WHAT A FITTING END TO THIS SEASON!
Well, Jameis Winston gave another one up on Sunday as his first pass attempt in overtime, an out-route to Cam Brate, was intercepted by Falcons linebacker Deion Jones and taken to the house for the game-winning score. The Bucs 28-22 loss puts them at 7-9 for the season, good for 3rd in the NFC South, and gives them the 14th pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
It was a fitting end to this season, really. Almost to be expected. This team shot themselves in the foot so many times this year, whether it was missed field goals or turnovers or penalties, that it was a perfect way for them to finish 2019 off. I don’t even want to continue talking about this game. I just want to go through my “GOOD, BAD & UGLY” from it and be done with it and this season. So here we go.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The Defense: Once again, the much-improved defense played their asses off only to get screwed over by the other two phases of the team. They held Devonte Freeman to 53 rushing yards. They kept Julio Jones in check, for the most part, holding him to 78 receiving yards. Matt Ryan’s only touchdown pass was a 35-yard pass to offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo on a trick play. And they only gave up 15 points to the Falcons who got inside the Bucs 33-yard line eight times (5 field goal, 2 fourth-down stops, 1 turnover). This defense finished the season tied for 5th in the NFL in takeaways (27), and the four fumble returns for touchdowns and six defensive touchdowns both match franchise single-season records. They also finished the season 15th in total defense and 1st in rushing defense. However, they’ve been the 6th best total defense since Week 9 leading the league in sacks and being third in Red Zone defense over the last 8 weeks. They definitely have something to build on with that side of the ball IF they can keep that defensive line together this offseason.
Shaq Barrett: Well, he did it. “Sack” Barrett finished with 3 sacks in this game, not only breaking Warren Sapp’s franchise record for sacks in a season (16.5) but edging out the Cardinals Chandler Jones for the NFL sack title with 19.5 sacks. He was also tied for the league lead in QB hits with 37 and was third in the league with 6 forced fumbles. The Bucs are going to have to back the Brink’s truck up to his locker this offseason, but if he can keep producing like this for the next few years, it might be well worth it.
JPP: The medical miracle finished with 2 sacks in this game, giving him 8.5 sacks in the 10 games he played this season. Bruce Arians said that JPP’s energy and leadership was definitely missed in the first six games of the season and that he might have been a difference-maker in a couple of them. He SHOULD be one of the Bucs top priorities this offseason. I think the Bucs would like him back, and it seems like he wants to be back, so it’s just a numbers game at this point.
Lavonte David: I swear this guy might be one of the most underrated and disrespected players in the entire league. He can’t get voted into a Pro Bowl, but he was one of just three linebackers voted on to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s. He finished this season with 121 tackles, making it the seventh time in eight years that he’s had at least 100 tackles. He became just the sixth active player to achieve 1,000 tackles. In fact, he’s just the second player to get 1,000 tackles, 20 sacks, and 10 interceptions since 1982 when sacks became an official stat. The other was some guy named Ray Lewis, maybe you’ve heard of him.
Breshad Perriman: This guy stepped up big time when his number was called over the last few games of the season when Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were both out. He went from being the #3 receiver to the #1 receiver and proved that he could handle it no problem. He finished this game with 5 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. He matched the second-highest streak in franchise history for consecutive 100-yard receiving games with three in a row. After totaling just 139 yards in the first 11 games of this season, he’s now had games of 87, 70, 113, 102 and 134 yards in his last 5 games. His 2019 season ends with 34 catches for 645 yards and 6 touchdowns.
RoJo: It frustrates me so much to see this kid be taken out of the game every other series. Even when he’s on a roll like he was in this game, Bruce Arians still likes to alternate series between him and Peyton Barber. He finished this game with 11 carries for 106 yards. It was the Buccaneers ONLY 100-yard rushing game by a player this entire season and could’ve been even better had he not come out of the game so much. He finished this season with 172 carries for 724 yards and 6 touchdowns and a 4.2 yards per carry average while adding 31 catches for 309 yards as well. He’s the first Buccaneer running back NOT named Doug Martin to average over 4 yards per carry with 150+ carries since LeGarrette Blount in 2011. This kid showed that he’s more than capable of being a primary back and handling a full workload IF the coach would give him the touches.
