It took about 8:11 for the hope of the 2015 Buccaneers season to go down the tubes. There's no way around it and few words to say about it, although you guys know me, I'll find plenty of words.
Disgusting was a word I used quite often during the ball game yesterday. It didn't change much in the re-watch.
We debated for months about Winston vs. Mariota. The Pro-Winston crowd talked about how it would take Mariota quite some time to adjust to the NFL while Jameis Winston was Pro-Ready. Well, we know now that this assement was complete and utter baloney.
Mariota looked like he was carving through the University of Colorado as the read-option befuddled the Buccaneers (more on that in a second). He was sensational, accurate, poised and did most of it from the pocket - everything Winston was supposed to be.
Meanwhile Winston, perhaps seeing the ghosts of the pre-season, held the ball too long, made ill advised throws, flashed a few plays of brilliance but for the most part looked confused and struggled against the Titans defense.
In other words, he looked like a rookie that wasn't quite ready for prime time.
One game certainly doesn't make a career. Andrew Luck looked dreadful in his first outing with the Colts. RG3 looked like a superstar in his first game. So let's not crown Mariota or put the bust label on Winston yet.
Teams will adjust to the read option and Mariota will have his rough days just as Jameis will get more comfortable and have his great ones.
What the Hell Lovie?
You knew that one of the worst coaches in the NFL, Ken Whisenhunt, wasn't stupid enough not to run elements of the Oregon offense. We knew it. The Titans fans knew it. Hell, the guy in the barber shop down the street knew it. So how is it that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach and defensive guru Lovie Smith, with 5 months to prepare his defense for this offense, looked stumped and befuddled?
How are his vaunted linebacking core, considered the deepest and most talented on the team getting sucked in each and every time Mariota ran the read option? The Bucs seemed so terrifed of Mariota beating them with his legs that they forgot that he's got a great accurate arm, too.
Lavonte David was the worst offender, overplaying and getting out of position multiple times. He had a horrible game and it hurt the team badly.
Gerald McCoy was invisible with the exception of one play the entire ballgame. Bishop Sankey, who never rushed for over 70 yards in his career, averaged 6.4 yards a carry on the Bucs.
The amazing thing? Its not like the Titans offense rolled up 500 yards. They just managed 309 total yards but everything they did seemed to end up in the Buccaneers end zone.
Tampa Bay had their chances to turn the game around. Kwon Alexander nearly picked off Mariota (and would still be running), the near fumble in the end zone, the fourth and 1 that Whisenhunt smartly challenged. Things broke bad for the Bucs in every which way.
Or, in other words, a typical Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
The bottom line though is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense - rebuilt in Lovie's image - allowed a rookie QB to post a perfect game against them. They allowed him to set an NFL record for touchdown passes in the first half. They did their rookie QB no favors by putting him down 7-0, then 21-0, then 42-7. Jameis never had a chance to compete. He was down 7-0 before his first NFL play. He made a mistake, putting the Bucs down 14-0, but then the defense compounded by getting sliced and diced for a 21-0 score.
That wasn't all Winston. That's you're new and "improved" Bucs defense. Gerald McCoy talked and talked all off-season about how he was tired of losing and this season was going to be different. Then he fought Lavonte David for space on a milk carton.
You tell Jameis to just be a guy - don't lead - but then this is the type of leadership you're giving? Gerald, why don't you shut up and hand the keys to Jameis because you've been a leader for some of the worst years in this franchises history. That's on your watch.
This was a disgraceful performance in front of a sold out home crowd. All Bucs fans wanted was something to cheer about and you jabronis killed that in 8 minutes.
It's Just One Game is Bullcrap
Its overreaction Monday and fans freak out from Week One. Many teams recover from week one disappointments to have good seasons. Heck, the Super Bowl Champion Patriots got destroyed Week One last season 33-20 by Miami. So many are saying calm down, this is only one game.
