Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 12.

Accompanied by a swift kick in the teeth, reality reasserts itself.

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Falcons 34 – Bucs 20

Yeah.

So, about that Tampa defense which had bringing its game the past couple of weeks? I think the rubber band broke, as the Bucs D coughed up 500+ yards in total offense for the Falcons. Half of those were pulled in by Atlanta receiver Julio Jones, who notched 253 yards on the day along with two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, eight different Bucs receivers together collected 283 yards, and none of them had at TD attached.

Ugh.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, for the third week in a row stepping in for Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, had a decent enough day, completing 27 of 44 passes for 274 yards. Each of Tampa’s two touchdowns came on short scampers from running back Peyton Barber, both highlights of an otherwise frustrating day.

The loss drops the Bucs to 4-7, deep in the cellar of the NFC South Division. Atlanta’s win moves them to 7-4, one game behind rivals New Orleans and Carolina. Is Tampa eliminated from playoff contention? Technically, no. That said, about half the teams in the NFC will need to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle or some other temporal anomaly or gateway to a parallel universe in order for the Bucs to have any real shot. I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and guess that oddsmakers in Vegas haven’t considered such scenarios.

Next up? The Bucs travel to Green Bay to take on their longtime rivals, the Packers. Way back in the Before Time, both teams along with Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago made up the old NFC Central Division, and match-ups between the Bucs and Packers used to be called “the Bay of Pigs” by great ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman.

Ah, those were the days. At this point, I’m guessing we’ll be having another one of those games, next week.

Bucs life, though, right?

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Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 11.

Well, if delaying a game ten weeks means you stand a better chance of winning it, then I say do that for all of Tampa’s games.

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Bucs 30 – Dolphins 20

This intrastate matchup was supposed to happen way back during Week 1 of the season, but Hurricane Irma saw to it that Florida residents had far greater concerns than a silly football game that weekend. As both teams originally were scheduled for a bye during Week 11, it provided an opening to reschedule the game.

And so it went yesterday.

Like last week, the Bucs were able to win in somewhat haphazard fashion. Unlike last week, the at times seemed incapable of getting out of their own way while allowing the Dolphins to linger despite Miami’s own error and penalty-riddled performance. They came within spitting distance of letting the game get away from them, leading just 23-20 with 4 seconds remaining in regulation after a Tampa field goal.

Weird things have been known to happen to the Bucs during the waning moments of many a game, so you’ll forgive me for not quite believing they had this one locked up until that last whistle blows. The kickoff to the Dolphins turned into one of those crazy, desperate lateral-fests until Miami’s Jakeem Grant fumbled the ball at the 3-yard line. Tampa’s Adarius Glanton recovered it in the Dolphin’s end zone, earning him a touchdown and sealing the deal for the Bucs.

And that’s when I decided the game was over.

Speaking of heads-up defense, the Bucs D was on it, yesterday. They picked off Miami quarterback Jay Cutler three times, to the point that Cutler was pulled in favor of backup Matt Moore. However, they did allow the Dolphins to hang around way, way too long, given the pressure they were able to bring. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense, once more guided by #2 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, sputtered and stalled several times while still managing to put 23 points on the board. Hey, it was enough to win. I’ll take it.

The win improves Tampa’s record to 4-6 on the year. Unfortunately, both New Orleans and Atlanta also won, so the Bucs don’t move up anywhere in the NFC South Division standings. Carolina was on its own bye week, but they’re still three games ahead of Tampa, with six games to go this season.

Next up? The Bucs travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. A win against a division rival is….what do they call it at this juncture? Yeah, “critical.” Even then, unless the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons all get lost heading to their next few games, I don’t see the Bucs going to the playoffs unless they get on the phone to StubHub.

Bucs life, yo.

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 10.

If you thought the Bucs strategy for securing a win looked familiar – you know, like something out of the Tony Dungy era – go with that feeling.

But, a win’s a win, and I’ll take it.

