1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Here’s the latest Rorschach test from the Bucs. What do you see?

John Romano | After a 2-6 start, the Bucs are on a hot streak. Is it enough to convince you they’re for real?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Justin Watson (17) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 8, 2019.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Justin Watson (17) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 8, 2019. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Dec. 9, 2019

TAMPA — Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me since 2008, shame on me.

That’s your predicament this morning. Choosing between the promises of the past five weeks, and the reality of the past dozen seasons.

Shockingly, inexplicably, joyfully, the Bucs are on a roll after their 38-35 victory Sunday against Indianapolis. Since Nov. 10, the only teams in the NFL with a better record than Tampa Bay are the Ravens and Seahawks. If the Bucs aren’t one of the more talented teams in the league, they’re doing a pretty good job of faking it.

The question is whether this is a turning point, or another tease. After all, you’ve purchased fool’s pewter before.

In 2010, the Bucs just missed the playoffs after going 3-1 down the stretch for Raheem Morris. And the next season they fell to 4-12. In 2016, they finished in second place after winning six of their last eight games for Dirk Koetter. And then they went 5-11 the next season.

“There’s definitely a new culture in this locker room. We have momentum and guys are starting to get more confident,’’ said center Ryan Jensen. “My high school coach used to say you had to straddle that line between cocky and confidence. I think a lot of young guys are starting to figure that out around here.’’

So here’s one way to look at it:

The Bucs have played six teams that currently have winning records. They are 1-5 in those games. They have played seven games against teams that currently have losing records. The Bucs are 5-2 in those games.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. You need to win the games you’re supposed to win. But it does suggest the Bucs are closer to being a middle-of-the-pack team, and this recent winning streak has more to do with competition than talent.

Or here’s another way to look at it:

Some young Bucs are growing up. They are still making mistakes — a 45-yard pass interference penalty on Jamel Dean or four turnovers on offense — but they are also making plays when necessary. After losing four games by one touchdown or less, the Bucs have won two nail-biters in the past month.

“You go on a little streak like this and you can feel the confidence in the building grow,’’ said tight end Cameron Brate. “Even though we weren’t playing well and we got down two touchdowns in the second half, there was still a belief that we were going to come back and win. That’s huge. In the past, we wouldn’t have had that.

“I don’t think we would have won this game earlier in the season.’’

So now the challenge for you is to accurately decipher what you’re seeing.

The defense is still allowing too many mediocre quarterbacks, such as Jacoby Brissett, throw for a lot of yards without an interception. The offense still can’t get a running game going, as evidenced by Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber averaging 3.3 and 3.1 yards per carry against a Colts defense that was giving up 4.4 yards a crack.

And then, of course, there is Jameis Winston.

He made some plays and throws on Sunday that only a handful of quarterbacks in the world could pull off. And yet he threw three more interceptions, including another returned for a touchdown.

Winston has now had five interceptions returned for scores this season. Since the NFL merger in 1970, the only quarterback who has had thrown more pick-six passes in a single season was Peyton Manning with six in 2001.

Yet in a league where Houston can beat the Patriots one week and lose to the Broncos the next, you cannot dismiss a victory of any type.

“We’re still making stupid mistakes, making turnovers. But we’re able to overcome them and that’s the sign of a good football team,’’ said tackle Demar Dotson. “Early in the year we were spotting teams 10-14 points and we were losing. Now we’re able to overcome it. That’s a sign this shift is starting to happen.’’

By the way, the shift is too late for 2019. Minnesota’s 20-7 victory against the Lions on Sunday officially eliminated the Bucs from the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean the final three weeks are meaningless.

It’s three more chances for the Bucs to convince you this turnaround is for real.

John Romano can be reached at Follow @romano_tbtimes.


  1. NFC linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hands Sean Silverthorn, of Largo, Fla., two tickets to the Super Bowl after a practice for the NFL Pro Bowl football game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    At this time last year, he was a player without a team. Now, having earned his place among the game’s greats, the Buccaneers outside linebacker is making dreams come true for him, his family and a...
  2. In this Feb. 7, 2012 file photo New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the team's NFL football Super Bowl parade in New York. Manning, who led the Giants to two Super Bowls in a 16-year career that saw him set almost every team passing record, has retired. The Giants said Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 that Manning would formally announce his retirement on Friday. [JULIO CORTEZ  |  AP]
    The two-time Super Bowl MVP is calling it quits after 16 seasons.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, center, talks with kids while playing games during the fourth annual Dream Forever Foundation Football Camp held last June in Tampa. [SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Winston, who played at Florida State, is from Alabama, where the private historically black liberal arts college is located.
  4. In this Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) on the sidelines,during the first half at an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    The wide receiver’s trainer was arrested following accusations that he and Brown attacked another man near Brown’s home, authorities said.
  5. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) calls a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. [CHARLIE RIEDEL  |  AP]
    A report from the NFL Network says there’s increasing chatter about Rivers and the Bucs at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.
  6. Former Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, left, started a Twitter beef with San Francisco's Richard Sherman, right, on Sunday. [TIMES FILES, ASSOCIATED  PRESS]
    The former Pro Bowl cornerback throws shade at the 49ers star for not shadowing top receivers.
  7. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, center, is interviewed by Terry Bradshaw after the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) [MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP]
    San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch joins an impressive list of former Bucs players, coaches and executives to reach the Super Bowl in recent years.
  8. San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, who finishes with 220 yards rushing and four TDs, breaks away from the Green Bay Packers during the first half of their NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. [TONY AVELAR  |  AP]
    Little-known Raheem Mostert, a former skateboarder-turned-surfer-turned-football player out of New Smyrna Beach High, has a historic game, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
  9. Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill catches a touchdown pass in front of Tennessee Titans defensive back Logan Ryan during the first half of the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. [CHARLIE RIEDEL  |  AP]
    KC falls behind once again, this time 10-0, before rallying in the AFC Championship Game.
  10. East quarterback James Morgan, of Florida International University, (12) during the first half of the East West Shrine football game Saturday. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Morgan, who leads his East team to a pair of touchdowns, raises his draft stock as do a few others the Bucs should keep an eye on.