The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost three straight games, and are likely to lose their fourth traveling to Carolina to take on the 14-1 Panthers. The main culprit in those losses has been the defense, at least in the popular imagination. And while the defense has certainly regressed over the past month, their performance hasn't been bad enough to cause all these losses in
After all, the defense allowed 27 points per game in the past three weeks. That's high, but it's certainly not insurmountable. And the defense did that while seeing the offense give away the ball five times in three games. On the flip side, they don't have a single takeaway in those three games either.
The offense, though, has barely been able to move the ball. They've scored just 20 points per game, and that includes a meaningless touchdown against the Bears with one second on the clock, and a close-to-meaningless touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins with 1:34 on the clock against the Rams. In fact, of the 61 points the Bucs offense has scored the past three weeks, just 29 came in the first three quarters of games, forcing the Bucs to play catch-up in every fourth quarter.
One major culprit for the offense's decreased output has been Jameis Winston declining play. After putting up five touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles, Winston hasn't looked particularly good since then -- though he continues to show flashes of greatness. He's completed 100 of 174 passes (57.5%) for 1,312 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions over the past five games, adding one touchdown on the ground. And all of that despite facing some extremely beatable offenses, including the abysmal New Orleans Saints.
In his weekly game breakdown, Stephen White dug into Jameis Winston's recent struggles and broke down the deep throw to Mike Evans last week -- the one that should have been a touchdown, but fell incomplete largely because Winston made a terribly inaccurate throw. That's not an isolated occurrence: Winston has consistently missed on deep balls this year, to the extent that he's completed just nine throws that gained forty or more yards, two of those on short passes to Charles Sims and Donteea Dye.
These struggles have been a major contributor to the Bucs' losses, in addition to a defense that has failed to produce a turnover in all but one of the past five games. How often have we seen Mike Evans open for a deep ball, only to see it land behind him, in front of him, to the wrong side or, effectively anywhere but where he's actually running?
None of that is to say that Winston has been bad or disappointing for a rookie. In fact, Winston has been consistently impressive and has made many throws that most veterans can't. The future's bright, he just needs to work on his deep ball, and perhaps his accuracy and mechanics in general. That's what offseasons are for. Winston has the potential to be a top-notch quarterback -- with a little work.