Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Instant analysis: Bucs' defense delivers heart-stopping victory over Saints

TAMPA – Exhale, Bucs fans. This was a big one. Close and big.

Somehow, despite an offense that preferred field goals to touchdowns, the Bucs found a way to win. Actually, we know exactly how the Bucs won. With defense. Again.

Tampa Bay's offense has sputtered in recent weeks, but a defense that got sturdy in the red zone and then created turnovers led the Bucs to a 16-11 victory over the Saints.

How did the Bucs survive? Here are some instant thoughts following Sunday's heart-stopping and much-needed victory.

• Hey, how about this? The Bucs won't finish with a losing record. Sunday was their eighth victory, guaranteeing no worse than a .500 record. More importantly, Tampa Bay kept pace in the NFC playoff race. It remains tied with Atlanta for first place in the NFC South and held on to one of the two wild-card spots with three games left.

• You can't kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Especially in the NFL. Especially against a team such as the Saints. The Bucs went to halftime up 13-8. Should have been more like 21-3. But instead of scoring touchdowns, the Bucs had two drives stall out and had to settle for Roberto Aguayo field goals. Hey, at least there is some good news there: Aguayo made his field goals. But, speaking of field goals, the Saints, too, wasted chances. Late in the third quarter, they had kicked three field goals. Two of those drives would have ended in touchdowns had it not been for dropped passes that looked to be certain touchdowns.

• Speaking of Aguayo. The guy Aguayo is like a box of chocolates. You never … well, you know the rest. On Sunday, we got the good chocolate, er, Roberto. He nailed field goals of 41, 39 and 26 yards. Still, we're waiting for the game when the second-round pick lines up for a field goal with the game — and maybe the season — on his foot. It'll be as fun as a box of chocolates.

• Remember last week when Vernon Hargreaves broke up a pass that led to Lavonte David's pick-six? Well, another linebacker (Kwon Alexander) repaid the favor. Alexander deflected a Drew Brees pass into the outstretched hands of a diving Hargreaves for the first interception of Hargreaves' NFL career. The first-round draft pick is having a heck of a rookie season and it's another check in the plus column for Bucs general manager Jason Licht. Also, kudos to Licht for the signing of cornerback Brent Grimes, who picked off his fourth interception of the year.

• This game had a ridiculous number of yellow flags. Clearly, both teams committed penalties, but it sure felt this officiating crew got way too involved in the game. It's one thing to make sure the game is played fairly, but there does come a point when officials have to let a few things go for the sake of keeping the game moving and the teams in rhythm.

• Not sure that the Bucs had three worse consecutive plays this season than they did on Sunday. Late in the first half, after leading 13-0, the Bucs allowed a field goal. That's not the bad part. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced inside the 5-yard line and then hit Bucs returner Josh Huff in the facemask. If that wasn't bad enough, the ball then rolled out of bounds at the 1-foot line. It went from bad to worse when, on the next play, Bucs running back Doug Martin was tackled in the end zone for a safety. Then Bucs punter Bryan Anger kicked the ball out of bounds, giving New Orleans the ball at the 50. Before the half ended, the Saints added another field goal. So you could blame Huff for five points. And a game that was 13-0 went to 13-8 in a flash.

• The Bucs defense has been lights-out this season and it was so again on Sunday, holding Saints QB Drew Brees without a touchdown pass for the first time in 21 meetings against Tampa Bay. In fact, the Saints didn't score a TD of any kind. That's hard to do in this league.

• Two weeks in a row and Keith Tandy ices the game with an interception.

• One final pat on the back to Bucs punter Bryan Anger. Another stellar day, including two kicks pinned inside the Saints' 3-yard line.

 
Comments
Buccaneers AfterMath: Tampa Bayís defense is raising red flags

Buccaneers AfterMath: Tampa Bayís defense is raising red flags

You might have walked away from the game Monday night feeling pretty good about your Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sure, the first half was about as ugly as it gets. After the Steelers returned Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third interception for a touchdown late...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucsí Gerald McCoy heard apologizing to Ben Roethlisberger mid-hit

Bucsí Gerald McCoy heard apologizing to Ben Roethlisberger mid-hit

For all of his accomplishments on the field, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been criticized throughout his career for being too nice.One moment during Monday's 30-27 loss to the Steelers isn't going to help him in that regard.Still,...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Did Ryan Fitzpatrick do enough to keep his job?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Did Ryan Fitzpatrick do enough to keep his job?

Rick Stroud and Times sports columnist Tom Jones break down the Bucs' 30-27 loss to the Steelers on Monday Night Football.Ryan Fitzpatrick  had a difficult first half, throwing three interceptions, but  led a second-half comeback that ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
The magic has worn off. Time for the Bucs to start Jameis Winston

The magic has worn off. Time for the Bucs to start Jameis Winston

TAMPA — So this will be a fun and interesting week over at One Buc Place.Who's the quarterback?That question will be asked a few times. The likely answer will end up being Ryan Fitzpatrick.But this question will be asked a few dozen times:...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Winston or Fitzpatrick? Reading between the lines in the Bucs locker room

Winston or Fitzpatrick? Reading between the lines in the Bucs locker room

TAMPA — At some point Tuesday morning, Jameis Winston will walk into the office of head coach Dirk Koetter and get the news.There will likely be hugs and handshakes, but within the first few minutes, Koetter will tell Winston what his role will...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Why the Bucs kept going to Chris Godwin

Why the Bucs kept going to Chris Godwin

TAMPA  — Chris Godwin's first three quarters Monday night weren't as rough as Ryan Fitzpatrick's, but they were close.Through 45 minutes of Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss to Pittsburgh, Godwin dropped two touchdown passes, had another TD reception...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

TAMPA — They couldn't stick the landing. The FitzMagic ran out.Monday night against the Steelers, Tony Dungy night, was supposed to be the coming-out party, a new beginning, the Bucs on national TV, showing America that 2-0 was not make believe...
Published: 09/25/18
Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

TAMPA — So this should be a fun week over at One Buc Place.Who's the quarterback?That question will be asked a few times this week.This question will be asked a few dozen times:Who should be the quarterback?The debate will rage on. We'll talk a...
Published: 09/25/18
Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

TAMPA — Monday night belonged to Tony Dungy. The former Bucs coach was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dungy's first NFL team.If it seemed strange that an NFL club would honor a ma...
Published: 09/25/18
The Bucs Jameis Winston left arenít the Bucs he returns to

The Bucs Jameis Winston left arenít the Bucs he returns to

TAMPA — Welcome back, Jameis Winston.At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, your three-game suspension ended.It looked as if the clock may have struck midnight much earlier than that for Ryan Fitzpatrick.Turns out Fitzmagic may have an expiration date.While yo...
Published: 09/24/18
Updated: 09/25/18