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Bucs 15 – Jets 10

It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Seemingly taking their cue from the Days of Old, the Bucs relied on their defense to keep things under control and the game within reach and affording their offense the opportunities needed to score in workmanlike fashion just enough points to win. It’s a formula that produced solid if not spectacular results for years, most notably during Tony Dungy’s storied tenure as the Bucs head coach, and you know what? I’ll roll with it forever if it means Tampa can keep adding notches to their Win Column.

The Bucs’ offensive production was anchored by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, subbing for the injured Jameis Winston. He presided over a pair of time-eating, soul-crushing scoring drives of the sort that make defenses cry like when you watch the ending to Bambi. The drives may only have netted nine points (a field goal and touchdown, with the latter score’s 2-point conversion coming up short), but they generated ripples that affected the rest of the game.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs were in pretty good form. They hassled Jets quarterback Josh McCown all day, to the tune of six sacks and an interception, though they still allowed him to rack up 265+ yards while completing 23 of 39 passes. They also recovered a fumble to halt another New York drive, and held the Jets to only 3 points in the first half. They did allow a late touchdown with time running out in regulation, but by then the damage was done, and the Bucs walked away with the win after recovering the Jets’ onside kick with less than 30 seconds left in the game.

Scrappy wins count, too, by golly.

The win snaps a five-game skid by the Bucs and improves their record to 3-6. However, their standing in the NFC South remains unchanged, as division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans both won, as well, with Carolina gearing up for a game tonight. It’s a dire picture for Tampa, right now, but this is a tiny sparkle of light in an otherwise dark and dreary season. I’m not saying we should be making Super Bowl plans, or anything, but I’ll take any bit of positive news I can get. What’s sad is that the Bucs have too much raw talent to justify such a paltry performance, this year. Something is definitely amiss in Tampa. Here’s hoping the coaches figure it out, and damned quick.

Next up? The Bucs travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins, who are struggling this year with a 4-4 record. This was the game that was supposed to be played back on Week 1, but was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Enjoy your bye week, guys.

#BucsLife

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 9.

Can you invoke the Mercy Rule at the halfway point of a season? Asking for 53 friends, along with their coaches, trainers, equipment people, and the guys who take care of the Gatorade.

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Saints 30 – Bucs 10

Ugh.

Long story short? The New Orleans Saints are on fire. A six-game winning streak, quarterback Drew Brees having a career year, and the team duking it out with division rival Carolina for supremacy of the NFC South.

As for the Bucs? They are a fire. A trash fire. A dumpster fire. A slow-motion dumpster fire with bionic sound effects and Wilhelm Screams echoing far and wide across the land. The nicest term I can come up with to describe their overall performance against the Saints? “Ineffective.” Does Hallmark have a card for something like that?

QB Jameis Winston and the Tampa offense were never able to find anything resembling a gear, and that was before Winston had to leave the game just before halftime with an apparent shoulder injury. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was left to fend off the lions…uh, I mean Saints as combat continued, and he even managed to guide the Bucs to a late game TD, but by then the writing was on the wall.

As for the defense? They may as well have brought Brees room service during those few occasions anyone was able to get anywhere near him. I don’t even want to talk about the absolutely spectacular failure to stop New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara during a 33-yard scamper to pay dirt, with seemingly every member of the Bucs defense along with a handful of random fans from the stands able to put a hand on him without bringing him down.

And if that wasn’t enough? The Saints were able to block a Tampa punt and return that for a touchdown, and Winston – prior to his departure – started a fight on the sidelines. Because I guess “Why the hell not?” at this point, amirite?

Ugh.

The loss is Tampa’s fifth in a row, dropping them to 2-6 at their season’s halfway mark. This includes two consecutive losses to division rivals, so I suppose they’re clear to start shopping for Super Bowl tickets at StubHub, or making sure they’ve got some decent wings and chips lined up for the watch party they’ll having at One Buc Place.

Next up? Back home next Sunday to host the New York Jets, and possibly with Fitzpatrick starting for the (as of this writing) questionable Winston. Should be a wonderful nap inducer.

Bucs life. Ugh.

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 8. 

I’m traveling, so this one will be short.

Panthers 17 – Bucs 3

It really wasn’t even that exciting.

