Good morning and happy Victory Monday, Tampa Bay!
In beating the 49ers 27-9 on Sunday, the Buccaneers improved to 4-7 and delivered something long overdue: a convincing win over an inferior opponent. The 18-point margin of victory was Tampa Bay’s largest since Week 2 of last season.
The win was reminiscent of the wins the Bucs strung together during the second half of the 2016 season. They played complete, complementary football. Jameis Winston had arguably the cleanest game of his career, the defense forced two interceptions and recorded four sacks, the kicker made all of his kicks, and coach Dirk Koetter didn’t look like he got hit by a truck.
Here are the storylines we’ll be talking about this week and some things to read while you’re trying to avoid work:
• Speaking of 2016, Mike Evans beat cornerback Richard Sherman again. On a third and 8 in the first quarter, he ran a go route past Sherman and caught a 42-yard pass from Winston.
“He beat him clean off the line, and Jameis put it right on the money,” Koetter said.
The catch put Evans at 999 receiving yards this season. He crossed the 1,000-yard mark later in the first quarter.
You read that right. Evans has more than 1,000 receiving yards, and there are still five games left to play. He’s on pace to shatter Mark Carrier’s three-decade-old team record of 1,422 yards.
• DeSean Jackson had another quiet game. While Winston targeted him eight times — as often as Evans — the pair connected on only three passes for 19 yards. Jackson didn’t stick around for postgame pleasantries, bolted off the field faster than the officiating crew and was out of the locker room in a hurry. Who has time for questions when you have to formulate a cryptic social media post? Jackson on Instagram few hours later:
God, by the way, has been making Bucs fans wait for a playoff game since the 2007 season.
• First-round draft pick Vita Vea had the best game of his young career, recording a sack and three tackles for loss.
“It felt really good going out there,” the defensive tackle said. “I wasn’t thinking much — going out there and just playing.”
That’s not going to be enough for Derwinists, the fans who continue to blast the Bucs for drafting Vea over former Florida State safety Derwin James. For the Chargers, James has 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defensed.
It’s true that Vea hasn’t had the impact that James has had — and maybe he never will — but it’s important to note that Vea has played a grand total of eight NFL games.
• This morning: Martin Fennelly on Jason Pierre-Paul breaking the double-digit sack barrier. tampabay.com/sports
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• Lunchtime: My weekly AfterMath analysis. tampabay.com/sports
• 2:30 p.m.: Koetter news conference. For the first time in forever — give or take a few days — the identity of next week’s starting quarterback won’t be a mystery. Probably. buccaneers.com
Games before Sunday in which Winston threw multiple touchdown passes and didn't throw an interception or fumble.
Things we said
Changing the quarterback was easy. The hard part was getting the quarterback to want to change himself. By Rick Stroud.
This team desperately needed to win a game. Any game. At the same time, it really couldn't afford to lose this game. By Tom Jones.
There was a noticeable number of empty seats at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, with huge swaths of the silver stadium club seats and the upper deck unfilled. By Eduardo Encina.
No, it wasn't that runaway offense, explosive everywhere. But it produced. And it wasn't that run-over defense, either. What it was, simply, was a completely functioning NFL win, enough of everything when it mattered. By Martin Fennelly.
Starring Rick Stroud and Eduardo Encina of the St. Pete Times.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at email@example.com. Follow @tometrics.