What a difference a week makes, eh Buc fans? The Buccaneers finally found a way to slay the dragon that was Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. In typically Buc fashion, they tried to make it interesting at the end, but somehow they held on for a very big win in the Big Easy.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Admit it. After the Bucs fumbled on consecutive possessions you thought the Saints were going to storm back, take the lead and break our hearts again. How many times have we seen it? It's more common than the Daleks showing up in Doctor Who. The Bucs find a way to hand the game over to the Saints.
Instead this time the Saints decided not to take it. Losing that game after playing solid football for three quarters would have been very discouraging. Thankfully, for once, its the Saints fans muttering to themselves of what might have been.
Saints Go From Marquee Team to "That 0-2 Team"
You'd be hard pressed to find a single prognosticator (this guy included) who gave the Bucs a shot at winning in the Superdome on Sunday. Who could blame them after last week's shibacle? In fact, according to NFL Pick Watch only one person pick the Bucs to win. And that was the robot that picks all road teams every week. 99% of other pickers had the Saints winning that game.
It really wasn't going to be about how the Saints won...it was by how much. Several predicted blowouts. If you had a suicide pool, many of you went down with the Saints.
Even Vegas had the Saints favored by 10 1/2.
Now what are we hearing? Oh the Saints aren't very good. Drew Brees is obviously washed up. The offense doesn't have its parts anymore.
It turned out the dragon was the Geico lizard. Amazing what a loss to Tampa Bay will do to you. Head over to Canal Street Chronicles and they're asking the same questions we were last week. You can replace Tennessee with Tampa Bay in that "If you can't beat THEM at home with a rookie QB who can you beat?"
Bucs go Streaking
A suprising number of streaks ended Sunday.
- 7 game losing streak to New Orleans
- 8 game losing streak vs. the NFC South
- 7 game losing streak overall
- 3 game losing streak in New Orleans
- 3 game road losing streak
- 5 game losing streak vs. NFC opponents
- 7 game losing streak in one score games
Good Game, Rook
Jameis Winston bounced back from a very shaky week one performance and turned in a solid day against the depleted Saints. The Bucs obviously wanted to take a bit of the pressure off Jameis, running the ball 35 times but when Jameis got his opportunities he was usually accurate, made good decisions and on some plays was simply phenomenal.
He didn't get much help from his supporting cast. Louis Murphy stole two touchdowns from Jameis - first, getting knocked down far too easily in the end zone on a bomb (he did draw a penalty that set up Jameis' TD run) and after Jameis hit him in stride he inexplicably tripped on the Superdome turf and went down instead of walking in for an easy score (BTW, if you haven't seen the vine of poor Saints DB Delvin Breaux completely lost as the ball hits Murphy, its a hoot).
Vincent Jackson could have given a slightly better effort on his route on a touch pass by Jameis that should have been a touchdown.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who was terrific week one dropped a long pass completion that would have set up the Bucs deep in Saints territory. Mike Evans, who was used sparingly in his return this week, failed to get both feet in on a beautiful touch pass by Jameis.
Still, Winston was 14 of 21 for 207 yds, 1 TD passing and 1 TD rushing. His only big mistake of the day was trying to fight for yardage and fumbling (although an argument could be made that his forward progress was stopped - it was very reminicent to the Mariota "non-fumble" last week).
Winston was much better with his footwork this week but he's still a little reckless with his body. He needs to learn to protect himself a little better.
What was really encouraging is Winston starting to make plays on 3rd down. In the two minute drill at the end of the first half, the Bucs faced 3rd and 16 and Winston lasered a pass for a conversion. On another important third down in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs desperately trying to kill the clock, he scrambled and used the D-button on his control pad to spin and get the first down.
Tampa Bay would have been better on third down conversions if the offense could find a way to stop getting themselves penalized.
All in all, a very positive step forward for the rookie. I guess the Winston-haters will have to be silent for a week after he played well this week. Of course, now he'll be facing a much formidable defense in the Houston Texans next week so we'll see what happens.
There's the Defense we were expecting
Welcome to the 2015 NFL season, Bucs defense. After getting absolutely embarrased by Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans, the Bucs had a players-only defensive team meeting to clear the air (no matter what Lovie says, it was an important meeting). The result was a much better performance by the Bucs defense, who sacked Drew Brees 4 times (three by Jacquise Smith), forced 5 fumbles (recovering 2) and intercepted Brees once.
They limited the Saints to just 323 yds of total offense and 19 points. Drew Brees was expected to reach the 400 touchdown pass milestone this week but was held to just one touchdown pass on the day.
The discovery of Jac Smith by Bucs GM Jason Licht and his scouting staff continues to bring benefits. Smith was unblockable, looking like the edge rusher the Bucs desperately were needing. Gerald McCoy was distruptive on multiple plays during the game (thankfully it doesn't appear his shoulder injury is serious) and the Bucs linebackers were buzzing around like angry hornets.
Even Chris Conte looked good. Tampa Bay, believe it or not, is now 8th in total defense.
Red Zone is Dead Zone for the Bucs
One area the Bucs continued to struggle from last week's game is the Red Zone. For the second consecutive week, Tampa Bay's defense gave up touchdowns in the redzone. Teams are now a perfect 7-for-7 on red zone opportunities. That has got to be fixed.
Offensively, the Bucs also struggled in the red zone, going just 2-for-5. Had the Bucs been able to finish a couple more of those drives in the end zone and not settle for Kyle Brindza field goals, the game wouldn't have ever been in doubt.
Penalties Continue to Kill the Bucs
A week after getting drive killing penalty after drive killing penalty against Tennessee, the Bucs managed to do it again, amassing nearly 100 yds in penalties for the second consecutive week (this week they were 12 for 90 yds). That has got to be fixed if Tampa Bay hopes to be competitive in the NFC South.
I will say though, this week's game was way over officiated. Some of the holding calls were weak sauce and Joe Hawley's tripping call was a bit ticky tack.
It went both ways, too. The Saints were called for a crucial defensive holding call at the line of scrimmage and I've watched it three times and still haven't seen it. The roughing the QB call on Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro was pretty weak as well.
The refs went flag happy in the fourth quarter when you'd think they'd just let the guys play.
Evans will be Okay
I know there's many Buc fans getting a bit concerned about Mike Evans following in a long line of receivers named Mike who sizzled their first season and flamed out in the rest of their careers. Let's tap the breaks on that. No, Evans wasn't a factor on Sunday but he also was limited in his opportunities. The Bucs gave him a bit of a pitch count, easing him back into the lineup.
Evans showed some of the rust not getting two feet in after a nice touch pass from Jameis but he did get open and get behind the defensive back. Once Lovie feels comfortable in letting him go full bore, I think we'll see the usual Mike Evans we're used to seeing.
I just hate seeing him beg for pass intereference calls though. Even if he has a gripe, he looks like a whiner when he does it. He should cut that out.
Could the Bucs win Two in a Row?
Perish the thought, but the Bucs might have a shot at winning two games in a row. Yes, its a tall task to go into Houston against the best defensive player in the league in J.J. Watt and get a victory, but the Texans are reeling a bit right now with an unsteady QB situation and two disappointing losses.
The Panthers ran for 176 yards against the tough Texans defense, which is exactly what the Bucs will want to do next week to keep J.J. Watt from killing Jameis.
Doctor Who References in This Post: 1
Season Tally: 3