There were moments, sure, but after halftime it started to become obvious that the Bucs were never really in it, and weren’t ever going to climb back into it. Once inevitability set in, it was all could do to bother checking back in as Kevin and I continued our Vegas shenanigans.

Ugh.

The loss drops Tampa to 2-5 on the year, extending their losing streak to four games and giving them a commanding dead last place in the NFC South Division. Everybody else in the division won, so the gap just gets bigger.

Next up? Traveling to New Orleans to take on the white hot division rival Saints. The Bucs don’t have a lot of time to get their ship back on course before their season becomes an exercise in futility.

Come on, you guys.

#BucsLife

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 7.

You’re going the wrong way, Tampa. You’re going the wrong way!

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Bills 30 – Bucs 27

Oh, the pain. The pain.

Seven weeks into the season, and I’m already running out of ways to express disappointment. It’s going to be a long haul the rest of the way, isn’t it?

First, some good news: After being pulled from last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals for a possible shoulder injury, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was back at the helm yesterday. He showed no evident signs of being hampered as he went on to complete 32 of 44 pass attempts and collecting 385 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also threw interception, which thankfully ended up not costing Tampa anything in the long run.

On the other side of the ball, to say that the Bucs defense has some work to do is putting it mildly.

Up 27-20 late in the fourth quarter and with just over three minutes to play, the defensive scheme for the Bucs should’ve been straightforward: Don’t give up anything deep. Keep the Bills contained, and either force a punt or surrender no more than a field goal. Somebody didn’t get a memo.

Unfortunately, it was first-year Tampa safety Justin Evans, who (somewhat understandably) got caught up in the confusion that’s meant to happen from a pretty impressive play call by the Buffalo offensive coordinator. The Bills receivers basically did their best to fake out their coverage in unison in the hopes that someone would miss picking up whatever guy ran through their area. Evans was the one who took the bait, failing to glom onto Buffalo receiver Deonte Thompson. Result? Thompson is wide open and pulls in a sweet pass from Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and collects 44 yards on the play.

Okay, that hurt, but it’s not a fatal wound, right? Even the extra 15 yards tacked onto the end of things thanks to an unnecessary roughness call stings like a mofo, but the Bucs can still hold, right? RIGHT?

Ugh.

It only took two more plays for Buffalo to punch it in and tie up the game. So, here we are: 27-27 with two and a half minutes left in regulation. What do you do? If you said, “Grind it out, kill as much clock as possible while trying to position for a field goal if you can’t store a touchdown, maybe force the other team to burn any time outs they might have, and don’t do anything stupid,” then you’d be pretty close to being right.

If you said, “Fumble it away on the first play of your next possession,” you’d be Nostradamus, because that’s exactly what happened. The Bills recovered said fumble, then went on to execute the plan outlined in the previous paragraph. With 14 seconds left in the game, Buffalo booted a chip shot field goal to pull ahead 30-27.

We don’t even bother discussing that ridiculous lateral-palooza the Bucs attempted on the ensuing series. End of game.

The loss drops Tampa to 2-4 on the season and a comfortable grip on the bottom rung of the NFC South Division standings ladder. The good news is that both Carolina and Atlanta lost, so the Bucs maintain their gaps behind those two teams. The bad news is that New Orleans is on fire and celebrating a 4-game winning streak. So, you know…none of this is getting easier for Tampa anytime soon.

Next up for the Bucs? They’re at home to host the aforementioned Carolina Panthers. At the Week 8 mark, it’s not exaggeration to say that this will be a must-win situation for Tampa. Period. Division games at this point are critical. Gotta have ’em, yo. More importantly, the Bucs absolutely have to fix the holes in their defensive scheme – and pretty damned quick – or the rest of this season is going to be long and miserable. I’ll be keeping my fingers and my swords crossed.

Bucs life. Grr. Argh.

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 6.

We can’t quite call it a comeback, but it was a pretty decent effort.

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Cardinals 38 – Bucs 33

The game’s big story so far a Bucs fans are concerned involves quarterback Jameis Winston, who was forced to exit the game in the second quarter after suffering a shoulder injury. As I write this, the word is that Winston’s X-rays were negative, and he’s scheduled to undergo an MRI this coming week. Here’s hoping he isn’t in the same boat as Packer’s QB Aaron Rodgers, who’s likely out for the rest of the season.

