THREE IN A ROW, BABY!
The Buccaneers improved to 6-7 for the season after winning a hard-fought game against the Colts 38-35 in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The win is their third in a row and fourth in their last five games. For those of you who aren’t used to this, which is probably most Bucs fans, this is called a winning streak. Feels good, doesn’t it? Speaking of “GOOD”, there was plenty of it to go around in this game. Unfortunately, there was some “BAD” and “UGLY” in it too. So let’s get into it, shall we?
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The Win – As I said before, this was the Bucs third win in a row and fourth in their last five games. This is the first time they’ve won three straight since 2016 when they won five in a row. This was a highly improbable win too. The Bucs lost the turnover battle 4 to 1 in this game (Winston’s 3 interceptions and Dare Ogunbowale’s fumble). They’ve lost 26 of their last 27 games where they’ve been -3 or worse in the turnovers. They are 4-101 in franchise history when they were -3 in the turnover battle. Across the NFL this season, teams are 3-33 when -3 in the turnover battle. Coincidentally, the 38-35 final score was the exact same score of the “Great Collapse” game against the Peyton Manning lead Colts in 2003. This win also broke a streak of 29 straight losses in games where the Bucs trailed by at least 8 points.
The Next Man – When Mike Evans got hurt in the first quarter, other receivers had to take on bigger roles. One of those guys was second-year receiver Justin Watson, who finished the game with 5 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown after having just two career catches going into this game. He had also taken over the punt returner duties since TJ Logan’s season is now over. I’ve always liked this kid and thought that he should have a bigger role in this offense than he has had so far this season, and now he will with Mike Evans likely out for the rest of the year.
The Other Guy – Breshad Perriman has really stepped up over the last few weeks. In the first 10 games this season, he totaled just 10 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. In these last 3 games, he’s had 9 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Sunday against the Colts, he had 3 catches for 70 yards and the go-ahead touchdown with about 4-minutes left in the game.
The Franchise – The frustrating thing about Jameis Winston is that his good is really good, but his bad is also really bad. It’s feast or famine with him, and not much in between. Against the Colts, he was 33 for 45 for 456 yards with 4 passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, and 3 interceptions. His 456 yards were the most ever by a Buccaneer quarterback in a home game. It was the most passing yards by a Buccaneers quarterback in 31 years and the 3rd most yards by a Bucs QB in franchise history behind Doug Williams (486) and Vinnie Testaverde (469). It also puts him over the 4,000-yard mark for the season. Of the four 4,000 yard seasons in Buccaneers’ history, Winston has three of them. He’s on pace for more than 5,000 yards this season and could end up being the first QB in history to change teams after doing so.
Because of his performance on Sunday, Winston is now just 7 yards behind passing leader Dak Prescott with three games remaining. He’s now tied for 2nd with Russell Wilson for touchdown passes (26) behind Lamar Jackson (28). He could end up pulling off a rare feat by leading the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns, AND interceptions. It’s only been done twice. Lynn Dickey did it in 1983, and Drew Brees did it in 2012.
Just a couple of other interesting side notes on Winston’s performance Sunday. It was the seventh 4th quarter comeback of his career. And he is now the ONLY quarterback in NFL history to throw 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, run for a touchdown AND pass for more than 400 yards in a game. He threw passes to nine different receivers in this game with his four touchdowns going to four different players, and six of his receivers had 48 yards or more.
He now has 4,115 yards, 26 touchdowns and 23 interceptions this year. He’s thrown 2+ interceptions in 7 games, 2+ touchdowns in 8 games and had 300+ yards in 9 games.
The Big Boys – The Bucs offensive line has been pretty solid for most of the season. They were without starting right guard Alex Cappa against the Colts, so Earl Watford got the start in his place. After giving up five QB hits in the first half, the Colts only had one more QB hit in the second half and just one sack by Justin Houston for the game. Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber had 22 carries for 70 yards combined for a 3.2 yards per carry average. They ran the ball effectively, but didn’t get many opportunities because they were playing from behind for most of the game. This group catches so much criticism throughout the season from the fans and the media, so when they do perform well, I like to give them credit where credit is due.
The Davis Island – Second-year cornerback Carlton Davis had 3 passes defended on Sunday, and he is now tied for the league lead with 17 passes defended for the season. He only has one interception this year, but he’s getting his hands on plenty of balls.
The Leg – Rookie kicker Matt Gay was once again perfect with his kicks on Sunday versus the Colts hitting all six of them, including 5 extra points and a 44-yard field goal. He now ranks 4th in the league in scoring and 6th in field goals made. He has now made 89% of his field goals this season, which is the second-best percentage for a season in Buccaneers history behind Connor Barth’s 93% in the 2011 season.
