 8 games, and it all starts next week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!