The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were about as entertaining as it gets yesterday at home. A passing record for a home game, come back theatrics and enough chaos from start to finish to give a man a heart attack. Let’s dive into some reactions.
Let’s start with the man who drives you crazy whether you love him or hate him... Jameis Winston. Winston started the game off in a manner as close to déjà vu as it gets. After a 10 yard run to start the game, Jameis is picked off by Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard would rob Winston again for a second time on a terrific job by Leonard retreating back into coverage and reading Winston’s eyes. Winston managed to scramble in for a touchdown to get the team on the board early on but the real heroics came with the team down 35 to 21 in the second half. Winston led the team to three scores in four drives to end the game with a touchdown, field goal, interception and the final touchdown drive to win it. Winston’s game was everything fans marveled at during his college days. Get down early, mount the come back, disastrous turn of events then a late miraculous drive to get the job done. Amidst the action, Winston set a franchise home record for passing yards with 456.
For the running backs, things were far from smooth sailing. There was very little running room overall for Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones with the two combining for 22 carries and 70 yards with Jones barely edging out Barber yard wise. Jones did add 4 receptions for 23 yards and Dare Ogunbawale had a crucial early fumble but ended up with 5 receptions for 48 yards.
Mike Evans had a huge 61 yard touchdown reception from Jameis Winston in this one but ultimately got hurt and had to be helped off the field. In his absence, Chris Godwin went to work netting himself 91 yards on 7 grabs. Justin Watson stepped up nicely in this one as well with 5 grabs for 59 yards including a touchdown. Breshad Perriman for the second week in a row got into the action, catching 3 for 70 yards and a touchdown all while O.J. Howard had another nice ballgame with 73 yards on 4 grabs.
For the offensive line, running lanes were non existent and while they only allowed the lone sack on Winston, there wasn’t always great protection and the unit just didn’t play as well as you’d like. In the end, they did enough to give Jameis the time needed to make some magic and that’s really all you can ask for when down a starter in Alex Cappa.
Up front, Shaq Barrett and William Gholston split a sack while Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul played pretty well. Barrett and JPP each had a couple more opportunities but couldn’t get home to the quarterback. On one play in particular, both were near Brissett but instead, a a big 50 yard touchdown pass was the end result. Barrett finished second with 7 tackles in this one.
The linebackers were a bit quieter than usual in this one as Devin White finished with only 5 tackles and Lavonte David added another 6.
The corners and the defensive backs as a whole took a step back in this one after back to back good games against lesser opponents. The regression was expected, and it showed. Carlton Davis did have himself a few big pass breakups in this one. Jordan Whitehead led the team in tackles with 9 including 1 for a loss.
This certainly isn’t the type of game fans necessarily want to deal with on a weekly basis, but there’s something to be said for the resilience shown, by Winston in particular, by this team to keep on fighting and pull out a big victory. Many of us probably left yesterday with a few extra grey hairs, but it’s worth it every time so long as there’s a victory to talk about.
On a more solemn note, the Buccaneers were officially eliminated from playoff contention last night. It’s a headline that’s been far too frequent around these parts for far too long. The team needs to continue fighting and show that things are changing and moving in the right direction. The last several games are now about building up the culture and excitement for next year.
Ugh. There’s those two words we hate to talk about. Next Year.