Only, it isn't just one game. It's 17 under Lovie Smith. The Bucs have lost 15 of their 17 games under this coaching staff. Oh for the salad days of Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano! It will take Lovie 12 wins to match Raheem's 14 game win total after two seasons. It will take 9 wins to Match Schiano's not good enough 11 win total.
It the third time in 17 games the Bucs got hung with a 40 burger. And this wasn't by the Falcons offensive juggernaut. It wasn't the Saints or the Ravens or the Patriots or the Colts. It was the freaking Tennessee Titans starting a rookie QB on the road. Oh by the way, its the Bucs 10th consecutive home loss. The NFL record (14) is within striking distance now (surprisingly not owned by the Bucs but by the Cowboys and Rams).
Lovie Smith was outcoached once again and by a coach with a career 47-65 record. They were curb stomped in their own house by a team that lost a tie-breaker from the number one overall pick. Word is that Whisenhunt was enamored by Winston as much as Lovie and Jason Licht were and had they had the number one pick, Winston would have been their guy, too.
Titans fans rejoice that the Bucs threw the second half against the Saints in Week 17 last year saving the Titans coaching staff from themselves.
5 months to prepare for this game. 5 months and this is what they gave us. So I don't want to hear today about how it's just one game. Is the season over? No, of course not. But if you get pimp slapped by the Tennessee Titans in your own crib, who are you going to beat?
Can't Blame the O-line This Week
Jameis said they were expecting a lot more pressure and didn't get it. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter kept tight ends and backs in to block to protect their quarterback but the Titans pass rush really wasn't getting to Winston. The three sacks the o-line surrendered, one was on the o-line, one was a coverage sack and the third Jameis gifted by tripping over offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus. With only two or three receivers running routes and the Titans dropping into coverage, it forced Winston into tucking the ball and running, holding it too long and making tough throws into tight windows.
He did okay but unfortunately threw some passes he'd like to have back, his first NFL pass being one of them. These are the things Jameis will learn he simply cannot do and be successful in the NFL. The Pick 6 was a devastating blow to the Bucs hopes. On his second pick, he's never seen a defensive lineman get cut, then have the athletic ability to get up, sky for his lob pass and pick it off. This isn't Wake Forrest.
Jameis found a chemistry with ASJ we hoped would develop. He should have gotten his third touchdown pass in garbage time, but Lovie Smith didn't challenge the first Jackson TD catch in the back of the end zone (it looked like Jackson got one foot in and dotted the I with the other foot before the heel hit out) and the questionable offensive pass interference call on his second touchdown catch of the drive (we've seen that type of arm bar a million times without a call). He also had at least two more ints dropped by Titan defenders.
One thing the offensive line (and receivers) struggled with were penalties. Many solid gains were wiped out by holding, false starts, illegal formation and other stupid penalties that they should have gotten out of their system in the pre-season.
Glimmers of Hope
There wasn't much that went right on Sunday but a couple positives from the game. First, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally looked like the man beast the Bucs hoped they drafted in 2014. Once Jameis started finding his massive tight end, the Titans struggled to keep him in check. On the day ASJ finished with 5 receptions, 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 41 yard score was just pure strength of will.
Doug Martin built upon his pre-season numbers, averaging 4.7 yards a carry and rushing for 52 yards. As they game got out of hand, the Bucs smartly shut Martin down, saving him for another day. Charles Sims followed with is typical 2.4 yards a carry day and Bobby Rainey did the best he could in his limited opportunities.
New punter Jacob Schum did a nice job, averaging 47.0 yards a punt.
It took a long time to get here. We came in hoping this would be the season the Bucs will turn it around. It still might be but right now we need to focus on hoping the team just gets a bit better. One play at time. One drive at a time. One quarter and one game at a time.
The Bucs will have better days and hopefully quite a few this season. Jameis will have better days. Lots of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. The Saints are pissed off and waiting for the Bucs next week.
Hopefully the Bucs will be more New Orleans ready than they were Tennessee Ready.