Any logical Buccaneer fan knew this was going to somehow end up in a loss, right? I mean come on, another back-up quarterback for an opposing team which almost always spells disaster for a Buccaneer defense. The right side of the offensive line was injured and in turn ruled out and Jameis Winston has honestly been phenomenal over the last few weeks.
Long story short, it was time for things to fall in line from top to bottom and this team was due for a signature ugly loss. Did I mention it was a nationally televised game? Of course things were going to go bad. Let’s dive into the reactions.
Jameis Winston had one of “those” days. Nothing went right for the fifth-year quarterback. Emphasis on the words fifth-year. Jameis had a turnover for each year he’s been in the league and for good measure, added a 6th. Winston’s fumble came a play after he fumbled and luckily the offense managed to recover it. Jameis Winston looked like a rookie making his debut and frankly it would not have surprised me one bit if they had pulled him for the backup. Jameis repeatedly stared down receivers, repeatedly held on to the ball too long and ran into a couple sacks amidst some very poor pocket awareness. It was as if every negative Winston had coming into the league all decided to come to the forefront at once in just an awful all around game. Alas, this wasn’t all Winston’s fault.
The running backs... WHAT ARE THOSE!?!? No, we’re not talking about clothes or shoes or the memes. We’re talking about the position that seemingly was forgotten early on before the game got completely out of hand. More importantly, why does it seem that everyone across the nation has recognized the significant boost Ronald Jones seems to give the offense... everyone that is except this staff? Jones managed 4 carries, converting one in for a score. Jones had zero targets and was a non factor as Dare Ogunbowale was the “featured” back most of the game with the team trailing. Dare did find the endzone on his lone carry and was utilized mostly as a pass protector. Dare was targeted 5 times in the game and caught 3 passes. Peyton Barber led the team in rush attempts with 8 and finished with 28 yards.
O.J. Howard, Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and Chris Godwin were basically the receiving core on the day. Sure, Bobo Wilson and Scotty Miller got some action (and targets... ugh) but it was the main four seeing a majority of the action. Godwin had another great game, going over 150 yards on double digit grabs. Mike Evans stat wise had a great game himself adding another 96 yards but ultimately Mike will be remembered in this game for what should have been a massive reception on a beautifully thrown deep ball from Jameis Winston. Evans bobbled the pass that fell right into his arms in stride and did not come down with it. Howard only saw 4 targets, catching 2 of them with one being a great run after the catch on a quick screen that saw Howard 30 yards down the field with a brigade of blockers. The lack of creativity in the pass game with Howard and run game with Jones has been a frustrating habit week in and week out so far.
The offensive line was pathetic. Ali Marpet got bullied by the nicest defensive lineman in the league, that’s right... Gerald McCoy, en route to one of a couple and a half sacks on the day for GMC. The line as a whole was swiss cheese as they served up Winston on a platter play after play. Winston would end up being sacked 7 times to along with his fumble and 5 interceptions. The whole line needs a makeover at this point and there simply won’t be enough draft picks or free agents to fix this mess in one off-season. Let’s not even talk about the other needs this team has.
Shaq Barrett early on looked like a man that would get back on the sack bandwagon but he just never managed to make it home and eventually would be a total non factor down the line. Vita Vea had a monster game eating double teams, beating one on ones and on another occasion, destroying the double team en route to splitting a sack with Ndamukong Suh. Suh made his lone presence on this same play and was otherwise a non factor. Carl Nassib notched a sack and had a solid game overall.
The linebacking crew was a bag of mixed results. Lavonte David was all over the place as usual and was visibily doing what he could to lead this defense. Devin White led the team in tackles but had a key mishap on a big Christian McCaffrey touchdown. White would get stiff armed by McCaffrey in this game as well but there really wasn’t much White could have done different on the play. It was encouraging to see the rookie out there moving about none the less.
The defensive backs... ugh. Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis were abused. Plain and simple. Both left receivers running free. Both looked lost at times. Both have a lot to show and for that matter, it’s depressing that this staff doesn’t seem to believe anyone else can step in and do better. It’s a depressing group to watch week in and week out right now.
Get Bobo Wilson out of here. That’ll about do it right? For everything that Wilson struggled with on offense, it paled in comparison to muffing back to back punts with the second being a terrible fumble recovered by Carolina. Bobo Wilson just doesn’t appear to be an NFL caliber returner, receiver or anything at the moment.
Ryan Smith made his return on special teams this week and of course made two big plays. Smith gunned his way down the field to catch a bounced punt at the 1 yard line (to no avail as the Panthers offense went 99 yards but that’s here no there at this point) and again as he got passed the returner for Carolina, Tampa native Ray Ray McCloud, and came from behind to knock the ball loose for a turnover.
This team is not ready to win now. H3ll, this team may not be ready to win next week, next month or even next season. The roster has it’s issues, we all know this. The real startling issue is that this coaching staff does not seem to have any real answers on either side of the ball. It always feels like the opponent is forcing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to play to their style. Good football teams, well coached football teams, dictate to their opponent what they want to accomplish. The Buccaneers are simply a team that takes what opponents give them, while others take at will from the Bucs.