Well, the joys of victory were short lived, huh? The Buccaneers were absolutely dominated by the visiting Saints, losing 34-17. The Bucs fell to 3-7 and were swept by the Saints for the first time since 2014.
Poor playcalling, poor execution, poor pass protection - just a piss poor performance all around by the Bucs and it’s time for draft talk before Thanksgiving.
Let’s get this overwith, shall we?
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Six More Games? Is that all we have left of Jameis Winston in a Buccaneers’ uniform? There are certainly plenty of fans that hope that is the case. Another four interception performance (granted, not all on him. O.J. Howard - what are you doing?) and the questions surrounding Winston are as loud and concerning as they’ve ever been. Winston played really well the last two weeks, taking the Seahawks to overtime and leading the Bucs on a game winning drive in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals. Then, bad Jameis reared his ugly head. I will say, in minor defense of Winston, that he had absolutely no time to throw the ball. The Saints’ pass rush was relentless and kept Winston on his butt most of the game. However, that doesn’t excuse the totality of the day, or the tenure of Jameis Winston. No, a rookie quarterback isn’t going to fare any better behind this “protection” but it may be best for both teams if they each move on and get a fresh start.
2.) Cut Them All. Except for Ali Marpet, this Bucs offensive line is an overpaid, porous sieve that couldn’t block the pass rush of Tampa Catholic. Winston was hit twelve times, sacked twice, and had to scramble on virtually every one of his 51 dropbacks just to buy enough time to get rid of the ball. When the pass rush is in your quarterback’s face in 1.5 seconds, you can’t expect your offense to do much. Donovan Smith stays getting roasted by defensive ends, Demar Dotson stays getting penalties, and Ryan Jensen stays snapping the ball early when his quarterback isn’t ready or calling for it. In a nutshell, this line - collectively - isn’t worth the paper their paychecks are printed on.
3.) Byron Leftwich Is In Too Far Over His Head. More inept playcalling. You have the Saints’ best corner out of the game and can’t muster a game plan with more involvement from Mike Evans and Chris Godwin? I get it, to an extent. By time pressure was in Winston’s face, Evans and Godwin probably weren’t even halfway into their routes. But where’s the adjustment? Start running quick slants or screens to get the ball into the hands of your playmakers. No, why would we do that? Obviously the best way to attack a relentless pass rush is by calling 51 pass plays and running the ball six times. Yes, they technically ran eight times, but two of those were scrambles by Winston, not called passes. And two of the six were on goal-to-go situations from the one. While the Bucs were in the hurry up. With Dare Ogunbawale. Full panic and abandonment of the run by the second quarter played right into New Orleans’ hands. Stellar job, Byron. Stellar job.
4.) Trade O.J. Howard. I give up. I’m waiving my white flag. As talented as Howard is, as much as he’s a freak of nature, he’s just not cutting it. I don’t know if it’s his lack of usage or the system or what, but Howard has been bad this year. Even when he has opportunities, he screws it up. Sunday’s bobble and failed attempt at a catch - resulting in a Saints interception - is just the latest example. With as many pieces as this team needs, they need to sell off a few of the assets they have to gain more draft picks. Winston had no problem utilizing Cam Brate and although none of the tight ends block as well as Howard, they need the picks. He’ll go somewhere and become the most dynamic tight end in the league, but if the Bucs can get a decent lineman or a shut down corner out of it, it’s a win-win all around.
5.) Referees Are Still Inexplicably Pathetic. I will die on this hill and if I have the opportunity to speak to an official, I’ll explain to him that the entire lot of them suck at their jobs. If I sucked at my job as much as they suck at theirs I would be fired. Let’s start with a Saints drive in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On third-and-one, Latavius Murray carried the ball and was hit for a one yard loss by Devin White. The refs spot the ball as no gain, bringing up fourth-and-one. There, Drew Brees jumped and reached the ball forward past the marker, but it’s not like the end zone. He brought the ball back in to his body and was tackled at the line, but the referees marked him with a two yard gain. First down, drive continues. This was all after the Bucs had a fourth-and-one on the previous drive where Mike Evans got a first down catch, but was flagged for offensive pass interference. The rule states that receivers can make contact with defenders within one yard of the line. Evans was still standing on the line, he popped the defender on the arm, causing him to fall. Evans then ran a quick route and caught the ball. All legal. It was challenged, reviewed, and upheld.
6.) At Least The Rookies Looked Good. Devin White is continuing to come into his own and Mike Edwards was a stand-out player, filling in in the slot for the mash unit we call the cornerbacks. White finished with a team high thirteen tackles while Edwards chipped in with six including a sack. Future looks good for these two.
Six Numbers To Consider
8 - Rushing attempts by the Bucs, fewest in a game in team history
25.9 - Percent of Michael Thomas’ 1,141 receiving yards that have come against the Bucs
7,096 - Receiving yards by Mike Evans through first six seasons, good for eighth most all-time (with six games left to add on)
7 - Touchdown receptions by both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin through ten games
29 - Consecutive losses for the Bucs when trailing at any point by more than eight points
98 - Total turnovers by Jameis Winston in his career (66 games)
Six Players That Should Be Safe
If the Buccaneers do go full overhaul, here are the top six guys that should be marked as safe.
1.) Mike Evans - Continues to be a top tier receiver despite how awful the teams have been
2.) Lavonte David - The one player who always does his job and does it at the highest level in the league
3.) Vita Vea - One of the most disruptive players along the defensive line in the league. Consistently takes on two guys and still makes plays in the process
4.) Chris Godwin - Every bit a WR1 in this league. Question is, will he want to stay or will he want to move on and be a WR1 for a team willing to pay that much money?
5.) Devin White - Gets better and better every week. Yet, still hasn’t reached his full potential. That kid is good.
6.) Shaq Barrett - Do what needs to be done in order to keep him. Young, dynamic pass rusher that this team can rely on for the near future.
Trouble On The Horizon?
Taking a look at the upcoming opponents the Bucs will face
1.) Atlanta Falcons - All of a sudden, they remember how to win games. Back to back division wins over the Saints and Panthers and now they get to face the Bucs. Dirk Koetter revenge game?
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars - 4-6 and no longer have their best defensive player. Their four wins have come against the unimpressive Broncos, Bengals, Jets, and the Titans. Then again, the Bucs are certainly unimpressive.
3.) Indianapolis Colts - Jacoby Brisset is no Andrew Luck, but he has the Colts at 6-4 and in first place of the AFC South. Homecoming game for Marlon Mack, should he not be sidelined for a long period with that hand injury.
4.) Detroit Lions - Every bit the dumpster fire the Bucs are and may be without Matthew Stafford when the two meet. No Stafford, no Kerryon Johnson. Might actually win this one.
5.) Houston Texans - Deshaun Watson, Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller...yeah, kinda glad I have to miss this one for my son’s hockey game.
6.) Atlanta Falcons - See number one, except this one will be at home. Then again, the Bucs have the propensity for winning the final game of their lost seasons to knock themselves down four or five picks in the draft.
Six Super Bowl Bets
As always, compiled ahead of the Sunday night football final score
1.) New England Patriots - Not pretty, but (as usual) they found a way to get it done.
2.) Baltimore Ravens - Lamar Jackson is next level. Can’t complain about their opponents, anymore
3.) Minnesota Vikings - Big time comeback for a team that is hitting their stride
4.) Green Bay Packers - Bye week usually means out of sight, out of mind. Not here.
5.) Seattle Seahawks - Same as GB, and despite San Francisco winning again, I firmly believe Seattle is better - and they proved it last week
27.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Prepare for the third straight 5-11 finish