The Defense – Even though the Colts put 35 points up on the scoreboard, the Bucs defense still had a decent day. They held quarterback Jacoby Brissett to just 19 of 36 for 251 yards passing and running back Marlon Mack to just 13 carries for 38 yards and a 2.9-yard average. The Colts offense finished this game with just 309 total yards and just under 26 minutes in time of possession. They were also only 6 for 16 on third downs. This is the fourth straight opponent that this defense has held under 350 total yards after holding just three of their first nine opponents under that mark. That effort has brought them all the way up to 17th in total defense. They’ve also improved their third-down defense as well, ranking 4th in the league at 34% conversions allowed. That is way up from last year when they were 22nd at 40% and 2017 when they were dead last in the league at 48% allowed.
The Finish – After the game, both Jameis Winston and Bruce Arians said that this team would’ve lost this kind of game earlier this season. They’re learning how to win games. They’re learning how to not lose games. And they’re starting to believe that they can win. They are going into games expecting to win, not just hoping. There appears to be a culture change happening with this team, from a losing one to a winning one, and that’s a step in the right direction.
The Fans – Once again, the fans inside Raymond James Stadium ROCKED THE HOUSE! Despite the terrible start to this game and the other hiccups throughout, the 50,000 fans in attendance hung in and were there when it counted in the 4th quarter. We were as loud as I’ve heard that stadium in quite some time so great job, Bucs fans. Now let’s do it again, but louder, in a couple of weeks.
The Streak – As I mentioned before, the Bucs have now won three straight and four of the last five games. They have a great chance to make it four in a row and five of the last six when they go to Detroit next week. The Lions are now 3-9-1 for the season. After starting 2-1, they’ve lost six straight and nine of their last ten games. If the Bucs can “win out”, it would match the longest regular-season win streak in Buccaneers history at six games from the 1999 season.
The Start – It was a rough one. Winston’s first pass of the day was picked off, and it only took the Colts 90 seconds to go 50-yards and score. The Bucs offense got the ball back only to cough it up again with a fumble by Dare Ogunbowale, which resulted in a Colts field goal. Indy jumped out to a 10-point lead within the first 5-minutes of the game thanks to two early turnovers. And with the help of an 80-yard interception return by Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, they took a 27-21 halftime lead into the locker room. Luckily, the Bucs got their head out of their ass and won the second half, outscoring the Colts 17-8 to win with a 38-35 final score.
The Injury – Mike Evans only had one catch in this game, but it was a 61-yard touchdown after which he came up limping and holding the back of his right leg. That was late in the first quarter and he never returned to the game. After the game, Bruce Arians said that it’s a hamstring injury and that he’ll be surprised if Evans makes it back before their last game. Translation: Mike Evans’ season is over.
The Playoffs – Once again, the Bucs will be watching the NFL postseason from the comfort of their own couch. Despite the win on Sunday against the Colts, the Bucs were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs when the Vikings beat the Lions. Thanks for nothing Detroit! Hopefully, Tampa will get revenge next Sunday and hand the Lions their seventh straight loss even if they’re only playing for pride at this point.
The Turnovers – This has been an ongoing issue throughout this season. With four more turnovers on Sunday, the Bucs now have the most turnovers in the NFL this season with 32, including 23 interceptions, and 9 fumbles. The next closest team is the Giants with 28 turnovers.
The Penalties – The Bucs only had six penalties on Sunday, but they were costly ones. The total yardage for those six penalties was 104-yards, which is the first time in franchise history they’ve had over 100-yards in penalties with six flags or less. The worst one was a defensive pass interference called on rookie cornerback Jamel Dean that cost the Bucs 45-yards late in the game.
The Rookie CB – Speaking of Jamel Dean, he had another bad day against the Colts on Sunday. In addition to the 45-yard pass interference penalty, he was responsible for giving up his fair share of the Colts 243 passing yards. He did have one pass defense, which gives him 14 for the season and puts him tied for 5th in the league in just 5 games of action. This kid has a bright future ahead of him, but Sunday was a game that I’m sure he’d rather forget.
Let the debates begin. Should the Bucs keep the win streak alive OR tank these last 3 games for a better draft position? Should the Bucs re-sign Jameis Winston OR let him walk in free agency? Those are going to be the hot topics of conversation this week on social media. So let me save everyone the trouble. The Bucs are NOT going to purposely lose these last 3 games to get a better shot at LSU quarterback Joe Burrow because they won’t need to after they re-sign Jameis to a new five-year/$150M deal (just a guesstimate). Instead, they’re going to win these last 3 games and end this season with a 9-7 record resulting in a draft position somewhere between 15th and 20th.
This Buccaneers team has a chance to finish this disappointing season with six straight wins and head into the 2020 season on a positive note. They have a chance to give us home fans three straight home wins and four wins in the last five games at Raymond James Stadium. They have a chance to get this franchise turned around and headed in the right direction. They have a chance to change the losing culture that’s been lingering around this organization for the last dozen years or so. These last three games will say a lot about what this team is made of, especially now that their playoff chances are over. One last road game against the Lions, then two home games against the AFC South-leading Texans and the Falcons, all very winnable games. Finishing 9-7 after the way this season began would be a real accomplishment for this young team. The first step to doing that is winning one last road test in Detroit on Sunday.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!