Jameis Winston: I don’t even know what to think or say at this point. I’ve supported him. I’ve defended him. I’ve made excuses for him. I’m not sure I can do it any longer. The Jameis Winston rollercoaster ride is just exhausting. He finished this game 13 of 24 for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He also finished the season (and possibly his career in Tampa) the same way he started it five seasons ago…with a pick-six. The 201 passing yards were his lowest output of the season. After throwing for 181 yards in the first half, he was just 3 of 7 for 20 yards in the second half. He ends this 2019 season with a 60.7% completion rate, a career-high 5,109 yards, a career-high 33 touchdowns, and a career-high 30 interceptions. It was just the 12th, 5,000-yard season in NFL history. It was also the first time an NFL QB has thrown 30+ interceptions since Vinnie Testaverde threw 35 way back in 1988. In fact, he’s the first QB to ever throw for 30 touchdowns AND 30 interceptions. Not sure if that’s something to really brag about, though.
While the 5,000-yard season is an accomplishment, Winston did it in true Jameis form, throwing fewer touchdowns and more interceptions than any 5,000 club member before him, and it’s not even close. The other 11 quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards averaged 42 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. Out of his 30 picks, 24 of them were thrown in home games (including London), breaking the record of 23 set in 1962 by George Blanda. He also set a new NFL record for pick-6’s with 7 this season.
I think the Bucs will choose to keep Jameis around for another year, at least. But I would hate to be in Jason Licht’s or Bruce Arians‘ shoes while making this decision. I don’t think Winston can be fixed. It is who he is. He’s going to throw picks, especially in this offense. This first year was worse than normal similar to Carson Palmer’s first season in Arizona. But he’ll get one more year in Arians offense to prove he’s worth keeping long term.
Matt Gay: This was not his best day. He had two bad games during his rookie season, and they were both at home. All four of his missed field goals in those games were on the same end, and all four misses contributed to Bucs losses. With the exception of those two games, he had a pretty good rookie campaign, finishing 27 for 35 (77%) on field goals and 43 for 48 (90%) on extra points. He was at 84% before the three misses against the Falcons.
Some Bucs fans may be cursing him right now, but he’s going to be the kicker here in Tampa for a while. Rumor has it that he’s been battling back and leg injuries over the last few weeks that may have contributed to the misses. I noticed him limping a little bit during the Texans game, but never heard anything about him being hurt until after the game against Atlanta. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. Either way, he’ll be back next season, hopefully, healthy and ready to roll.
The Turnovers: The Bucs had 3 turnovers in this game and finished with a league-high 38 for the season (35 by Winston), six more than the next highest team. The only team in the last six seasons with a higher number was the 0-16 Browns. How bad were the turnovers? The Bucs defense was fifth in the league in takeaways, yet the team still had the fifth-worst turnover margin at -11 for the season. Another sign that the team had way too many turnovers is that Bucs offensive players totaled 29 tackles this season. Like Bruce Arians said, when they learn to stop beating themselves, they’ll be tough to beat.
The Penalties: Once again, the officiating in this game was questionable at best. Nonetheless, the Bucs finished with 12 penalties for 97 yards. Bad calls or not, that’s not good for Week 17 of the season. They finish the year with a league-high 134 penalties, up from 117 last year. They were third in penalty yards with 1,111 yards, up from 975 last year. And they led the league in pre-snap penalties with 56, up from 41 last year.
Shaq Barrett and Demar Dotson led the team in penalties with ten each. Shaq was called for four offsides and five neutral zone infractions. Demar had five false starts and five holding calls. On a positive note, Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa were the least penalized players on the offensive line with one each. And Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis, who had eight penalties in the first half of the season, had just one in the second half of the year. This is the fourth time in the last nine years that the Bucs have finished in the top five in penalties. With a team as young as this, you have to expect a high number of them. Let’s just hope these kids learn from their mistakes and improve next year.
The Results: This loss means the Bucs finish with a losing record for the eighth time in nine years. Even though it’s two wins better than they’ve finished within each of the last two seasons, but it’s the worst record that Bruce Arians has ever had as a head coach. Before this, his worst finish was 7-8-1 in 2016 with the Cardinals.
The 7-9 record was enough to land the Bucs the 14th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s the second latest pick the team has had under Jason Licht, with their 19th pick in 2017 (OJ Howard) being the latest.
This game perfectly summed up the Buccaneers’ entire 2019 season. Records were set. Big plays were made. The Bucs had the lead and blew it. They had a chance to win in the end but came up short. Again. They were 3-5 in their 8 games decided by one score or less. Turnovers and penalties. This team made too many of both this season. You can’t win games doing that. They won’t win games doing that. This team is close. They were a couple of field goals away from being 9-7 DESPITE Winston’s 30 interceptions. If Jameis had led the league with 22 interceptions (Baker Mayfield finished with 21), then this team wins at least two more games; and they’re 11-5. They’re not far off. If this coaching staff can somehow get his turnovers under control, then they’ll be a playoff team. That is IF he’s still around next season.
Until then, as always, Go BUCS!!!