Dirk Koetter chose to start Ryan Fitzpatrick a week after another loss ridden with turnovers amidst a media wide consensus that Jameis Winston should be starting against the Giants. The result? Fitzpatrick turns the ball over even more and Jameis Winston comes in and leads the team to 4 straight touchdown drives, albeit with some luck, and ends it with a Hail Mary attempt that went for an interception, fitting given this seasons path. After a 3 point offensive performance a week ago, Dirk gave back the play calling to Todd Monken and while way late, the team put up 35 points adding to another question that will ultimately go unanswered in a season full of questionable head coaching decisions. Not all was bad in yesterday’s loss and we’ll try and touch it all in this reaction piece, starting with the offense.
A tale of two quarterbacks and when you have two, you really have none.
Jameis Winston deserves a lot of blame for this quarterback carousel because ultimately it all started because of his suspension that stemmed from poor decisions made quite some time ago, nevertheless it began with him. Ryan Fitzpatrick came out on fire through two games and while the yards have always been there, the turnovers that have designated him a backup finally came to the forefront and simply haven’t left. Jameis Winston got his chance and screwed it royally. Fitzpatrick came out and two weeks in a row bombed, thus here we are again with Jameis coming off the bench, playing fairly well and we should see Jameis the rest of the way this season. Focusing on the positive, Jameis Winston came in and led the team to 4 straight touchdowns on offense including 2 touchdown passes. Jameis did end the game with a last ditch Hail Mary effort that was picked off while targeting DeSean Jackson but ultimately Jameis played more than well enough to start next weeks match-up at home against the 49ers. Winston wasn’t without error when he came in as he did have some errant throws but that aside, Winston looked much more comfortable than he did in his last game behind center.
Peyton Barber had himself a ballgame while splitting reps with Jacquizz Rodgers. Barber passed the century mark as well as got into the end zone in Sunday’s match-up. Barber broke off a great 28 yard run in this ball game and punched it in from 5 yards out for his touchdown. Rodgers carried 3 times for 15 yards in the ball game with 11 of those yards coming from his best run of the day. Rodgers wasn’t able to haul in any of his 3 targets while Barber caught 2 of his 3 targets for 4 yards. Barber had an incredible game overall totaling 106 yards on only 18 carries. With Barber playing quite well of late, one has to wonder if the team starts to lean a bit more heavily on Barber against the 49ers.
The receiving core came out and was led by the familiar faces of Mike Evans and O.J. Howard. The two combined for 198 yards in the ball game and caught 11 of their 13 targets. DeSean Jackson was utilized more often on the field but it didn’t translate into much as he caught 4 of 7 targets for 38 yards. Winston connected on a deep ball to Mike Evans for a 41 yard touchdown score to bring the Bucs to within 3 points of the Giants.
The offensive line played poorly for the second week in a row and frankly it’s been this way all season long. Benenoch again was abused regularly and in particularly on a 4 and 1 sneak attempt where he was stood up at the line. On that same QB sneak attempt, Demar Dotson was non existent as his man beat him to the inside. At the other tackle spot, Donovan Smith had his usual up and down day where he dominated one snap then took the next few off. Barber was hit for a big loss thanks to a D. Smith gaff at the line that stood out when watching. The pass protection was rough but kudos should be given as a whole to the units run blocking that opened up some lanes for Peyton Barber.
Jason Pierre-Paul came to play while those other 10 guys hung out.
Simple as that, Jason Pierre-Paul came to get down, finishing with 7 combined tackles and a sack and a half against his former team. Carl Nassib put in some work of his own totaling 6 tackles and a half sack. Gerald McCoy notched himself 4 tackles and a sack. Vita Vea? Absent from the stat sheet and did nothing to help plug the run defense up as Saquon Barkley ran all over this defense to the tune of 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That other interior addition? Beau Allen? No help there in stopping the run either. For a team that was built on Mike Smith’s theory of stopping the run first, this team couldn’t stop anyone the Giants ran at them. On the day, the Giants ran for 5.5 yards a carry.
The linebacker group was arguably the biggest disappointment on the day but this was to be expected with the big three all out in Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David and Kendell Beckwith. With low expectations already set, the unit underwhelmed even at that combining for 10 tackles as safeties and defensive lineman led the way in tackles. This team is in big trouble every game played without any of their big three backers.
Defensive backs... not sure where to start and rather than wasting breath on this unit we can look at one stat line, 17/18. That there is Eli Manning’s completion/pass attempts. One incomplete pass and another day with zero defensive turnovers. Safety Isiah Johnson struggled on the day giving up a touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr. and was late to his spot on another deep pass to Beckham Jr. Johnson did lead the team in tackles along with running mate Jordan Whitehead. Of note, it’s never a good thing when the two leading tacklers on the team are the safeties. Again, where were the linebackers in this game?
Special teams finally weren’t a liability, thank you Santos.
The Buccaneers finally did the right thing and got a new kicker. Cairo Santos banged in all 5 extra points and while he didn’t attempt a field goal, it sure felt like a small victory seeing kicks appear automatic for once. Dare Ogunbowale had 7 kick off returns for 137 yards with a long of 25. Anger had one punt that went for 44 yards.
Dirk Koetter has made some very poor decisions by my count this season that have led to a lot of the turmoil surround this team. From keeping a close friend at defensive coordinator in the middle of a historically bad run, challenging unchallengable calls in game, flip flopping quarterbacks with seemingly different standards, taking away play calling from the greatest offensive start in history by Monken to giving it back a week later after the offense fell on its own face... there’s a lot of blame to go there. The players deserve a ton of blame too. Turnovers can be increased due to more volatility in the play calling, which is a factor here in Tampa, but quarterbacks can also make better decisions, which outs in Tampa Bay have not. The defense can absolutely be better with better execution and discipline. The team hasn’t given up on their coach or one another based on the in game effort, but the message from this head coach doesn’t seem to be getting through to the players one bit. Dirk Koetter doesn’t have the answer, he’s admitted as much, it’s time for a change after this season and the only question surrounding that is who that change will be. Until then, Go Bucs.