Bucs Report Card: Grading Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) leaves the field following the game. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) leaves the field following the game. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Sept. 18, 2017

A mauling to remember

Football was back. Maybe nothing else needed to be said. The Bucs said it anyway, making a rousing statement in the heat in their delayed season-opener, 29-7, including a 26-0 halftime lead, even if it was over the incredibly bumbling Bears, a truly awful team.

They did it with defense and more defense. They stuffed the run early, with rousing takeaways, from Kwon Alexander to Ryan Smith to Noah Spence to pick-sixer Robert McClain. And with Jameis Winston to DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. All with a helping hand (and turnovers) from former teammate Mike Glennon, who in his return to Tampa Bay had two interceptions and fumble. Let the Mitch Trubisky era begin! Meanwhile, back at the parade route, here's this week's grades:

Doing it the right way

The Bucs jumped into post-Irma life with both feet. The team donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. It also donated tickets to Sunday's game to first responders from the Bay area and surrounding counties. Several players have made pledges. It was the thing to do, the only thing to do. Unless you count doing what was necessary Sunday in the name of community: pounding a hapless opponent. GRADE: A

Takeway Train Rolling

Turnovers made all the difference, paving the way leading to 20 first-half Bucs points. Smith stripped Tarik Cohen after Cohen fielded a punt in traffic deep in his own end. Cameron Lynch recovered. Winston threw 13 yards to Evans for a score on the next play. Spence sacked Glennon, Lavonte David caught it in the air. And the Bucs later scored on a Jacquizz Rodgers run. Then McClain took one back 47 yards. GRADE: A

Ambition always matters

On the first play of the game, Winston had rookie O.J. Howard, but the pass was tipped and incomplete. Three times Winston tried to go deep to newcomer Jackson. Once he went for Charles Sims downfield. They didn't connect on those plays, but they were going for it, and that will mean everything as this season goes on. GRADE: A.

These guys are fast

Did you see newcomer T.J. Ward flash and clobber Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen for a three-yard loss? Did you see rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith do the same thing? Did you see new nickel back McClain fire on in and take back a Glennon pass for a touchdown? The defense was outstanding, especially against the run. GRADE: A

The Beef Will Help

It's hard make assessments against an opponent as lifeless as Chicago, but the Bucs offensive line looked more physical than I remember from last season. And the Bucs defensive front heled hold the vaunted Chicago running attack to 16 yards. For all the focus on newcomers at skill positions, it might just turn out that two of the biggest additions to this team might be a healthy J.R. Sweezy at right guard (to go with Ali Marpet moving over to center) and big Chris Baker in the middle of the defensive front. GRADE: B

… And a professional football kicker

Yes, he missed an extra point, but Bucs kicker Nick Folk made a 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half, and added kicks of field goals of 42- and 23-yards. A 3-for-3 day is just what the Bucs needed. GRADE: B

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Well, we've got to pick on something, don't we? The fabled (and sometimes annoying) cannons on the Bucs pirate ship didn't report to work Sunday. Maybe it was a technical glitch, maybe it was even storm-related, but the cannons never fired when the Bucs made it inside the 20-yard line, which they did more than a few times. GRADE: D

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029