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Buccaneers vs. Saints: Winners and losers for Tampa Bay

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers squandered their playoff hopes against the New Orleans Sains on Saturday, in a disappointing game. Given Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we haven’t really delved into the winners and losers from that game, though — so let’s do so now.

Losers

QB Jameis Winston

Winston is at his best when he doesn’t turn the ball over. That’s....not a shocking statement for any quarterback, but it’s especially true for Winston. He rarely has games where he throws a pair of interceptions, but is outstanding otherwise and compensates for them. Which is why those two boneheaded interceptions he did throw against the Saints were backbreakers.

Both of those interceptions happened for the same reason: he either did not account for the deep safety, or misjudged whether he could fit the ball into a space before the safety could get there. These are somewhat baffling mistakes, given how good he’s generally been at keeping track of safeties — most of his interceptions are inaccurate throws, or missing defenders in underneath coverage.

Regardless, Winston has to improve in this area. All in all he’s had a pretty good season with solid highs and not too many lows, but it’s not good enough to get the Bucs to where they want to go — not yet, anyway.

CB Vernon Hargreaves

The Bucs’ first-round pick has had a bit of an up-and-down year, but he seems to have hit the rookie wall in recent weeks. Hargreaves had a few good plays against the New Orleans Saints, but gave up numerous deep passes and seemed outmatched for most of the game.

That’s to be expected from a rookie cornerback, and Hargreaves has certainly shown potential this season, but Saturday was a particularly disappointing performance.

S Chris Conte

Keith Tandy had done very well in Chris Conte’s stead in recent weeks, but now that he’s fully healthy, he’s finally getting back on the field. Not in Tandy’s place, though: Conte got 30% of the snaps at one safety spot, with Bradley McDougald getting 70% — Tandy was on the field for every single defensive play.

Seems like that wasn’t the best idea Mike Smith’s had, though. Conte seemed to be involved on every big play the Bucs gave up, and notched all of one tackle. Oops.

Head coach Dirk Koetter

For the fourth straight game, Dirk Koetter’s offense has not been able to really break down the New Orleans Saints defense. That’s a travesty given how terrible that defense is in basically every other game they’ve played over the past few years.

Worse yet, this time it came at a massive cost: the Bucs’ playoff aspirations are dead and buried, and only a miracle can resurrect them. In all, it looks like Koetter will improve the Bucs’ win total by two or three games over Lovie Smith, and most of that improvement came courtesy of the defense — not Koetter’s area of expertise.

Winners

WR Mike Evans

Evans had been relatively quiet over the past month, but got back into the swing of things against the New Orleans Saints. With seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown on just eight targets, Evans led the Bucs in every receiving category. Evans is one of the best receivers in the league, but with very little support around him, defenses can generally focus on trying to take him away — and that still doesn’t really work.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers

The Bucs benched Doug Martin and gave Rodgers a chance to earn a place on next year’s roster, or I imagine that’s what’s going to happen. He got solid blocking up front, but earned his keep too. With 63 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, he had a better game than any Doug Martin’s had this season.

CB Brent Grimes

Grimes has been a pleasant surprise this season, especially over the past month or so. there were some questions about his age and decline when the Bucs signed him this offseason, but he’s certainly proved his worth.

He showed up against the New Orleans Saints, too, notching a whopping nine tackles and one pass defensed against one of the top passing offense in the NFL. Grimes can still play, and should be back next season — if he still wants to play, that is.

P Bryan Anger

How is this man not in the Pro Bowl?