Wow. That’s the only word that can describe this game. Wow. The Bucs turned it over on their first two drives, leading to a 10-0 deficit. Next thing we know, the Bucs are up 14-10. Then by the third quarter, the Colts have a commanding 35-21 lead.
Not so fast.
As impressive as this win was, it wasn’t without some downfalls which we will get into in a moment. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s just go ahead and get started.
Time to Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Jameis Winston overcame a lot. I have not shied away from my criticisms of number three. Winston had his first pass attempt picked off. In the second quarter, the Buccaneers had an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead and Winston threw a pick six - his fifth of the season. He had another pass that deflected off Breshad Perriman’s hand and was intercepted. Yet, he did what he had to do to win the game. Career high in passing yards, five total touchdowns, and a fourth quarter comeback to win the game. And he did it with a fractured right hand. Say what you will about the turnovers, but Winston didn’t panic. Even without his number one receiver, he didn’t panic. He went out there, made plays, and led the Bucs to a win.
2.) Tale of two defenses. The pass defense throughout most of the game was back to being its normal, swiss cheese self. Then, when the Buccaneers needed stops the most, the players stepped up and got off the field, giving Winston and the offense a chance to go out there and win the game. The Bucs took a 38-35 lead with over three minutes left. The Colts marched to midfield with ease, then the defense tightened up and turned the ball over on downs. Jacoby Brissett was pressured constantly, but did a beautiful job of making something out of nothing. However, when it was crunch time, the defense did everything they could do to secure the game.
3.) Mike Evans may not play again in 2019. Man, that sucked. Mike Evans hauls in a picture perfect pass and injured his hamstring running to the end zone. Watching Evans walk off the field, he was furious. He knew his season was in jeopardy. Bruce Arians has already said that Evans likely won’t play next week against the Lions, but soft tissue injuries are tricky. Anthony Nelson has missed most of the season with a hamstring issue. Hell, a hamstring derailed the Hall of Fame career of one of the greatest baseball players to ever live (Ken Griffey Jr. for those unaware). At this point, with the Vikings’ win over Detroit mathematically eliminating the Bucs from postseason contention, the Bucs may opt to shut Evans down the rest of the year anyway. Why risk further injury in the final three now meaningless games? Brutal way to go out for one of the NFL’s leading receivers.
4.) Refs still suck. So Bruce Arians got called for a penalty earlier in the season for calling back-to-back timeouts. At the end of the first half, Jacoby Brissett called timeout after the Colts had just called one. The referees told him he couldn’t so he snapped the ball (after the play clock expired) and the Colts got a first down. Come to find out, it’s at the referee’s discretion whether or not to penalize a team or just tell them they have to snap the ball because they aren’t allowed to call another timeout. Um, WHAT? So why did they decide it was okay to penalize the Bucs earlier this year, but against the Bucs look at Brissett and say “Oh no, honey. You can’t do that. Just go ahead and snap the ball.”? It would’ve resulted in a ten second run off of the game clock, ending the half rather than the Colts getting a field goal. If you have a rule, enforce it. Don’t leave it up to the incompetent officials to decide if they want to enforce it or not. Completely inexcusable. And I’m not even going to get into the missed holding calls all afternoon...
5.) Devin White steps up again. It was a quiet day for the rookie, until he was Johnny On The Spot, forcing a fumble as the Colts were in the red zone. The awareness he showed on that play, popping the ball out right before Hines hit the ground, was a veteran move. His stat sheet wasn’t as pretty as the last few weeks, but his impact is game changing. This kid is good, y’all.
6.) Much improved, Mr. Leftwich. The Bucs were down double-digits three times in this game. Unlike in past games, Leftwich didn’t abandon the run and it helped the Bucs immensely down the stretch. Even though Winston was throwing the ball pretty well, the balance of the offense didn’t make them one dimensional and was a key to the comeback. Whether it was Ronald Jones or Peyton Barber, the Bucs stuck with it and it opened things up down the field for the pass catchers. Justin Watson, Breshad Perriman, and O.J. Howard all had big games and I honestly don’t believe any of that is possible if Leftwich had gone with his usual approach of nothing but passes.
