TAMPA – Bucs bullied by the defending champs. Not exactly breaking news, eh?
The Broncos do that to a lot of teams. It's no wonder that they are now 4-0 on the season despite playing quarterbacks who have never played in the league before now.
But that doesn't make Sunday's result – a 27-7 Denver victory – any less depressing for Bucs fans. The Bucs have now lost three in a row, are 1-3 on the season and are headed for a Monday night game against the defending NFC champion Panthers, who are sure to be in a foul mood since they are 1-3 themselves.
Anyway, back to Sunday, the Bucs lost several key players, most notably Gerald McCoy. Tampa Bay got lousy play from quarterback Jameis Winston. And, just a quarter of the way into the season, it already feels like 2016 has gotten away from the Bucs.
Here are some instant thoughts in the wake of another Bucs loss.
• How many killer interceptions is Jameis Winston going to throw? No interception ever comes at a good time or a good place on the field, but it seems as if Winston's picks are especially damaging.
His first pick Sunday came on Tampa Bay's first drive of the game. Former Bucs corner Aqib Talib picked off Winston deep in Bucs territory and Denver's offense needed all of one play to convert the Winston mistake into a touchdown.
Then, it was Talib again. He baited Winston into a bad throw and that interception, too, led to Denver points.
So, that was two interceptions leading to two Denver touchdowns. Sometimes we love Winston's gunslinger mentality, but it clearly has a downside, too. He cannot continually put his team in bad spots with reckless throws and careless decisions. It is happening far too often and he needs to figure out a way to protect the football better than he has. His turnovers are a sure recipe for disaster.
• Want to know what is among the worst sights a Bucs fan can witness? Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy limping very gingerly off the field. Early in the second quarter, McCoy had trouble staying on his feet because of a calf injury. He walked ever-so-slowly to the sidelines, tried to see if his condition improved and then had to finally relent by going to the locker room. No immediate word on how serious the injury is, but if McCoy were to miss a significant amount of time, that would be horrible news for Tampa Bay.
• Random thought, as pointed out by Channel 8's Dan Lucas: apparently the Broncos are the lone NFL team permitted to go after opposing QBs' heads. First they tried to decapitate Cam Newton on opening night and then set their sights on Jameis Winston on Sunday.
• Poor clock management by the Bucs (again) at the end of the second quarter. In a drive reminiscent of the game against Arizona, the Bucs had the ball late in the second quarter deep in their own territory. Not only did the Bucs not move the ball, they didn't chew up any time or force the Broncos to use any of their three timeouts.
Instead, Tampa Bay had a 16-second drive. It punted the ball back to Denver, which used all three timeouts to put together a 47-yard drive that concluded with a 38-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.
So, actually, when you look back at the first half, the Bucs defense was okay. It allowed Denver's offense only 123 yards. But two Jameis Winston interceptions, a Charles Sims fumble and a costly 16-second drive at the end of the half led to 17 Denver points and a 10-point halftime lead.
• Broncos first-round pick Paxton Lynch got his first real action of the season, and his career. He replaced injured starting quarterback Trevor Siemian late in the first half and played the rest of the game. He looked, at times, like Peyton Manning. The good Peyton Manning, that is, not the one that couldn't play well at the end of last season. Lynch looked cool, calm and collected against the Bucs defense, including two long, impressive scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters to extend Denver's lead from 17-7 to 27-7.
• For the second week in a row, there was a lightning delay. It's Florida, meaning that it's blazing hot in the middle of the afternoon. So that's why these early-season games are scheduled for 4 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. But that also means there's a decent chance of a late-afternoon thunderstorm that will cause a weather delay. The only good news Sunday is that it didn't alter the outcome or the Bucs' momentum in any way whatsoever. But can you imagine how depressing it must have been to be sitting in the Bucs locker room during a delay when you knew the game was already lost? Ugh.