Saturday, July 21, 2018
Sports

Errors by Bucs special teams not costly — yet

TAMPA — The issues have been largely harmless to this point, but as the Bucs seek a third straight win this week, they'll try to get more out of their return game, which struggled in Sunday's 34-17 win against the 49ers.

"We have no problem with our return guys," coach Dirk Koetter said Monday in support of kickoff returner Ryan Smith and punt returner Adam Humphries.

The Bucs have gladly embraced the NFL's shift to the 25-yard line on touchbacks — they have a league-low seven kickoff returns in their first six games, and they average a league-low 13.6 yards on those returns.

Smith only made it to the 13-yard line on his first return Sunday, then the 6 on his next; Humphries uncharacteristically had two muffs on punt returns, recovering the loose ball himself both times. One, in the final seconds of the first half, saw him field a punt at his 1-yard line and briefly drop it before returning it to the 16.

"We were very fortunate," Koetter said. "After he dropped it and picked it up we actually got a good return out of it, but (he) probably should've let that one go."

Third's the charm: QB Jameis Winston was especially sharp on third downs in Sunday's win, going 9-for-11 for 93 yards and two touchdowns after an early interception. Winston had three conversions each to WRs Mike Evans and Russell Shepard, including touchdowns to both.

This and that: On his weekly radio show, Koetter said he would have gone for it on fourth and 1 at the 49ers' 5-yard line in the second quarter, but a 15-yard penalty on Winston for arguing about the spot of the ball made that a non-issue. Koetter said the penalty was "unacceptable" from his quarterback. … The Bucs had seven penalties for 78 yards, but only three for 23 after taking the lead in the second quarter. The defense continues to limit its flags, with just two on the day. … The Raiders, having won Sunday at Jacksonville, are staying in Florida this week and training at IMG in Bradenton to prepare for the Bucs. They have four road wins this season, the only NFL team with more than the Bucs' three.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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