The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the New York Giants in a game that was closer than its final score dictated. But the game was sloppy, and the Bucs shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. Despite that, we have both winners and losers in this game.
Sterling Moore, Alterraun Verner and Jude Adjei-Barimah
Lovie Smith once again shook up the secondary, this time starting Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah at cornerback, with Alterraun Verner in the slot. Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins basically spent the entire game on the bench, as did the now reactivated Tim Jennings. This actually didn't turn out too badly. Moore and Verner had a pair of outstanding interceptions, and Moore in particular played a very good game in which he was matched up against Odell Beckham Jr. -- definitely one of the best receivers in the game right now. This still wasn't a dominant game from the Bucs secondary by any means, but holding Eli Manning to just 213 yards on 40 attempts with almost no pass rush and producing two interceptions in the process is definitely a step forward.
Winston's statistics look okay: 19 completions on 36 attempts for 249 yards, no touchdowns, no turnovers, no sacks, and three carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. His actual play was even better, with few misfires, few bad decisions (though he did have two near-interceptions in the endzone) and numerous Mike Evans drops making his statline look worse than it deserved to be. A step forward from last week's inconsistent performance. Winston has now gone four games without a turnover, and he continues to look like a future franchise quarterback.
Eight catches for 155 yards is good.
The offensive line
The Bucs lost Ali Marpet midway through the second quarter to an ankle injury, but the pass protection actually held up even if the running game mostly didn't. Winston generally had time to throw and got off several deep throws, though he didn't actually connect on any. Jason Pierre-Paul came close to getting to Winston a few times, but never quite got there. In all, a solid performance.
Oh, you thought I forgot about all those drops? I think I counted five, but there may have been more depending on how you define a drop. Evans' hands have been inconsistent this year and that was never more on display than in this game, with him making some really impressive catches, getting open repeatedly, and dropping a bunch of easy passes. It's weird. He needs to get it together. That is all.
Any loss is bad for Lovie Smith, but the fact that the Bucs did not go for it on fourth down even once was really, really terrible. The Bucs had three fourth-and-goals inside the Giants' ten-yard line and kicked a field goal on each and every one of them. To be fair, the fourth-down calculator suggests that only one of them was the right sitation to go for it. But someone has to get through to Lovie Smith that field goals will not cut it. Not with this secondary.
Red zone offense
Speaking of touchdowns, the Bucs need to start turning their red zone opportunities into some. That's been an issue all year long. Yes, it's tough with Mike Evans as the only reliable receiver there, but it's what they have to do to win games.
Nine penalties for 79 yards, including giving the Giants four free first downs. Two were completely pointless unnecessary roughness penalties, one on the Giants' final, game-sealing drive when the defense had to get a stop. It's just inexcusable.
Zero sacks. A little bit of pressure, but not nearly enough. Starting Howard Jones didn't make a difference. Four-man rushes aren't getting there and blitzing leaves the terrible secondary exposed. It's a lose-lose situation for the Bucs who just don't have the talent they need, especially with Clinton McDonald on injured reserve.
11 carries for 31 yards is bad, two catches for 12 yards does nothing, and a lost fumble turns this into one of the worst games of his career and easily his worst day of the season. Charles Sims did better, getting eight carries for 78 yards, but he lost a fumble as well.