Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Josh McCown on interception: 'Bad decision'

    Blog

    TAMPA - QB Josh McCown’s strong start ended with a costly turnover in Sunday's 19-17 home loss to St. Louis.

    McCown completed his first eight passes for 78 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 5-yard rush. Then on first and goal from the 9, McCown ran into trouble. He rolled right and forced a pass toward the middle of the field for Vincent Jackson. St. Louis S Rodney McLeod intercepted it for McCown’s third interception in his first six quarters as a Buc. ...

  2. Special teams mistakes prove costly for Bucs

    Bucs

    The Bucs hurt themselves with two costly mistakes on special teams Sunday. After the second-quarter rain delay, St. Louis S T.J. McDonald ran practically untouched through the Bucs' line to block Michael Koenen's punt, giving the Rams the ball at the Bucs' 28. Six plays later, St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein booted a 36-yard field goal to give St. Louis a 10-7 lead. Koenen hadn't had a punt blocked since Oct. 14, 2012 against the Chiefs — a span of 151 consecutive punts. McDonald wasn't done yet. He shot through the gap to block a 24-yard field goal attempt by Patrick Murray on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was the first field goal attempt in Murray's career after he beat out veteran Connor Barth for the starting job in the preseason. Murray said the kick wasn't low, but he couldn't tell what happened. "To be honest, I didn't see anything," said Murray, who later made a 36-yarder. "My job is to keep my head down and get the ball through the post. I didn't look at the line." The Rams capitalized, ending the ensuing drive with Zuerlein's 46-yard field goal to put St. Louis ahead 16-14. "The offense was able to get a little more pop, a little more juice going back out there on the field knowing that we didn't give up the points," McDonald said....

  3. Lightning delays Bucs-Rams game for 51 minutes

    Bucs

    The game paused shortly after 5 p.m. because of lightning in the area. Raymond James Stadium blared weather-themed songs, like Blind Melon's "No Rain" and Rihanna's "Umbrella" during the 51-minute delay.

    After a short shower, the game resumed with 6:03 left in the second quarter.

    The storm also validated a move Bucs coach Lovie Smith made in the summer. He was the butt of a few jokes for scheduling training camp during the afternoon, when summer showers are common in Florida. Lightning delayed the first and final days of camp, but Smith those storms could prepare the Bucs for anything they encountered during the season....

    Fans exit the stands as the Bucs and St. Louis Rams game is delayed due to severe weather at Raymond James Stadium. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Blocked kicks doom Bucs

    Blog

    TAMPA - The Bucs hurt themselves with two costly mistakes on special teams in the Rams' 19-17 win.

    After the second-quarter rain delay, St. Louis S T.J. McDonald ran practically untouched through the Bucs’ line to block Michael Koenen’s punt, giving the Rams the ball at the Bucs’ 28. Six plays later, St. Louis’ Greg Zuerlein booted a 36-yard field goal to give St. Louis a 10-7 lead....

  5. Bucs' Evans understood 10-second runoff rule

    Bucs

    WR Mike Evans quickly turned from a potential hero to the final piece of Sunday's losing effort. The rookie first-rounder soared for a 32-yard pass from QB Josh McCown on the Bucs' final drive and took a hard hit from St. Louis S T.J. McDonald at the Rams' 32 — close enough for the Bucs to spike the ball and attempt a potentially game-winning 50-yard field goal. Evans said the hit was legal, but the blow hurt his back. Evans said TE Brandon Myers pulled him up, but officials blew the whistle before he could get off the field. Because the Bucs had no timeouts left, referees applied the mandatory 10-second runoff — a rule designed to keep players from faking injuries to stop the clock — and declared the game over. "I knew the rule," said Evans, who had four catches for 49 yards and red marks on his back after the game. "It was a big hit. It kind of boggled me a little bit. I was trying to get up and get on the ball."...

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) remains down after getting hit as he catches a 29-yard pass from quarterback Josh McCown on the final play of the game. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  6. Bucs abandon pass in red zone after interception

    Bucs

    QB Josh McCown's strong start ended with a costly turnover. McCown completed his first eight passes for 78 yards and scored the game's first touchdown on a 5-yard rush. And on his next possession, McCown took the Bucs to a first and goal from the 9, But that's where he ran into trouble, rolling right and forcing a pass toward the middle for Vincent Jackson. St. Louis S Rodney McLeod intercepted it for McCown's third interception in his first six quarters as a Buc. "It was a bad decision again," McCown said. "I just got outside and saw Vincent. I thought he was coming underneath the guy and I tried to get him the ball coming across. Vincent said he collided with the guy and didn't get there. I've just got to throw that one away and live to play another day." The turnover ended a potential scoring drive and appeared to change the Bucs' tone in scoring position. They didn't throw the ball in their final eight plays inside the red zone after that turnover and got only three points out of their final two trips inside the Rams' 20. "It stopped momentum," Smith said....

