Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a few issues to iron out

RECOMMENDED READING


A brand new Bucs season got underway Monday.

Take it easy, you didn't imagine Sunday's 16-10 victory over the Panthers. You see, this is how they do things now over at One Buc Place. Every week is a new season. Last week was "Panthers season." This week, as the Bucs prepare to play the defending Super Bowl champs, it's "Giants season."

The clock in the locker room at One Buc counting down to Sunday's Giants game was reset the moment the Carolina game ended. It's a constant reminder of the work to be done before the Bucs take the field again.

And, now that we mention it, the Bucs have plenty of work to do.

This is the part where I say I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer. Really, I'm not. The Bucs lose enough games that it seems rather cruddy to chip away at the cracks in any victory, especially one as encouraging as Greg Schiano's debut. Sunday's victory, indeed, was encouraging. Lots of positives. Lots of stars. Lots of reasons to be optimistic.

But also lots of reasons for at least a little concern. Such as:

They had a hard time closing

The defense held on, but the 16-10 victory was closer than it needed to be. The Bucs committed no turnovers, intercepted two passes, blocked a punt and got great field position thanks to a rare interference penalty on a punt. All that and they won by only six points at home against a so-so team.

The Panthers were one big play away from taking the lead for much of the second half. If not for a game-saving knockdown of a pass by Bucs rookie safety Mark Barron, we might be dissecting a loss today. Play that way against Eli Manning and the Giants and the Bucs are more likely to lose 17-16 than win 16-10.

Who was calling the plays in the second half, Mitt Romney? Sarah Palin? Or worse yet, Mike Shula? On their first three possessions of the game, the Bucs racked up 172 yards and scored every time. On seven second-half possessions they had 87 yards and only three points.

"We have to learn to put games away," Bucs offensive tackle Donald Penn said. "We got to keep the pedal to the metal. We had chances early to put the game away. We slowed down in the second half. That's something we need to work on."

It's hard to tell whether the players exhaled or the coaches slammed on the brakes.

"I don't think it was overly conservative," said Schiano, who chalked up the play-calling to the circumstances of the game, such as for poor field position and more pressure in the second half from the Panthers.

Are the Bucs stunting the growth of QB Josh Freeman?

In the second half, the Bucs seemed more interested in trying to find the finish line that than trying to move the ball. As a result, Freeman was turned into a caretaker instead of a playmaker. He threw for just 16 yards in the second half.

Avoiding interceptions and sacks took precedent over making a play. You just hope the Bucs aren't programming Freeman into being the next Joe Flacco or Alex Smith instead of encouraging him to become the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Hey, nothing wrong with Flacco and Smith as long as you have a defense like the Ravens or 49ers … which the Bucs don't.

Other concerns

No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson caught four passes, but had a couple of drops. Guard Ted Larsen had two penalties, raising questions once again about how badly the Bucs could miss Davin Joseph. Too many drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns.

"We've got to come in and grade ourselves critically about what we did wrong and what we could do better," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

Looking for a grade from Sunday? Forget A's and B's and C's. The only letters that Schiano and the Bucs care about are W's and L's and the Bucs got a W. Ultimately that's all that matters. But the Bucs surely must hope that "this season" goes better than "last season."

Where were the big plays?

The longest completion of the day was a 33-yarder to tight end Dallas Clark. The next longest completion was only 21 yards. A couple of deep balls didn't pan out, and a penalty wiped out a 31-yard completion. But there's no question that the Bucs were tortoises and not hares. Two of the Bucs' four scoring drives took 13 plays. Do you know how hard it is to consistently put together 13-play drives without having them derailed by a dropped pass, a sack or penalty?

 
Comments
Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh: ‘Let them remember us’

Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh: ‘Let them remember us’

TAMPA — In the spring of 2010, one of the biggest debates during the week leading up to the NFL draft was which defensive tackle would be selected first: Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.Both figured to be highly productive NFL pla...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

TAMPA — Belief is the biggest attribute a quarterback can bring to his team. Belief in his talent. Belief in his commitment to winning. Belief in his ability to bring everyone together and have his voice lead the path forward.But the belief the Bucs ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

TAMPA — Can the Bucs pull off back-to-back wins with a backup quarterback? Win a game on the road for the first time this season? Politely hand the unnamed trophy for the state’s worst football team back to the Dolphins?With WR Mike Evans back from h...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Longtime Bucs, USF statistician Ray Mull dies

Longtime Bucs, USF statistician Ray Mull dies

The consummate sports junkie, Ray Mull couldn't subsist on the mere ebb and flow and skill of the action.He needed the ancillary elements: the photos, the memorabilia, the math. Especially the math.While rummaging through his things earlier this week...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh: Who would you rather have?

Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh: Who would you rather have?

In the crowd-pleasing sports-talk of game of "Who Would You Rather Have?’’ there might not be a more perfect match-up than this.Gerald McCoy vs. Ndamukong Suh.Both are defensive tackles. Both went to, what were at the time, Big 12 schools. Both were ...
Published: 11/18/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Greg Auman has a final preview of Sunday’s Bucs-Dolphins game in Miami in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.He talks about key matchups to watch for, from perhaps the NFL’s best slot receiver in Jarvis Landry, to Miami’s vulnerabilities at right tackl...
Published: 11/18/17
Fennelly: If this is true, Jameis Winston is done in this town

Fennelly: If this is true, Jameis Winston is done in this town

TAMPA — Why should we believe this man?Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is being investigated by the NFL concerning an allegation of him groping a female Uber driver in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March 2016.Winston denied the allegations Friday in a statem...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Bucs journal: DB Vernon Hargreaves will miss Sunday’s game with hamstring injury

Bucs journal: DB Vernon Hargreaves will miss Sunday’s game with hamstring injury

TAMPA — The Bucs will play Sunday against the Dolphins without Vernon Hargreaves, who has been their nickel defensive back the past two games.Hargreaves, the 2016 first-round pick out of Florida and a former Wharton High standout, has been ruled out ...
Published: 11/17/17
Jameis Winston accused of groping Uber driver

Jameis Winston accused of groping Uber driver

TAMPA — The NFL is investigating an allegation that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in March 2016.Winston called the allegations "false" and contested the unnamed female driver’s assertion that he was her only p...
Published: 11/17/17
Uber called Jameis Winston about ‘you or someone in the vehicle with you’

Uber called Jameis Winston about ‘you or someone in the vehicle with you’

Tampa Bay Times has listened to a voicemail Jameis Winston received from Uber relating to the March 2016 incident in Arizona.The NFL is investigating the allegations that Winston grabbed a female Uber driver's crotch in 2016.In the call, someone...
Published: 11/17/17