The Buccaneers have turned their season around, bouncing back from 3-7 to 7-7 following their fourth straight win - a 38-17 victory over the Lions in Detroit. But that’s not the whole story in this one.
Multiple franchise records were set, an NFL record was set, and the Buccaneers were dealt a major blow as Chris Godwin left with a hamstring injury and appears to be done for the year.
However, I was unable to watch the game due to family obligations, so I’m calling in reinforcements. Let’s pick six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
Due to said obligations, I have enlisted the help of one David Harrison to bring you the conversation topics this week - outside of this first one that seems like low hanging fruit, so I’ll go ahead and tackle it.
1.) Jameis Winston has ensured his return. Winston has elevated his game over the past month. Even with some brutal turnovers, he hasn’t panicked and he’s brought the Bucs back from the brink of certain doom. He broke his own franchise record for most touchdown passes in a single season and he threw for over 450 yards - again - without his top two receivers as well as the rookie speedster. That’s right. Winston lost Godwin in the second half so his receiving corps were Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, and Ishmael Hyman. After the game, head coach Bruce Arians said “There’s more good than bad, and that’s what we’ve been looking for the whole time.” Ladies and gentlemen, Jameis Winston is about to become the first quarterback ever drated by the Buccaneers to receive a second contract. Oh, yeah...and he did all that against Detroit with a broken thumb.
2.) Young secondary is still getting better. Sean Murphy-Bunting made what might have been a game saving interception just miles away from his hometown. With a 21-3 lead having dwindled down to 24-17, the Lions were marching. That was, until, SMB sucked David Blough into thinking he was going to blitz and he dopped back into coverage, under cutting Danny Amndola’s out route and picking the ball off. SMB took it to the house and sealed the game. On top of that, you have Jamel Dean who is now the team leader in pass breakups, having another stellar game since being an emergency substitute back in week nine. These youngsters continue to grow and improve with one another. Maybe this pass defense is on its way to being one of the better ones?
3.) Bucs still know how to give up big leads, but now they’re learning how to re-gain them, too. This is two weeks in a row where we’ve seen a Buccaneers team that in years passed would’ve clammed up and blown a game. Now, they take on adversity and come out the other side as winners. They’re learning how to win, they’re learning how to finish, and they’re doing it with the staff that came in having done those things in their previous stops but had to find a way to relay it to the players. Another giant leap in the right direction.
4.) Ryan Jensen might be the toughest guy on the offensive line. Say what you will about the early snaps, the contract, whatever. There is no doubt that Jensen is one tough dude. Early in the game, Jensen appeared to suffer an arm injury. He went to the sidelines, furious, then forced his way back on to the field. He didn’t want to come out, he didn’t want to miss a snap. Those are the kinds of players this team needs. Jensen has a way of setting the tone and he certainly did so in this case.
5.) Josh Wells did well, but we still need Donovan Smith. The Buccaneers opened the game with a solid gain by Ronald Jones. The next two plays, however, saw the Bucs penalized twice. Both penalties were called on Wells, who somehow found a way to make even the strongest Donovan Smith detractors pine for his return. Nothing against Wells as a person, but he’s not very good at playing left tackle. There’s a reason the Bucs re-signed Smith. There’s a reason we told everyone over and over that it was the right decision because there was no better alternative. Smith losing his consecutive starts streak (the streak ended at 77 - third longest in the NFL at the left tackle position) proved exactly why he’s still with this team. Be careful what you wish for, Bucs fans - you just caught a glimpse of life without Smith and it wasn’t pretty.
6.) Byron Leftwich: Offensive Coordinator of the Year. I’ve done plenty of criticizing when it comes to Leftwich and his play calling. Yet, somehow, he got this offense to put up 31 points without Evans, without Smith, after losing Scotty Miller and Godwin to hamstring injuries, and with virtually no running game all day long. He didn’t retreat into his shell with a lead as we’ve seen before. Instead, he kept slinging the ball with Winston while attempting to stay true to the run despite it not working. This was a hell of a game called by Leftwich and he deserves credit.
Six Numbers To Consider
1 - Quarterbacks in NFL history to have back-to-back games passing for 450+ yards - Jameis Winston
30 - Touchdowns thrown by Jameis Winston this season, breaking the franchise record for most in a single season (Winston threw 28 in 2016)
16.5 - Sacks by Shaquil Barrett this season, tying Warren Sapp for the most in a season in franchise history
5 - Times Winston has thrown an opening possession interception this season. The Bucs are 4-1 in those games.
