I don't think anyone was truly surprised by the outcome of Sunday's game. Few gave the Bucs much chance against the undefeated defending Super Bowl Champions. Honestly, the Bucs would have to play perfect, mistake-free football and the Broncos a little flat for Tampa Bay truly to have a chance in this one.
The Bucs were far from perfect, in fact, they downright handed the game over to the Broncos on a silver platter. It's a pattern that has repeated over and over again, one that really has to stop if the Bucs are ever going to be able to do anything this season.
1. A young quarterback in his second year as a starter. He's called a gunslinger, a fearless leader and playmaker. His team won its first game, then proceeded to lose three straight, many of them because of horrendous turnovers by this young quarterback. Many begin to question him, "Is he really as good as they say he is?".
"He's killing this team," others would say. They would look at other quarterbacks around the league and say, "Look at that guy just killing it while our guy is throwing picks left and right. We gotta get rid of this bum and start over again."
That second year quarterback's name? Brett Favre. Brett Favre finished that season with just 19 TDs and 24 ints, but he kept fighting and his Packers rebounded to a 9-7 record and snuck into the playoffs as the last wildcard.
The reason for this story is Jameis Winston is taking a lot of heat right now for his terrible performances in the first quarter of this season and deservedly so. Folks, this is life with a young quarterback. There will be highs and there will be lows. There's not many players like Russell Wilson who will just step into this league and dominate it.
Right now, Titans fans are having the same doubts about Mariota that Bucs fans are today about Winston. Its the same doubts Giants fans had for Eli Manning (2 time Super Bowl champion). It happens time and time again.
By the way, Favre - he turned out okay. Still, the ultimate gunslinger never left him. In his hall of fame career, he broke the NFL record for touchdown passes (later broken by Peyton Manning - another young QB who threw a ton of interceptions early in his career). He also broke the NFL record for interceptions thrown.
2. With that said, Jameis Winston has to be better - period. I'm not saying he needs to put his team on his back, I'm saying he has to stop losing games for them. Jameis has at least one interception in each of his last 7 starts. The Bucs record in those starts? 1-6. Say what you will about the team's slow receivers, the lack of a running game, the poor protection of the offensive line and the schizophrenic defense but the quarterback has to stop turning the football over.
He has it in him - he went four consecutive weeks without a turnover after week four last season and in those games the Bucs went 2-2. In an eight game stretch, he threw 12 TDs and just 4 ints and the Bucs were 5-3 in those games (one of those three losses were the "You Like That" game).
He just has to decide to be that quarterback. No one wants a Captain Checkdown. Bucs fans love the big plays, touchdowns and highlight reel fun that Winston can deliver for his team. They don't like losses. The culture Dirk Koetter talks so much about is how they lose.
While Sunday's outcome wasn't difficult to predict, how they got there was disturbing. Winston gave the Broncos 14 points, then by not giving up on a play late in the first half and calling for Sims to lateral the ball back to him, he caused another turnover that cost the Bucs at least three points.
Despite 2 turnovers, the Bucs were in that game, down just 7 points against the Champs, then that deflating idiotic play happened.
You can't beat mediocre teams like that, none-the-less a great team.
Bottom line, Jameis must become that Jameis of Week 5-16 of 2015 for this football team to have any chance.
3. Of course, it would help if the defense could provide a turnover of two of the opposing offense. Now, I'm not going to bang on the defense too hard. They actually played a decent game, especially in the first half and by the end of it, they were playing with street free agents on the defensive line.
The Broncos were 3-of-13 23% on third downs. They only had 89 yards rushing and just 307 yards of total offense. The Bucs sacked Bronco quarterbacks 4 times and hit them 8 times despite being without Noah Spence and Gerald McCoy for a lot of the ballgame.
That's pretty good defense right there. Here's what wasn't good. Sudden change defense. Red zone defense. Yes, the defense was put into precarious positions all day by the stupidity of their offense - but they could have helped out their young quarterback by holding Denver to field goals instead of touchdowns.
The Broncos were 3-of-4 in red zone opportunities. That's just terrible, folks. That's why the defense is surrendering a league worst 32 points per game (correction: the Saints are league worst at 32.5...but the point stands).
Yes, the Bucs defense improved against explosives (and against a team like the Broncos, that's saying something) but the bottom line is, whether you're giving up 60 yard bombs, or letting a rookie QB slice-and-dice you down the field for an 8 minute drive, if the result ends up in the end zone, it's the same.
4. We're here, 1-3 again. Fans are freaking out. Fire the GM. Fire the Coach. Bench the quarterback. Do something, damn it! It's very tough being a fan of a perennial losing franchise.
