VICTORY! We had forgotten what it was like, didn’t we? Tampa Bay finally got off the snide with an old school 15-10 win over the New York Jets at Ray Jay.
Pieces of Eight
1) When you are 2-6, no win is ugly. Yes, the offense’s performance left a lot to be desired. The play calling on offense was absolutely dreadful while Fitzpatrick was erratic and put the ball in jeopardy more than Jameis typically does (and that’s saying a lot). I’m beginning to think Desean Jackson has a barrier on deep routes as Buccaneer QBs still are unable to connect with him.
Still, with all of that said, what a performance by your defense on Sunday! No one needed that more than Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter.
2) Yes, it was just one game. One game after five absolutely dreadful performances and it came at home, where the Bucs defense seems to play much better. With that said, this was right around the time the defense started turning things around last season and the Bucs went on a run. Now, I’m not saying the Bucs can get back into this race – the division is gone and the wildcard race is a pipe dream at this point. But if this is the defense they see the rest of the way, they have a fighting chance to be competitive down the stretch and ruin some hopes for their rivals.
Next week’s opponent, Miami, has been struggling on offense and traded away their best weapon. If the Bucs defense is going to make a turnaround, they will need to dominate a weak offensive opponent on the road.
3) I think we also need to take into account the youth of the Jets. New York was flying high after destroying their division rival, Buffalo, on Thursday Night Football. At 4-5, they had the entire mini-bye to hear everyone in the Big Apple saying they might have a shot at the playoffs and how they should trounce lowly Tampa Bay. They also had the bye coming up. So the Bucs became the cliché, the trap game. Someone forgot to tell the Bucs they were supposed to roll over for the upstarts from Jersey.
4) Coach Koetter was hell bent on balance in this game. 31 rushes by the Bucs amounted to 90 yards and a pathetic 2.9 yards a carry. The running game honestly is a mystery to me. JR Sweezy’s claim to fame was how dominant he was in the run game. They moved Marpet to Center to get Sweezy in the lineup for the rushing attack. Yet the Bucs o-line can never seem to get to the second level and take out the free tackler. There are few holes and too many instances where the running back is hit in the backfield as soon as he receives the handoff.
This offense will never be consistent without a running game. No quarterback can live by throwing it 40 times a game, as Winston was before and during his injury.
Look at Dak Prescott – the phenom QB in Dallas last season. Great offensive line and Zeke Elliot toting the rock. He was a superstar last season. Sunday with his o-line banged up and Elliot suspended, Prescott suddenly became mortal, throwing for just 176 yds, sacked 8 times and turning the ball over twice in an ugly loss to Atlanta.
Everyone has marveled at Carson Wentz and the Eagles turnaround. It helps that they have the fourth best rushing attack in the league. The Rams, the league’s top scoring offense in the league? They’re fifth in rushing.
While the Saints are tremendously better on defense this season – their resurgence has everything to do with their running game more than anything else. New Orleans nearly ran for 300 yards in Buffalo. They’re third in the NFL in rushing.
Koetter’s offense in 2015 got him the head coaching job here in Tampa Bay but since Logan Mankins retired after that season, the Bucs can’t crack the top 25 in rushing, none the less the top 5. Until the Bucs can run the football, they will continue to struggle to find the end zone and the win column.
5) For the first time this season, the Bucs pass rush was on fire. Is it any coincidence that Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator Mike Smith was much more aggressive this week? Smith called a variety of blitzes that put all kinds of pressure on Josh McCown, who came into the game with a 70% completion percentage through nine games. McCown got himself over 50% with some garbage time completions but for the most part was stymied.
Entering the game with just 8 sacks in 8 games, the Bucs sacked McCown 6 times and hit him a whopping 14 times. Tampa Bay brought the heat on third down, blitzing Beckwith and David and the results were outstanding as for the first time this season, the Bucs defense consistently got off the field on third down. New York was 3-for-15, just a 20% 3rd down conversion rate . The few times they converted, the Bucs passively dropped back into zone (including a gut wrenching 3rd-and-14 that enabled the Jets to get the game tying field goal at the end of the first half).
Hopefully, Smith after nine games has finally learned his team sucks at playing zone, especially on third down. I’d rather attack and deal with the consequences rather than be passive and let them have their way. No, you can’t blitz every single play – but on third down – if you force the QB to make a quick choice, the outcome is usually in your favor.
6) Another big reason for the Bucs’ defensive resurgence is Tampa Bay finally found its run defense again. The Jets, who torched the Bills for 194 yds and 3 touchdowns rushing in their 34-21 win, managed just 56 yards on 19 carries, a 2.9 average. Lavonte David and Kendall Beckwith led the charge with 2 tackles for loss and the Bucs in total had 9 on the day.
7) While the Bucs celebrated their first victory since October 1st, there was some bad news on the day. Bucs GM Jason Licht revealed that the injury to starting QB Jameis Winston could keep him out much longer than the two weeks originally projected. Sources have told the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud that we may not see Winston until Christmas, if at all, the rest of the year.
This is bad news, Bucs fans. If Winston’s injury is a lot more serious than has been revealed by the team (and honestly you don’t go see Dr. James Andrews for bruises or sprains) this really is concerning. Look at what Andrew Luck and the Colts have been dealing with. Cam Newton has been terrible since his shoulder injury.
We all should be saying prayers for the Bucs’ quarterback because we don’t want to return to the dark times when Josh McCown and Captain Checkdown were the team’s only options.
8) While the win definitely quieted some of the chatter and also proved that the team hasn’t quit on him, Dirk Koetter’s backside remains firmly planted on the hot seat. Jon Gruden coyly toyed with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen on Eisen’s podcast saying “he’ll keep his options open.” Many national pundits are smelling smoke around Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds’ initial assertion that the Glazers could consider going back to Gruden if indeed this season goes down the crapper.
The win takes the pressure off for the week, but to survive this, Koetter desperately needs the Bucs to finish strong.
DLT’s Emotional Bucs vs. Jets Tweet of the Week
— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) November 12, 2017
It was a long time coming, but the Buccaneers will finally face the Dolphins. Somehow the Dolphins have managed to get to .500 despite having the worst offense in the NFL in scoring and yardage. They play the Panthers tonight so it will be interesting to see if they come in above or below .500 for Sunday’s showdown. QB Jay Cutler is back but the team traded away phenom running back Jay Ajay. Defensively, the Dolphins are a tough group, so if the Bucs defense finally brings their game to the road, you can expect another Tony Dungy special down in Miami.