TWO IN A ROW BABY!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sailed into Jacksonville and pillaged and plundered TIAA Bank Stadium on their way to drumming the Jaguars 28-11 on Sunday. The win is their second in a row and gets them to 5-7 for the season, which is good enough to tie for second place right now in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers. It was a tale of two halves, the first being “GOOD” and the second being “BAD”, but the Bucs were able to fend off a late-game comeback attempt by Jags backup quarterback Gardner Minshew and pull out another much-needed road win.
Despite all of the “GOOD” parts of this victory, there were some “BAD” and “UGLY” parts as well. So let’s get into what I came up with for this Bucs @ Jags game.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The First Half – The Bucs jumped on the Jaguars quick in this game and took a 25-0 halftime lead. That lead was their largest in any game in more than two years since leading the Bears 29-0 in September of 2017. Jameis Winston passed for 212 yards in the first half, and the Bucs defense held the Jags offense to about 100 yards total and forced three turnovers in the first quarter alone. This was also the first time the Bucs had shutout an opponent in the first half in 42 games, which was the longest active drought in the NFL. Unfortunately, the second half was a different story.
The Defense – As I said above, the defense got off to a fast start forcing three turnovers in the first quarter. The first was an interception by Devin White, the second was a forced fumble on a sack by Shaq Barrett that was recovered by White and taken in for a touchdown, and the third was a forced fumble on a sack by Carl Nassib that was recovered by Ndamukong Suh. They also added another turnover late in the game on an interception in the endzone by Sean Murphy-Bunting. In all, this defense recorded four turnovers, including 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions, five sacks by four different players, and a defensive touchdown. White’s fumble return for a TD is the third of the year for the Bucs, which matches the franchise record set in 1992, 2005, and 2017.
They also held the Jaguars offense to just 242 total yards, including 49 yards rushing, and 4 of 14 on third downs. They only allowed 240 yards passing between both Nick Foles AND Gardner Minshew. Foles was benched at halftime after finishing the first half with a 41.7 passer rating, the fourth-worst of his career. The league’s seventh-leading rusher Leonard Fournette only had 14 carries for 38 yards, for a 2.5 yards per carry average, with ten of those yards coming on one carry. Dede Westbrook was the Jags leading receiver with 5 catches for 60 yards with 39 of those yards coming on one catch. The 11 points allowed were the fewest in a road game since Jameis Winston was drafted. The last time the Bucs allowed fewer was a 27-7 win at the Redskins in 2014. In these last two games, both wins, the defense has produced 5 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns, 11 sacks, 6 takeaways, and allowed just 53 rushing yards per game. With the exception of a few plays, it was a very good game for the defense overall.
The Other Guy – The leading receiver for the Bucs on Sunday wasn’t Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, it was Breshad Perriman with 5 catches for 87 yards, which is a season-high for him. He averaged 14.5 yards per catch in this game and is starting to show how good he can be as this team’s #3 receiver.
The Win Streak – The win is the Bucs second in a row and their third in the last four games. This is what some in the sport’s industry refer to as a “winning streak”. This is the first time the Bucs have won back-to-back games in almost a year, which coincidentally was the last time they held consecutive opponents to less than 22 points. If they can beat the Colts next week, it will be the first time they’ve won three games in a row since they won five straight in 2016. The Colts have lost four of their last five, including one against the Dolphins, so they have a good chance to extend this streak.
The rest of their schedule is favorable as well, with one road game remaining against the 3-8-1 Lions who have lost five in a row and two more home games against the 8-4 Texans and the 3-9 Falcons. The Bucs would have to win all four games just to have a shot at the playoffs. They are currently three games back of the Vikings for the second NFC wildcard spot with four games left. The Bucs would have to win all four games while the Vikings lose all four of their games to take that spot over. However, just splitting these last four games would give the Bucs a 7-9 record, which would match their second-best finish in the last nine years. Winning out would match the longest streak in franchise history (6 games), done in 1996 and 1999.
The Kicking – Don’t look now Bucs fans, but we may have a winner. After a decade of playing musical kickers, rookie Matt Gay just might be the answer to Tampa Bay’s kicking woes. He is now 52 of 60 on his kicks this year, including 12 of 14 from 40 yards and out. He’s fifth in the league in points, 6th in field goals made and 7th in field goal percentage. On Sunday against the Jaguars, he made all four of his kicks (2 FGs and 2 XPs) despite the windy conditions.
The Last Stand – Down 14-points to the Bucs, the Jags offense got the ball three times in the fourth quarter and came away with zero points. In their first possession, they got down to the Bucs 1-yard line and still didn’t score. They had seven plays inside the Bucs 10-yard line and came away with nothing thanks to an interception in the endzone by rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting. The Bucs defense almost forced one last turnover after Sam Acho sacked Minshew and forced a fumble, but it was recovered by the Jags. The other two drives resulted in turnovers on downs.
