The sky, it be a-fallin’. Yes, folks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers received a royal backside whipping at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings and their nemesis, Case Keenum. It was an ugly, physical domination of the Bucs and left Tampa Bay shaken, beaten up and staring at two more very tough games in the next ten days.
What happened? Were we all wrong to believe the Bucs are an ascending team? Or was it just a bad day at the office?
Pieces of Eight
1) Whether you put this game tape on or the 2016 Arizona game, the Bucs’ performance was pretty much the same. They looked lethargic, perhaps a step slower than the Vikings who came in dialed in, focused and ready to show the world they could still be a team that mattered. There’s plenty of excuses as to why it happened. The flu running through the locker room, the injuries on defense, the new offensive weapons still getting used to one another and off-field distractions. Bottom line – the Bucs got their asses kicked, pal. Plain and simple. Now we find out what kind of team this is.
2) Injuries have decimated the promising Bucs defense two weeks into the regular season. Already without Brent Grimes, Kwon Alexander and Chris Baker, Tampa Bay saw DE Noah Spence reinjure the shoulder he had surgery on last season. All-Pro DT Gerald McCoy, who came in with an ankle injury, aggravated it more and had to miss several series. The Bucs other starting corner, Vernon Hargreaves, suffered an injury but eventually returned. The Bucs new prize acquisition in the backend, TJ Ward, suffered a quad injury, then the big one that happened at the end of the game, Pro Bowl LB Lavonte David gets rolled up on and suffers a high ankle sprain.
We’ll find out more on the severity of the injuries later in the week but David and Spence appear to be the most severe, there’s concern on how long McCoy can go and whether he can be effective. Who will be left on defense? Facing Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. along with Tom Brady in the next ten days, the Bucs better find someone that can play defense.
3) If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop any quarterback in the league. Whether it’s Tom Brady or Casey Keenum, any QB worth his salt in the NFL will carve you up if you can’t make him move off his spot. The Bucs did an okay job against Mike Glennon last week, one sack and several QB hits – but they barely touched Keenum, who had all day to find open receivers. Even when the Bucs blitzed, Keenum still had plenty of time to avoid it and hurt Tampa Bay.
There aren’t many answers on the street right now. If they were any good, they’d probably be on a roster. No team is giving away pass rushers in trades at this point of the season, either. So the Bucs have what they have. They will need to find ways to manufacture a pass rush. Guys the Bucs have “liked” for a while need to finally show why the team has shown so much faith in them. Jacquies Smith needs to show why the Bucs kept a roster spot for him instead of putting him on the PUP list.
Bottom line, someone needs to get to the quarterback.
4) Okay, Jameis Winston. You know you can’t-do what you did on Sunday. We are aware you can’t-do what you did on Sunday. Yet you’re still doing it. As the Bucs fell behind, Winston took it upon himself to try to bring his football team back and compounded the problem by reverting to his rookie ways. Winston started forcing balls to Mike Evans (once into triple coverage) and Desean Jackson and the results basically finished off the Bucs. While Keenum seemed to drop dimes, Winston still struggled to try to get the ball to Jackson, underthrowing him on a deep ball that was intercepted and then overthrowing the entire stadium on another.
Winston and Jackson finally connected in the fourth quarter when the Bucs tried to rally. Until the defense can recover from its injuries, it’s going to be on the offense to keep the Bucs in games. Winston cannot turn the ball over – period.
5) As the game got away from the Bucs, Tampa Bay went a bit into panic mode and completely abandoned the running game. The Bucs ran the ball nine times. Only 7 of those runs were by running backs. You’re not going to win a lot of games with a 40/9 pass to run ratio.
6) The NFL truly is a week-to-week league, isn’t it? Bucs fans (and media) were flying high after week one. They absolutely destroyed the Bears, completely dominating them in every phase. Fans were thinking playoffs; media was wondering if the Bucs could start the season 4-0. Then the Bucs have the tables turned on them, and they get their backsides handed to them. The reaction is laughable. “Winston needs to be benched (seriously?),” “The defense is terrible,” “Coach Koetter doesn’t know what he’s doing,” “This is the worst team in the NFL,” these are some of the things floating around social media as the Bucs fans freaked out. Media was at it, too. Channel 13’s Kevin O’Donnell is saying the Bucs beat up the Bears because they were bad and the Vikings aren’t. Then this morning I read the Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds predicting the Bucs will start the season 1-3. Wow.
We all need to take a quick breath. It was a very, very bad Sunday for Tampa Bay. It happens. The Bucs weren’t as good as they looked last week, they’re not as bad as they looked this week. By the way, those bad news Bears? They upset Pittsburgh, the team that destroyed Minnesota last week.
In the immortal words of the siren Taylor Swift, “Shake it off.”
7) No, I’m not going to comment here on the player protests. Those who follow me on social media know my opinions on the subject. This is a football site, and we’re going to stick to football in this column. As with the outcome of this game, let’s learn from it and move on to next week.
8) Speaking of next week, the Giants fell to 0-3 and will be a desperate ball club coming into Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay needs to be a little desperate, too. Atlanta once again Houdini’d their way to a victory in Detroit to move to 0-3. They take on the Dolphins next week, another game they will be favored to win. Tampa Bay can’t afford to fall two games behind this early in the season. The Giants are 0-3 because they’ve played some bad football. You can say they are one of the best 0-3 teams around, but it’s funny how 0-3 teams always say “We’re the best 0-3 team,” only to finish 6-10.
This is a game the Bucs should and must win. You’re at home facing a winless team who could care less how many guys you have injured on defense. They have plenty of their own problems. Get it done, Tampa Bay.
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— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) September 24, 2017