I'm not even mad this week. Nope, not really. How can you be? It's like being mad at your dog because he's blind. It's not his fault he's blind. He just is. Yeah, he's annoying and bumps into things, knocks stuff over and sometimes breaks the valuables but he's still your dog and you love him.
The Bucs are like that dog. You can't be mad at this current group. You can be mad at Jason Licht, the GM, for the team he's assembled. You can be made at Lovie Smith's inability to teach his defense or discipline to his players. You can't be mad at a team that has shown you the same things week in and week out. They are who they are and that's a 3-5 football team.
Yes, we all dream of Jameis leading us out of the wilderness and someday he will, but he needs a little help. Like a star receiver who doesn't drop as many passes as he catches. Or running backs who can hold on to the football. Or a defense who stop someone - anyone - on third down.
No the Bucs were the Bucs. They fumbled, they dropped passes, they committed penalties, they couldn't score in the red zone and they couldn't stop the other team from scoring in the red zone. Other than that, they did great.
- Mike "Butterfingers" Evans. How do you criticize a receiver who hauled in 8 receptions for 152 yards? You can if he dropped another six passes at crucial moments of the football game. What's the most frustrating thing about Evans' dropsies? They seem to occur at the worst moments, when the Bucs need him to make that catch the most - typically on third downs. Evans is a good football player but until he develops focus and eliminates the inconsistent hands from his game, he will never be a top receiver and he'll continue to hurt his team who looks at him as a go-to guy.
Evans was chosen over both Odell Beckham, Jr and Kelvin Benjamin. He needs to start proving the Bucs were right. You can't do that by being the first guy in 10 years to drop six passes in a game.
- Evans wasn't alone in victimizing Bucs' QB Jameis Winston from having a banner day throwing the football. Winston hit Doug Martin in stride on a wheel route that may have gone to the house (but considering the speed of Martin, maybe not) and he failed to look it in and dropped it. Add his fumble that set up the Giants' first touchdown of the game and his 2.8 yards a carry it was a Sunday that the Dougernaut reverted back to hamster status.
- I think the most frustrating thing about the Bucs is how close they really are to being a pretty decent football team. A catch here, a defensed pass there, don't take that stupid personal foul penalty over there...and yes, this team could be a consistent winner. Only its a tease. The reason why those things happen is because they're not a decent football team. They're a below average team. Can they become good? With this quarterback, anything is possible. I'd be surprised if the Bucs don't win two or three more times this year - maybe as soon as next week. But they aren't a playoff contender. Not this year. Maybe not ever with this regime.
- Jameis Winston failed to throw a touchdown pass in a game for the first time in his NFL career. He completed just 52% of his passes. You'd think he had a bad game, right? You'd be very wrong. When Jameis was given the opportunity, he was on the money the majority of the time today. When the Bucs went five-wide, Jameis was nigh unstoppable. That's what you want to see against a secondary as crappy as the Giants. Only, Dirk Koetter, who has been genius all season, called one of his poorer games of the season, deciding it was more important for the Bucs to establish a running game rather than attack the Giants' greatest weakness.
In fact, Koetter didn't really open up the offense until the Bucs fell behind 17-6. When he did, Winston seemed to have his way with the secondary. Unfortunately, his main receiver couldn't hold on to receptions.
Where Jameis did struggle, though, was in the red zone. The Bucs needed touchdowns, not field goals and Tampa Bay was 1-4 in their red zone opportunities. It's not all Jameis fault. After an interception on Eli Manning's first pass by Sterling Moore, Koetter went ultra conservative and the Bucs managed to salvage just 3 points.
In other opportunities, it seems the Bucs like to try to dink-and-dunk their way into the end zone when they get inside the 20 instead of firing the ball into the end zone. Perhaps its only having one of the Dunk-a-neers available (and that one can't catch consistently). But one fade into the end zone would be nice.
The Giants were 2-of-4 in their opportunities, by the way.
- Speaking of Moore, he had a solid game. He was on Odell Beckham, Jr. much of the contest and held his own, limiting the excellent Giants wide out to 4 catches for 46 yards on 7 targets that included that interception on the first play of the game. When Moore wasn't on Beckham, the Bucs defense as a whole did a pretty decent job on him forcing two picks in throws attended for him and allowing him to catch a little over half of his 16 targets.
Manning threw 40 times but only had 213 yds to show for it. What killed Tampa Bay was third down. Manning was 11-of-14 on the money down and the Giants converted a whopping 9-of-16 opportunities. In the first half it was even worse, where New York was 5 of 7.
And that really was the worst part for the Bucs defense. They contained all the Giants weapons fairly well. They only allowed two touchdowns to a very high powered offense.
Yet they couldn't get themselves off the field. The Giants owned nearly a 10 minute advantage in time of possession and that folks is not conducive to winning.
- I know Gerald McCoy is double and triple teamed. I know he gets little help from the rest of the defensive line. But Gerald McCoy has been a ghost for a month now. He's had two tackles in two games. Two full games. The only time we see Lavonte David is when he's getting burned in coverage or called for a penalty. I don't know if the culture of losing have crushed their will to compete or Lovie Smith's defense is completely wrong for these guys (unthinkable when he was hired - there weren't two players who seemed more perfect for Lovie's defense than McCoy and David) but if the Bucs defense is ever to rise from the depths of despair it is today, these two guys need to be the Pro Bowl caliber players they're paid to be.
McCoy has to do what Aaron Donald does. What Suh does. What Sapp used to do. Bust threw that double team and wreak havoc in the backfield. David needs to buzz around whopping backs and making splash plays like he used to. They are those guys. They are impact players. They've been those guys for most of their careers. I'm perplexed at what's happened to these two.
- In the end, the Bucs played a very Buc like game. It was competitive. It was fun to see Jameis flying like Superman to get in the endzone and try to will this team to victory. Unfortunately, too many mistakes at crucial times costs them (again).
We've been scolded here on Bucs Nation for being a bit too negative.
We don't intend to be. We root for the Bucs to do well every Sunday. We want them to win as badly as you do. But we're not getting the pom-poms and cheerleading when they play poorly. Its ironic. I was criticized before the season for being too optimistic about the Bucs' chances this season and encouraging others to be as well. Now we're all too negative.
If you're looking for sunshine and rainbows, you're at the wrong blog. Bucs Nation tells it like it is. And if that's good, great! If its not, then we're going to talk about all the bad stuff that went wrong.
The Bucs are a very flawed team. It may be coaching. It may be personnel. It may be a combination of both. But they also have a lot of positives going for them, starting with the quarterback. However, to wax poetically about their virtues when there are things imploding all around is a bit like whistling through a graveyard.
I can't do that. Sorry if this article isn't the sunshine and rainbows report you were hoping for. We talk about what we see. This is who they are. The not-quite-good-enough guys.