The Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn't beat the New Orleans Saints today, putting up just 17 points on the worst defense in the league and seemingly allowing Drew Brees and company to march down the field at will. So understandably, the losers column is a little bigger than the winners column today.
Kourtnei Brown had a really good edge rush for a sack, eliminated by penalty. Sterling Moore largely held up (/wasn't targeted at all). Bruce Carter looked okay at middle linebacker (left the game with an ankle injury). Lavonte David had 13 total tackles and two passes defensed. Doug Martin had 11 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown. Hard to get excited about any of that, though.
The entire secondary
The Bucs secondary looked horrible in the first half, with Chris Conte, Jude Adjei-Barimah and Bradley all getting beat for big plays. Where the team had been playing disciplined pass coverage over the past month, this looked more like their undisciplined, early-season version. They looked a little better in the second half, and truthfully giving up 24 points against Drew Brees and company isn't really a shame
One thing has been a constant over the past three games on defense, though: the Bucs aren't taking away the football. They have just one takeaway in that time, and that just isn't good enough. Against the Saints they once again could not get the ball back. As bad as it was, one turnover could have turned this game around.
This was probably Winston's worst game since early in the season, as he was inaccurate and erratic before the fourth quarter, including a terrible decision on a miscommunication, turned into a dropped interception. He wasn't giving the defense a lot of opportunities for interceptions, but he was off for much of the game. He also looked uncharacteristically gun-shy, with only two deep throws in the entire game.
To his credit, that largely changed midway through the fourth quarter when he drove the team down the field for a touchdown, and would have had them in scoring position again if it wasn't for a Donteea Dye drop. Losing Vincent Jackson early in the game presumably hurt as well, but this was definitely a step back for the rookie quarterback. That's going to happen with rookies, and shouldn't be a concern for the long term.
While part of the offensive incompetence has to fall on Winston's shoulder, it didn't seem like Dirk Koetter was helping much. Against a defense that has given up more deep passes this year than Sabby Piscitelli did in his career, the Bucs threw the ball deep exactly twice -- neither of them to Mike Evans, notably. In fact, Evans had just one target until the fourth quarter - and it's no coincidence that the offense didn't get going until they started targeting their best receiver. Perhaps the Saints defense just did a very good job of taking Evans and the deep ball away, but given the way they've played this season that seems unlikely.
I thought this was going to be the week I could put penalties in the "winners" column, but no such luck: after getting just two penalties for 15 yards in the first half (though one of those wiped out a big completion to Vincent Jackson), the Bucs finished the game with eight penalties for 80 yards. The biggest penalties didn't end up hurting the Bucs: a bogus offensive pass interference penalty and legit personal foul, both on Mike Evans, came on the team's lone touchdown drive of the second half. And truthfully, they got lucky when the Saints gave them three first downs via penalty on their first-half touchdown drive. But the team still looks undisciplined at times, and it continues to be a reason why they lose games.
Vincent Jackson had one catch for five yards, got hit low, and left the game with a knee injury. That's the third time Jackson's hurt his knee this year, and his diminished production and injuries have made him an afterthought in the offense. He's still important -- the team looks a lot less explosive when he's not out there -- but there's a real chance that games like this and his nearly $10 million salary are going to cost him his roster spot next year.