Bucs journal: At end of first half, a push for more points pays off

Jameis Winston’s 21-yard completion to DeSean Jackson was the Bucs’ longest offensive play in Sunday’s victory over the Bears.
Jameis Winston’s 21-yard completion to DeSean Jackson was the Bucs’ longest offensive play in Sunday’s victory over the Bears.
Published Sept. 19, 2017

TAMPA — The Bucs weren't perfect on offense in Sunday's 29-7 win over the Bears, but they came close on one play to set up a 50-yard field goal before halftime.

Up 23-0, given the ball at their 25 with 1:04 left, the Bucs could have easily just run out the half, content to safeguard a dominating lead. Instead, they worked on that two-minute drill, with Jameis Winston completing four passes for 53 yards to set up the kick.

"It feels great. We wanted that two-minute opportunity," Winston said after the game. "I think that's the happiest I've ever seen Coach (Dirk) Koetter — during that two-minute drive, on that final play — than I have since I've been here."

Winston completed a 21-yard pass to DeSean Jackson — the Bucs' longest offensive play of the day — then converted a third and 10 with an 11-yard gain to TE Cam Brate, and the Bucs used their last timeout. They were at the Bears' 44 with 14 seconds left.

At that point, the expectation was that the Bucs would only throw to the sidelines —- a completed pass stopped on the field has no guarantee that the offense can move quickly and spike to stop the clock. But Winston threw to WR Mike Evans going across the middle, and RB Charles Sims, Brate and Jackson made blocks to seal a path to the sideline, putting the Bucs at the Bears' 27 with seven seconds left.

"That was executed about as well as you can execute a play," Koetter said.

An illegal shift penalty cost the Bucs 5 yards — Nick Folk had connected from 45 yards, but given a longer kick, was still good from 50 yards, or 7 yards longer than any kick the Bucs had last season.

Could have been

As the Bucs head to Minnesota this week for a game against the Vikings, Brate can wonder what might have been.

Before he got to the Bucs as an undrafted rookie in 2014, he got a look at Vikings rookie minicamp, even completing one of his final exams to get his degree from Harvard with a proctor in the lobby of the team hotel. Minnesota didn't sign him, however, and he tried out for the Bucs, signed a contract and went on to tie for the NFL lead among tight ends with eight touchdowns last season.

"I don't think it would have gone as well if I'd stayed there," Brate said Monday of his weekend with the Vikings. "I can't imagine it. Things worked out here. I was there for three days. I'm happy with how everything has worked out."

This and that

The Bucs' next home game, Oct. 1 against the Giants, just got a little more interesting from a broadcast standpoint. Fox announced Monday night that former Giants RB Tiki Barber would join his twin brother Ronde, the former Bucs cornerback, with play-by-play man Kenny Albert for the TV broadcast. "I probably wouldn't want to be part of a three-man booth with too many people, but I'm happy to share the Fox booth with Tiki," Ronde Barber said in a statement. …Lakewood's Bernard Reedy had tried to earn his way into an NFL game for three straight years but Sunday he achieved that goal, handling the Bucs' punt and kickoff returns against the Bears. "It feels great. It's still surreal to be my first career regular-season game. It's priceless," said Reedy, who earned one of the last spots on the 53-man roster as the fifth receiver. "It's something I always dreamed of, returning kicks," said Reedy, thrilled his debut could come in a home win.