6 - Games Chris Godwin has gone over 100 yards this season - none of them at Raymond James Stadium
221 - Yards Winston threw for in the first quarter, the third most in a single quarter in NFL history (P. Manning - 247, Kelly - 229)
Six Best Tweets
Broken thumb✅— Mike (@bucs3000) December 15, 2019
Wr pulled hammy✅
Wr pulled hammy✅
Wr pulled hammy✅
458 yards ✅
4 tds ✅
Leads league in passing yards ✅
2nd in league in TD✅
Breaks franchise passing yards and Td record✅
Longest drive in team history✅
Most yards ever in 1st half✅
That was Jameis’s day
Chris Godwin proves week in and week out why he's about to get PAID. He makes the big plays consistently, but he also does the little things so well. #Bucs— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) December 15, 2019
chris godwin with more willingness to tackle on that one play than vernon hargreaves had in four years— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) December 15, 2019
Critics hearing national folks talking about Jameis deserving a second contract be like: pic.twitter.com/TeCklAsL99— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) December 15, 2019
Jameis is like Oprah Winfrey today - "You get a deep pass! And you get a deep pass! And you get a deep pass!"— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 15, 2019
This next one is not Bucs related, but a wonderful moment for a long time quarterback in New York who will leave the game with two Super Bowl rings and Hall of Fame consideration;
Eli Manning coming off the field in his final home start and being greeted by his wife and kids. An emotional scene. pic.twitter.com/cuXEOIMyDy— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) December 15, 2019
For those of you that follow me on social media, you know how big of a Star Wars nerd I am. That being said, I had to find a way to sneak that franchise in here. Unless you somehow have been living under a rock, you know that the “Skywalker saga” is coming to a close this week with the release of the latest movie. In honor of that, we are going to compare Bucs players to Star Wars movies. That also means you get two bonus picks in this category, seeing as how there are eight episodic movies.
The Phantom Menace - O.J. Howard
Through his first two seasons, Howard was a menace for any defense who faced the Buccaneers. This year? Not so much. As cool as he is, his production has been chopped in half (and then some) like a fan favorite Sith Lord. Hopefully he comes back with a vengeance like Darth Maul did in the animated shows.
Attack of the Clones - The Officials
Okay, so not technically a Bucs player, but it’ll make sense. Basically, they are the worst. They have no idea what they’re trying to accomplish, they have horrendous and egregious errors all over the place, and their interpretation of the rules is as bad as the dialogue when Anakin is hitting on Padme. Who approved this nonsense?
Revenge of the Sith - Buccaneers Hamstrings
Mike Evans, Anthony Collins, Scotty Miller, Jordan Whitehead, Chris Godwin. All of them started down the right path, did great things, and *boom* - they were dominated by the dark side. The hamstrings on these Bucs players turned down the path of evil, betraying and killing the Jedi order of the receiving corps and key defensive players. Hopefully, they return stronger than ever.
A New Hope - Shaquil Barrett
It’s been years since the Buccaneers had a true pass rush threat the level of Barrett. According to Master Jedi Arians, the young padawan is too strong in the force to go anywhere and he will return. Behind his ability to play mind tricks on opposing linemen, Barrett will be one of the most powerful players in the galaxy.
Empire Strikes Back - Lavonte David
Pretty cut and dry here. Empire is the best movie in the saga. David is the best player on the team. Week after week, play after play, David gets his job done at an elite level.
Return of the Jedi - Jameis Winston
A story of redemption. Not Luke’s. Not Han’s. Anakin’s. Darth Vader was on the cusp of killing his own son before he returned to the light and killed the Emperor. Much like Winston and his propensity to turn the ball over, we’re at the end of 2019 and he has found his way towards redemption. Even after the mistakes, he reaches deep down and saves the day. Because of that, the Jedi under center will get a new contract and return in 2020.
The Force Awakens - The Bucs’ Secondary
"There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?" Since unloading Vernon Hargreaves, this rag-tag group of first and second year players has yet to allow 300+ yards passing in five consecutive games. And don’t give me any of that “they haven’t played anyone” nonsense. They faced Drew Brees and Matt Ryan - not exactly a couple of scruffy looking nerf herders. From worst in the NFL to one of the more reliable groups out there, there is hope for the future in Tampa Bay.
The Last Jedi - Breshad Perriman
One of the most divisive players on the team, Perriman was the focus of Buc fans’ vitriol for weeks. Once the deadline came and went for Perriman to be cut in favor of a compensatory draft pick, some were irate over the decision. Now? Now he’s as reliable as they come, scoring five touchdowns in the last seven weeks - four in the last two. And with Evans and Godwin out, it’s up to Perriman to save the offense for the final two games.
Six Super Bowl Bets
As usual, the Sunday night game is not finished at the time of this list being compiled
1.) Baltimore Ravens - Lamar Jackson is never losing another football game again as long as we live.
2.) New Orleans Saints - Should be the odds on NFC favorite.
4.) New England Patriots - Back to their cheat..er...winning ways.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tough final two games without your top two weapons.