  7. Mike Evans on Bucs' loss: 'I'm the guy that could have changed that'

    Blog

    TAMPA - WR Mike Evans quickly turned from a potential hero to the final part of the losing effort.

    The rookie first-rounder soared for a 32-yard pass from QB Josh McCown on the Bucs’ final drive and took a hard hit from St. Louis S T.J. McDonald at the Rams’ 32. Evans said the hit was clean, but the blow hurt his back, and he struggled to get up as the final seconds ticked down....

  8. Doug Martin out against Rams

    Blog

    ...

    Doug Martin was limited in practice this week with a knee injury sustained in last week’s season-opening loss to Carolina.
  9. Scouting the NFC South

    Bucs

    SCOUTING THE NFC SOUTH

    SAINTS

    Perhaps New Orleans still holds a bit of a grudge against commissioner Roger Goodell for the bounty scandal punishments, including coach Sean Payton's year-long suspension. The New Orleans Times-Picayune published an editorial calling for Goodell to be removed from his position because of how he handled the Ray Rice controversy. "At the end of the day … we are all held accountable for our actions as players," quarterback Drew Brees told the newspaper. "Certainly every owner should be held accountable for their actions. The commissioner should be held accountable for his actions."...

  10. NFL Week 2 preview

    Bucs

    GAMES OF THE WEEK

    Matchups

    Lions at Panthers | 1, Panthers by 21/2, 431/2

    Bucs fans know how good Carolina's defense is after it tallied three sacks and two interceptions in last week's win. The Lions' offense seems equally impressive after Matthew Stafford threw for 346 yards in a win over the Giants. That matchup alone should make for a fun afternoon. But the x factor remains Carolina QB Cam Newton. The Panthers didn't need him against the Bucs, but they will against a Detroit passing defense ranked second in the league in yards allowed per game and opposing quarterback rating. Matt's pick: Panthers, 24-21...

  11. NASCAR's Aric Almirola chases opportunity in family tradition

    Auto racing

    Every now and then, Aric Almirola thinks about the sacrifices that took him to NASCAR's top series.

    Not just the ones the Tampa native made — all the hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches he had to eat after dropping out of college to race a car for a living.

    But the ones his family made long before he won at Daytona and became one of only 16 drivers this year in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, which begins today at Chicagoland Speedway....

    Tampa’s Aric Almirola gets a Chase for the Championship spot this year for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
  12. Trendy NFL embraces pop pass

    Bucs

    If the zone-read option was the future of NFL offenses two years ago, then the league got its first glimpse of the next trend during the season opener between Green Bay and Seattle. The pop pass. The play puts old-school triple-option principles into new-age spread offenses. The Seahawks credited the play to Auburn's tying touchdown against Alabama last season — which helped the Tigers advance to the national title game. "I'm glad it worked," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "It was pretty neat to see the plays we run here are working at the next level." Here's how it works....

  13. Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn, left, is wrapped up by Patriots tight end Jake Ballard during an August 2013 preseason game at New England.
  14. Johnthan Banks soaks in Bucs' cornerback classroom

    Bucs

    TAMPA — In only his second season, Johnthan Banks has already seen Pro Bowl cornerbacks cycle through the Bucs' locker room.

    Darrelle Revis. Mike Jenkins. Alterraun Verner.

    With Revis in New England and Jenkins on injured reserve after sustaining a season-ending pectoral injury Sunday against the Panthers, only Verner is left. Banks said he has tried to mold his game from techniques they have taught him so he can get to their level: "All three of those guys made Pro Bowls, somewhere I want to be. So why not listen to those guys? They've been where I want to go."...

    Johnthan Banks, chasing Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, started against the Panthers and took a majority of the snaps. [Getty Images]
  15. NFL Thursday night: Steelers-Ravens preview

    Bucs

    Tonight Steelers at Ravens

    When/where: 8:25; M&T Bank Stadium

    TV/radio: Ch. 10, NFL; 1010-AM, 98.7-FM

    Line/OU: Baltimore by 2½; 44½

    This will be Baltimore's first game since the release of the inside-the-elevator video of Ray Rice punching his now wife, and the running back's immediate release. But the on-the-field matchup is important in the AFC North. Pittsburgh eked out a three-point win over the Browns in the opener behind a 365-yard effort by Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens got a strong debut from former Carolina WR Steve Smith (118 yards) but struggled on the ground without the then-suspended Rice. ...