Admit it, on the road, down 14-0 to a godawful San Francisco 49ers team, you were right there with me. As many of you know, I live tweet the games and as the Bucs sucked their way to a two touchdown deficit to Colin Kaepernick of all people, I had one of those classic first quarter panic tweets.
It's official. The #Bucs are a terrible football team, folks. Like 3-13 terrible. God help us. #TBvsSF pic.twitter.com/xAHDZpkLTI— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) October 23, 2016
Miraculously, the Bucs woke up and thrashed the Niners easily. Add to that, the Falcons choking away a 17 point home lead to the Chargers and suddenly your Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only a half game out of first place and riding a two game winning streak on their way to a 3 game home stand.
Yes, I felt a little silly about that tweet...but after seeing that display in the first quarter - who wouldn't think that?
1. Jameis Winston had another terrible first quarter. You wonder why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter runs about 90% of the time in the opening stanza. Jameis' horrible decision making early in games is why. Winston had a wide open Cecil Shorts in the flat, he could have walked to the first down marker, but inexplicably, Winston forced it into Mike Evans, who was double covered, the ball was tipped into the air, intercepted and returned deep into Bucs territory. Evans was injured on the interception return but was able to continue.
It was a throw that should have never been made, especially in your own territory. I don't understand it. I'm not sure Koetter or Jameis himself understands why he does the things he does. Until he can get it into his head its okay to dump it off to your second or third option, this will continue to happen.
Now, with all of that said, Winston bounced back from the terrible start and played a pretty solid ballgame. His second touchdown to Evans was one of those "No Jameis don't throw it there - YES! Great play Jameis!" type throws and really got the ball rolling for the Bucs.
He finished with a 70% completion pct, 3 touchdown passes and a 117 QB rating. Imagine how good he'd be if he could just figure out how to play this way all four quarters.
2. While the 49ers certainly have issues stopping the run, how about Jacquizz Rodgers? Back-to-back 100 yard rushing games for the Bucs' diminitive 3rd string running back who was on the street looking for work a few weeks ago. Jason Licht has had his share of gaffes in the draft, but one thing he's been strong at is finding productive players off the scrap heap.
Rodgers has some of that Doug Martin wiggle, which is good for a team that sorely misses its leading rusher. It bought Martin another week to heal up and saved a running game that is also missing Charles Sims.
Against the 49ers is one thing, getting 100 yds against the stingy Carolina Panthers front seven is another. Rodgers is a solid, reliable back that should hopefully allow the Bucs to avoid rushing Martin back into the lineup before he's really ready.
3. The defense took a little while to adjust to the quick-paced style of Chip Kelly's offense, allowing a quick 14 points in the first quarter (7 of which was setup in point blank range by Jameis' pick), but after that, Tampa Bay shut the door, forcing 3 turnovers, sacking Kaepernick 4 times and limiting the 49ers to just 3 points the rest of the way.
So we've now seen the defense put together two games in a row where they actually played pretty good football. Of course, Carolina was without Cam and the 49ers are...well, the 49ers. We'll see how far this defense has progressed when they go up against one of the best offenses in the league in Oakland next week.
4. How odd this season has been. The Bucs can't buy a win at home, but get them on the road and they're a juggernaut, 3-1. Bad news for them, they have three straight home games coming up. Look, it is thoroughly exciting that the Bucs aren't out of contention by November as they usually are. But if the Bucs have any type of serious playoff aspirations, they have to win at home. If the Bucs win their next two games, they will be alone in first place in the NFC South after eight games.
Think about that for a moment. This football team that started the year 1-3 and looking absolutely dreadful in doing it, could be the division leader at the halfway point.
To get there, the Bucs will need to beat two very good football teams in the Raiders and the Falcons. The Falcons, the Bucs know how to beat. The Raiders will be making their fourth trip east (wow, four times?) and their second straight trip East. Usually, that's bad news for a West Coast team, but the Raiders are 3-0 in their East Coast games thus far this season.
If the Bucs can start a home winning streak this season could be very special.
5. After being at the bottom of the league for most of the season, the Buccaneers are racing up the team stat rankings, now 12th overall on offense and 13th overall on defense. That's about right for a 3-3 football team. Now, playing struggling teams like the Panthers and 49ers will help the statistics, but you can see the Bucs building some confidence on defense and the better they run the football (Tampa Bay is now 11th in the league rushing), the more productive the offense will be.
Good news for the Bucs, while the Raiders offense is formidable (8th in the league in scoring), their defense is one of the worst in the league (32nd overall in total yds).
6. I know, I've been spending a lot of this diatribe session looking ahead to Oakland and not really reflecting on this 49ers game. It is what it is. The Bucs did what they were supposed to do. The 49ers will be competing with the winless Browns for the top spot in the NFL Draft. If the Bucs didn't smash them, there would be something to worry about here, right?
After six games, all we know about the Bucs is the quarterback is feast or famine and the rest of the team is riddle with injuries, but gutty.
7. How good is Mike Evans? Pewter Report this week made the bold statement saying that Evans may end up being the best receiver in Tampa Bay history. You'd think Mike would struggle with Vincent Jackson gone, but with both Adam Humphries and Russell Shepard stepping up and making big plays, Evans just did what he does, be Godzilla.
Evans, who gave the Bucs a scare after going down in the first quarter, finished the game with 8 receptions, 96 yds and two more touchdowns.
8. Speaking of Russell Shepard. Sander and I both have been calling for Shep to get more opportunities on offense. He's fast, he seems to have reliable hands and he always seems to be where he's supposed to be. Sunday was his best game as a receiver of his NFL career, hauling in 5 catches for 77 yds and a beautiful contested touchdown grab.
If anyone looks ready to fill in for Vincent Jackson, it's Shep. Give him a shot, Coach Koetter.
9. While we all agree Lavonte David is a top notch football player in this league, he hasn't really been playing like it this season. Against the Niners, there was good and bad from David. He missed a lot of tackles on Sunday, but still finished with 8, to be second on the team. He also demonstrated that he can perform the peanut punch, punching out the football to force a fumble (unfortunately it would be recovered by the Niners so it didn't result in a turnover).
I still don't think David is playing at his Pro Bowl level yet, but there are flashes of his ability. If he can start tackling better, the best of David may be to come in 2016.
10. DLT's Tweet of the Week
#Falcons Fall! #Bucs tied in the loss column with Atlanta! #SiegetheDay pic.twitter.com/OizIgK92j0— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) October 23, 2016