**BONUS** So, since I wasn’t sure which category to put this in, we’re just going to have a bonus topic. First, check out this tweet;
One thing heard repeatedly in the #Bucs locker room from team veterans today: two years ago, five years ago, we would have lost this game. Players say belief is stronger now, team is better prepared than in the past.— Roy Cummings (@RCummingsFHCN) December 8, 2019
This speaks volumes - and it is 100% accurate. Under Koetter, under Lovie, under Schiano, under Morris - this team would have folded and lost. This team trusts one another and this coaching staff has them believing they are on the cusp of turning the corner. It’s too late for 2019, but these guys enjoy playing here. They enjoy playing with one another. You have the NFL’s sack leader saying he loves it so much, he would accept less money to return to the Bucs. This is what the team needs to build on for 2020. This is the kind of game they had to close out to prove to themselves they could actually win this kind of game. Accountability, culture, belief - these have been buzz words around the Bucs for a long time. However, it looks to have some validity over the last month. With three games to go, this team can really bond together for next season and beyond.
Six Numbers To Consider
15 - Sacks this season by Shaquil Barrett, 1.5 behind Warren Sapp for most all time
5 - Quarterbacks in NFL history to have 400+ passing yards, 4+ touchdowns, and 3+ interceptions in one game - now including Jameis Winston
456 - Passing yards by Winston, a career high and third most in a single game in Bucs’ history
13 - Years since a team had back-to-back seasons with 22+ interceptions, which the Bucs have now managed to do
29 - Consecutive games the Bucs had lost when trailing by 8+ points at any point in the game
7 - Passing yards Winston trails Dak Prescott by for most in the NFL
Six Positions That Must Be Addressed
Right Tackle - Nothing personal against Demar Dotson, but his age is beyond showing. Every time there’s a run of ten or more yards, you can bet it’s coming back thanks to a holding call against Dot. He’s the longest tenured Buccaneer, but it appears the light is fading on his NFL career.
Safety - I understand the investment the team has made at corner the last few years, but when Andrew Adams is out there, he gets roasted. He’s a liability and the Bucs can not rely on him to continue to play. Jordan Whitehead has played relatively well and Mike Edwards is coming into his own, but they need better depth with Justin Evans’ career in question.
Wide Receiver - Maybe Justin Watson asserted himself as a weapon moving forward, but this was something Bucs fans feared. If Godwin or Evans go out, the depth is not good. It hasn’t been until the last couple of weeks that Perriman has actually stepped up and made some plays. Not saying this needs to be a day one or two pick in the draft or anything, but they need some more help.
Defensive Tackle - If they can get Ndamukong Suh to return at an affordable price, great. Personally, I would rather see the Bucs use a high draft pick on Vita Vea’s long term tag-team partner to continue to wreak havoc up the middle for the Bucs’ defense. I do believe they could get something done with Suh, but he’s certainly not the long term answer.
Left Tackle - No, I’m not saying draft or sign Donovan Smith’s replacement, but the depth at tackle is atrocious. Smith had a gutsy performance, going back on the field after being injured to try and neutralize Justin Houston. It took all of two plays before Houston absolutely embarrassed Josh Wells who was filling in for the injured Smith.
Cornerback - I like what we’ve been seeing out of Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting as of late, but again - we’ve seen the depth issues. M.J. Stewart is a liability. Vernon Hargreaves is gone. The Bucs still need some help at the position, but I’m feeling good about the future of these youngins moving forward.
Six Best Tweets
Winston:— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) December 8, 2019
456 passing yards
4 TDs passing (1 TD rushing)
Y'all keep asking me at halftimes what the Bucs are going to do with Winston.
These games are the reasons why I can't answer them.
Y’all can say what you want about Donovan Smith, but that guy is back out there playing, looks like he’s limping between plays. Dude has heart. And the drop off after him is huge.— The PewterCast (@ThePewterCast) December 8, 2019
Offense takes the ball at the 25, following 2 turnovers on 2 drives pic.twitter.com/BZtRA6Ci8q— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) December 8, 2019
(and up they went...)
Can’t help notice the score of this game looks awfully familiar. A bit of revenge for that 2003 Bucs-Colts game?— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 8, 2019
QB Jameis Winston has surpassed the 300-yard mark for the ninth time this season.— Buccaneers Communications (@BuccaneersComms) December 8, 2019
-Winston and Falcons QB Matt Ryan share the league lead with nine 300-yard passing games each in 2019.
Six Super Bowl Bets
You already know I didn’t wait for the night game to be done...
1.) Baltimore Ravens - I mean, goodness gracious. This team is the real deal.
2.) San Francisco 49ers - I can’t deny them their spot on this list anymore.
3.) New Orleans Saints - Toe-to-toe with the 49ers. Barring that miracle catch and run by Kittle, the Saints win.
4.) New England Patriots - Back to back tough outings. Trouble in paradise?
5.) Seattle Seahawks - Still believe the Seahawks will beat the 49ers again
20.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - What a turnaround these last few weeks. Can they finish strong?