I saw a tweet by WDAE's Darek Sharpe last night:
Fun working with Broncos radio today. They're not sure why Bucs crowd support is so low... pic.twitter.com/3zvQY6wktG— Darek Sharp (@DarekSharp) October 2, 2016
There's actually a pretty simple answer to that, Darek. If you've seen this football team go a league worst 12-30 at home in the last six years, support begins to wane. Tampa Bay hasn't had a winning home record since 2008. Think about that. It's almost been a decade since the Bucs could come home to Raymond James Stadium and their fans could have a reasonable expectation of seeing a win.
Even in Rah's Race-to-Ten, the Bucs were 4-4 at home and an astounding 6-2 on the road.
The Bucs will never return to the playoffs until they can find ways to win at home - period. You have a few playoff teams that can sneak in with a 4-4 record at home - but most playoff teams are at least 5-3.
So no. The Bucs don't need to fire Jason Licht. They don't need to fire Koetter or bench Winston. Rinse. Lather. Repeat will not get the Bucs out of this. They need to stop beating themselves. They need to figure out that if they play a clean game, they just might be able to compete. And if their defense can force a turnover or two, they just might be able to win. It would be nice if they did it at home every once in awhile.
5. Who is left on the defensive line? There were guys playing yesterday - even I didn't know who the heck they were. Noah Spence, Robert Ayers, Jaquise Smith and now Gerald McCoy. It's like the football gods saw the Bucs defense beginning to put together a decent pass rush and said - nope, can't have that. It may start Armageddon.
Who will the Bucs have left to face Cam Newton or Derek "Buc Destroyer" Anderson? It got so bad that 80-year old Darryl Smith was playing at defensive end yesterday.
Why did Paxton Lynch throw all over the Bucs in the 2nd half? They didn't have any guys left to put pressure on him.
Jason Licht and his pro scouting staff have a very tough road ahead to try to find someone on the street with any kind of pass rush ability.
Where is Howard Jones? Dude at least could get a sack here or there. I think he was in for maybe 28% of the plays on defense.
6. The first major shakeup in the secondary occurred yesterday, with Vernon Hargreaves taking Alterraun Verner's starting spot and Jude Adjei-Barimah rising to be the starting nickel, leaving the Bucs $6 million dollar man on the bench. To say Verner has been another bust in a long line of free agency busts is an understatement. The Bucs signed him to replace Darrelle Revis. He was a playmaking, Pro Bowl cornerback in Tennessee. Bringing his old coach and a scheme more friendly to his skillset was supposed to fix him. It hasn't.
7. Speaking of fixing, Brent Grimes was supposed to be a playmaker for the Bucs defense and help Tampa Bay to get the turnover margin in their favor. So far, Grimes has been burned multiple times and has yet to record a pick. He's had his chances, but like so many Bucs free agency busts before him, he's blown them.
8. Look, I know the Denver Broncos are the best defense in the league. They have the best pass rushers in the game today. I know Jameis tends to hold the ball way too long and against a defense like the Broncos, that's death. Still, 5 sacks and a shocking 16 QB hits, to go along with 6 tackles for loss. That's a butt-whipping at the point of attack, folks. Jameis is his own worst enemy, not giving up on plays, but you have to at least give him a little time to throw. As soon as he dropped back, the likes of Derek Wolfe, Von Miller and Shane Ray were breathing down his neck.
Once the Broncos built a two score lead, it was katy-bar-the-door and a day of beatings on the Bucs' QB.
9. If Jameis Winston is going to turn it around, he will have to do it against his nemesis, the Carolina Panthers. Carolina has picked off Winston 6 times in his two starts against them. His interceptions, as usual, were primary reasons for the Bucs defeats. Of course, that's just Carolina. They've beaten the tar out of the Bucs six straight times because Tampa Bay can't keep from turning the ball over.
Monday Night could be a season defining game for Tampa Bay. This isn't the same, dominant Carolina Panthers team from a year ago. This is closer to the 7-8-1 Panthers of 2014. This is a team that just got curb stomped by the Atlanta Falcons...yes, the same Falcons the Bucs pummelled in week one (and hasn't lost since. Talk about irony).
Cam Newton may not even play - he's in concussion protocol. The loser of this game will essentially be done. The winner could be a game out of first place with the Falcons facing off against the Broncos next week.
To beat Carolina, Winston can't beat his own team. The Carolina secondary can be had. The Bucs can win this game. Seriously, they can. Or they can do what we've seen so many Bucs teams do in Carolina and the Bucs will limp into the break at an ugly 1-4 with little hope of January football.
10. JC's Tweet of the Week
I live tweet the Bucs games. I try to keep it light and funny. Sometimes it gets a little vulgar (parental discretion is advised). Follow me at @jcdelatorre