The Mentality – In his post-game press conference, Bruce Arians said that this Bucs team is now going into opposing stadiums “expecting to win”, not just hoping to win. That’s a whole different mentality than in the past. Their young defense is gaining more and more confidence each week. They’re getting better and better each week. If they can finish this season strong, there’s no telling what they could be capable of next season. Remember, this team has the second-youngest roster in the league. The average age of the offense is 26 years old. The average age of the defense is 25 years old. They’ve done a lot of growing up this season, and it hasn’t been easy to watch. But good times are ahead for this Buccaneers team with this talented, young nucleus.
The Second Half – After a dominant first half where they took a 25-0 lead, the Bucs almost gave another game away with a bad second half of offense where they only managed 3 points. Luckily, the defense only gave up 11 points, and the Bucs were still able to win by 17 points. The Bucs offense had five possessions in the second half with drives of 29 yards, 24 yards, -3 yards, -1 yard, and 5 yards. The only points came on a short field when the Jags turned it over on downs late in the fourth quarter.
The Offensive O-line – Despite what Bruce Arians says, they were offensive. They gave up 5 sacks and failed to open up run lanes on a defense that had given up 200+ yards rushing in their last three games. They only managed 74 yards on 31 attempts. Peyton Barber was their leading rusher with 17 carries for 44 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns. After such a dominant game in Atlanta, they really took a turn for the worse. I’m sure the injury to right guard Alex Cappa didn’t help. He left the game with an arm injury and never returned, even though Arians said he could have. The Jaguars had the 28th ranked run defense. Now they’ll face a Colts defense who ranks 10th in the league. Hopefully, they’ll play a little better in front of the hometown fans.
The QB Streak – Jameis Winston’s streak of 300-yard games ended at six on Sunday as he was 21 of 38 for 268 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Bucs decided to shut down the passing game and tried running the ball to protect their lead, but it almost backfired. Winston was only 6 of 8 for 56 yards in the second half while the Bucs ran the ball 16 times. He is now 4-7 in games where he does not throw a touchdown. He is still 2nd in passing yards (3,659) behind the Cowboys Dak Prescott (3,788), tied for 5th in touchdowns (23) and 1st in interceptions (20).
The Milestones – Shaq Barrett is now the league leader in sacks with 14.5 after getting 2 sacks against the Jaguars. That’s the most in franchise history through 12 games, and it matches the number that Simeon Rice had for the 2002 season. He only needs two more in these last four games to tie Warren Sapp’s single-season record of 16.5 sacks. He’s on pace for 19.5 sacks this season, but if he has another big game as he did in Carolina where he had 3 sacks, he could end up flirting with Michael Strahan’s 22.5 sacks in a season. He also has 6 forced fumbles and only needs one more to tie the Buccaneers single-season record set by Broderick Thomas in 1991 and tied by Stylez White in 2007.
Chris Godwin only had 4 catches for 50 yards in this game, but he’s still 2nd in the league for yards (1,121) behind the Saints Michael Thomas (1,290). The difference is that Thomas has 110 catches, while Godwin has just 74 catches. Mike Evans is still 3rd on that list with 1,096 yards. Godwin is also tied for 1st in touchdown catches (9) with the Lions Kenny Golliday, while Evans has 7 touchdowns.
The Benching – Ronald Jones was benched in the 3rd quarter after he missed a blitz pickup that allowed Jameis Winston to get sacked. It’s a shame too because I think Jones is the best all-around back on the Bucs roster, but he’s a liability on third downs as a pass blocker. This was a teaching moment for the young man. Arians is big on accountability, and this benching is telling Jones that if he’s not willing to do his job, then he can easily be replaced. I have a feeling that Arians would prefer to have Jones out there more, but he just can’t do it in passing situations yet. Look for him to be more of a feature back as soon as he gets a little better at pass protection.
The Bucs have won two straight and three of their last four games. Great, right? Until you look at who they’ve beaten. The Arizona Cardinals, who are 3-8-1. The Atlanta Falcons, who are 3-9. And the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are now 4-8. Three teams who are all last in their respective divisions. Not quite as impressive now, huh? Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that the Bucs have started winning games that they should win, and beating teams that they should beat. But that’s what good football teams do; they win the winnable games. But I want to see this Bucs team play a more quality opponent and win. The Colts are 6-6, but have lost two straight and four of their last five games. I’m not sure they qualify as a “quality opponent” sitting at .500 for the season, but this should be another winnable game.
All I’m saying is be realistic. Be optimistic, but be realistic. Hopefully, this team has turned the corner and will continue getting better each week. Hopefully, things have finally clicked for this defense, and they will continue to improve each week. Hopefully, they will continue their winning ways. A lot has to happen for them to get into the playoffs, but if they don’t beat the Colts on Sunday, then none of those other things matter. First things first, beat Indy.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!