With Winston out and the Bucs down 31-0 after the Cardinals spent the early going smacking Tampa’s defense all up and down the field, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick took control of the Bucs offense and began piecing together a damned fine attempt at climbing out of that hole. Fitzpatrick completed 22 of 32 passes for 290+ yard and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defense held Arizona to just eight more points while recovering a fumble and returning it for a Bucs touchdown. Tampa pulled to within five points with two minutes left in the game, but Arizona recovered the expected onside kick. Tampa, having no time-outs, was unable to stop the clock and the Cardinals were able to take a knee to end the game.

:: sad trombone sound ::

The loss drops Tampa to 2-3 and keeps them in the basement of the NFC South Division. Despite their loss, the Carolina Panthers remain in first place. New Orleans had a shoot-out against Detroit (52-38!) and is on a 3-game winning streak, so watch out, Panthers. Like the Bucs, Atlanta has also lost two in a row. Yeah, this division is as scrappy as ever.

Next up? The Bucs go home to host the Buffalo Bills next Sunday. With Winston at QB I’d think Tampa had a good shot at a win, but it’s possible Fitzpatrick could start in Winston’s stead. If he has a day like he did today, the Bucs could still be cooking with gas. Even so,  there are still some questions about the defense that need answering, and quick.

Here’s hoping they find those answers.

Bucs life, amirite?

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 5.

I’d like to say a loss like this is a real kick in the teeth, but that one went wide left, too.

bucs-2014-logo Patriots 19 – Bucs 14

The hell, Tampa? You’re hosting in prime time before a national – nay, global – audience. You’re pitting our offense against a defense that’s ranked dead freakin’ last. Your defense is firing on all cylinders. This was really your game to lose.

Well…nice job.

I guess we should just get this out of the way: Yes, if Bucs kicker Nick Folk makes two of the three field goals he missed during this game, that covers the score gap and Tampa goes home the winner. Sure, making a 56-yard attempt is a tall order. We can give him that one because kickers miss from that distance all the time. The 49-yarder is a little iffy, but hey! We’re playing NFL football, here. And the kicked from 31-yards? Well, it seemed pretty clear that Folk was deep in his own head by the time he was asked to notch that one, late in the fourth quarter and with the Bucs needing two scores to have any chance of stealing the win out from under the Pats.

Wait. I already gave you the final score. Spoiler alert.

Despite Folk’s difficulties navigating the uprights, the Bucs somehow managed to keep things close. The defense handed Tom Brady his first interception of the season, and also recovered a fumble. Unfortunately, the Tampa offense was unable to capitalize on either of these opportunities, which included one of Nick Folk’s aforementioned critical missed field goals. Despite throwing for 330+ yards, Bucs QB Jameis Winston only managed a single TD pass. New England managed to stall and stymie Winston and his crew most of the night. Still, workhorse running back Doug Martin contributed another score and was Tampa’s leading rusher, collecting 74 hard-won yards on 13 carries.

For a brief moment, it looked like Winston might engineer his second last-minute come-from-behind victory in as many weeks, as he guided the Bucs offense to within striking distance of a go-ahead touchdown with just seconds remaining. It came down to the wire with Winston firing one last pass toward the end zone which never found tight end O.J. Howard. End of game.

Bummer.

Despite a valiant effort that more cynical folks might classify as “too little, too late,” the Bucs drop to 2-2 and the cellar of the NFC South Division. New Orleans and Atlanta won’t play this weekend, leaving only Carolina with a chance to improve to 4-1 and retain control of the division.

Next up? Tampa won’t play until a week from Sunday, when they travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals, who are also nursing a 2-2 record going into this weekend’s game against Philadelphia. The Bucs have ten days to figure out what’s what, particularly with Nick Folk. Here’s hoping they get some things sorted.

Sigh. Bucs life.

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 4.

Hell, that was close.

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Bucs 25 – Giants 23

Despite their best efforts, the Bucs managed to avoid giving away the game to the G-men, who came into Tampa carrying an 0-3 record and a season that might be on its way toward oblivion. Nobody wants to be the one to surrender a first victory to a team struggling like that, and for a while we were looking at the potential upset of the day.

Quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense certainly were clicking against a beleaguered Giants defense. Winston completed 22 of 38 passes for 330+ yards, including three touchdowns. Additionally, he threw no interceptions. The running game saw some improvement from last week’s dismal performance, notching 111 yards on 23 carries, including four of those by Winston for 12 yards. But it was Jacquizz Rodgers shouldering most of the load, collecting 83 yards on 16 of those 23 rushing attempts.

By itself, this was more than enough to secure a win, but for those of you just joining football already in progress, there’s this pesky other side of the ball. Tampa’s defense allowed Eli Manning and the New York offense to hang around far, far longer than they deserved. The Bucs got very little in the way of penetration, only getting close enough to hit Manning a couple of times. They weren’t able to force any turnovers, and allowed nearly 100 yards rushing while letting Manning throw for 280+ yards and two TDs. Just to rub salt in the Tampa running defense, even Manning–whose 40-yard dash is best clocked with an egg timer–ran for a score. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good for six points. Ouch.

What looked to be Tampa’s ultimate undoing was in the kicking game, with placekicker Nick Folk missing two field goals and an extra point in the early going. This allowed the Giants to lurk and linger long enough to take a 23-22 lead late in the game, necessitating a last-ditch drive by Winston and the Bucs offense in order to snatch back the victory that was slipping away. Folk was able to get back into his groove in the game’s final seconds, launching the winning field goal as the last second ticked away.

Defeat. Averted.

The win moves the Bucs to 2-1 while still holding on to third place in the NFC South Division. They’re a precious half game ahead of the New Orleans Saints, who are rolling after winning two in a row. Carolina and Atlanta are scrapping at the top of the pile, with each team sitting at 3-1. So, the division’s a damned mosh pit. You know…the usual.

Next up? The Bucs need to bring their A-game and bring it fast, because they’re slotted to host the New England Patriots in prime time this coming Thursday night. Now, the Pats are currently sitting at 2-2, but those of you familiar with the sport know they kinda sorta know how to play the game. Here’s hoping Tampa shows ’em how it’s done way down south. I wish I could be there, because it could end up being a hell of a lot of fun.

Bucs life, amirite?

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 3.

All righty, then. Reality reasserts itself…a bit.

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Vikings 34 – Bucs 17

I didn’t get to this on Sunday, because I was busy with my volunteering duties at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and later by being a super nerd and watching the premiere episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. So, by now, other writers who are much better at this sort of thing have already analyzed and dissected the Bucs’ second game of the new season.

The short version is that Tampa had a long day at the hands of the Vikes. Despite a third quarter surge where they showed the first real signs of life during the game, Minnesota had already inflicted a fatal wound on their way to almost 500 yards of total offense and their second victory of the year.

Meanwhile, it took the Bucs far too long to grab a gear. Jameis Winston was throwing the ball everywhere. 28 completions on 40 attempts for 328 yards, along with two touchdown throws. However, three interceptions were costly. Injuries at key positions on defense translated to Vikings quarterback Case Keenum often had his pick of receivers all afternoon, and the time to find them. The ground game must’ve been left in another equipment bag, as the Bucs managed to scrape together a measly 26 yards on 9 carries spread across three backs and Winston himself.

So, yeah…there are some things to address this week, on both sides of the ball. That said, we’re only two games into it. There’s time to get the ship back on course. Not much, but some.

The loss drops Tampa to 1-1 on the still minty-fresh season. Elsewhere in the NFC South, the Falcons sit on top with their unblemished 3-0 record, followed by 2-1 Carolina, who lost to division rival New Orleans. The Saints improve to 1-2, coming up behind the Bucs in the division standings. So far, things look to be normal among these four teams….it’s going to be a street fight all year long.

Next up for the Bucs? Back home to Tampa to host the struggling New York Giants, who’ve stumbled out of the gate to start their season 0-3. They’ll be looking for redemption, but this is as good a chance as any for the Bucs to get their game back on track. Here’s hoping.

Bucs life, yo.