Another season comes to an end in rather lackluster fashion. It just wouldn’t be the Buccaneers if they didn’t put a damper on what was an otherwise successful season right? This was a season of first. The 30 and 30 club, 5,000 yards for a Buccaneer QB, a losing season for Arians and a NFL sack leader.
The finale was full of of everything that makes this team fun and awful to watch at the same time. Let’s dive into some reactions from Sunday’s match up with the Falcons.
It all starts and ends with Jameis Winston, right? Oh, Jameis. Let’s start with the good, which essentially was the entire first half. Winston put up almost all of his positive numbers in the first half of football. Both touchdown passes came before the half, as did his first interception. In all, it was a solid half of football for Jameis that was highlighted by a touchdown pass to Cameron Brate and a heck of a throw and catch from Jameis to Breshad Perriman. Things were looking great overall. The second half came and went and things just fell apart for the offense. Winston completed only 3 passes after half time with the team relying heavily on the run for a change. Balance proved to mean little for Jameis, as he just couldn’t get anything going. Worse off even, with the team receiving the ball in overtime, Jameis ended the game and the teams season with his signature pick six. The season couldn’t have ended on a worse note for the controversial Tampa Bay quarterback.
The ground game was actually relied on in this one and if your name was Ronald Jones, it felt pretty nice. Things started off about as bad as it gets though for Jones who fumbled the opening snap. After that, all Jones did was run over, around and about the Falcon’s defense to the tune of 106 yards on 11 carries. Jones became the first Buccaneer running back to eclipse 100 yards on the ground in a game in over a year. It was a nice sight to see Arians not lose faith and instead, give Jones the work he deserves. Peyton Barber received only five less carries in this one but had none of the results that Jones saw. Barber finished with 10 yards on his 6 carries. Heading into the off-season, Jones should feel good with how he capped off a much improved sophomore season in the league.
The receiving core was still without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and that proved to be no issue for Breshad Perriman who ended up with a career season here in Tampa. Perriman finished with 134 yards on 5 receptions including an incredible acrobatic touchdown reception in the second quarter. With Jameis only attempting 24 passes and completing 13, there weren’t many other opportunies for receivers in this one.
The line play was mediocre at best, leaving Winston out to dry on more than a handful of his drop backs. It’s been a somber year overall for this unit and we may very well have witnessed the end of a career in Tampa Bay for Demar Dotson. The running lanes were spotty with Ronald Jones making the most of what he received but for Barber, it was tough sledding behind this group. Some changes are sure to come this off-season and change is for sure a necessity to sure up the unit as a whole.
Enough cannot be said about the work that Vita Vea put in this season. Vea looks to be a potential force for years to come and his running mates off the edge need to be brought back if at all possible. Jason Pierre-Paul deserves a ton of credit for not only returning from a serious neck injury, but playing at an incredibly high level on top of it. The leadership and overall work JPP put in this season is truly admirable. JPP finished with two sacks in this game and put pressure on Matt Ryan a few other times as well. The best part of it is the fact that when JPP didn’t make it to Ryan, the man who should be defensive player of the year did. How about Shaquil Barrett? This man needs to be brought back this off-season. Barrett re-wrote Tampa Bay Buccaneer record books with his 19.5 sacks, league high 19.5 sacks that is and 3 sacks in this one to pass Chandler Jones for the NFL lead. Barrett was everything this defense needed and has been looking for over the last decade plus since Simeon Rice graced the stadium.
Lavonte David and David White didn’t put up huge tackle numbers in this one but the linebacking group put in some work. White finished up a respectable rookie season with some very good games down the stretch. How about White’s 91 yard scoop and score in this game? The fumble return for a touchdown was the longest such score in Tampa Bay history.
The defensive backs played admirably in this one too with Sean Murphy-Buntin going down with an injury fairly early. Jamel Dean stepped in and Carlton Davis played a very good game lining up across from Julio Jones for much of the afternoon. Davis and this young group have made big strides over the last quarter plus of the season. It gives fans and this staff a sigh of relief seeing the growth and what could possibly be the making of a much better overall group heading into 2020.
I didn’t touch on it above but it needs to be said, will Tampa Bay EVER find a kicker that can be relied on? Matt Gay appeared to have turned a corner early on but the kicking woes returned and very well may have cost this team the game yesterday. Kickers and Tampa Bay just don’t mix.
The staff made many questionable decisions throughout the season, challenging pass interference calls being one of the big ones. It sure was nice to finally have one of these calls get overturned in the teams favor, right? Bruce Arians and the front office have a lot to worry about this off-season even after the decision on what to do with Jameis is made. I don’t envy them one bit with some of the tough decisions ahead.
The true final reaction... Jameis Winston should be the quarterback of this team in 2020. Have at it folks.