It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay’s stars came out on Sunday in Los Angeles in a monumental 55-40 upset over the Rams at the L.A. Coliseum. The win propels the Bucs to 2-2 and drops the defending NFC champions to 3-1 on the year.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1: Bucs’ Offensive Stars Shine In L.A.
Hooray for Hollywood! Tampa Bay style, of course.
The Bucs’ stars on offense came out in Los Angeles in Tampa Bay’s 55-40 upset over the NFC defending-champion Rams. The Bucs offense picked up where it left off last week when it put up 31 points and 499 yards in a 32-31 loss, and posted 464 yards of offense and a franchise-record 55 points.
Although Jared Goff set a career-high with 517 passing yards, he threw three interceptions with only two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston completed 28-of-41 passes for 385 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, which was returned for a pick-six, in the win for Tampa Bay. Winston’s pick-six cut the Bucs’ lead to 45-40, but Tampa Bay never surrendered the lead.
Last week it was Mike Evans who exploded in the first half for Winston with three touchdowns. On Sunday in Los Angles it was Chris Godwin’s turn. Godwin had nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, including a three-yard score to give Tampa Bay a 14-0 lead.
Godwin, a third-year pro, could be a playing his way towards an early contract extension. Godwin, who missed practice all week with a hip injury, had a 30-yard catch in the second quarter to lead to his second touchdown, which came on a 9-yard catch. He finished with 12 catches for 172 yards and two scores and has now posted six 100-yard receiving games in his career.
“Can’t say enough about Chris because he’s hurting,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “Chris didn’t practice this week – and to put that performance out there … and the way he blocked, he’s a tough bird.”
Evans overcame a bruised hand to post four catches for 89 yards and a 67-yard touchdown, which was the longest scoring connection between Evans and Winston during their time together in Tampa Bay. Winston threw a 68-yard pass to Evans in 2015 and a 70-yarder to Godwin in 2017, but neither went for a touchdown.
It was also a great bounce-back week for rookie kicker Matt Gay, who missed two extra points and a 34-yard game winner in last week’s 32-31 loss to the Giants. Gay made all seven extra points and both field goals, including a career-long 58-yarder.
The Bucs offense needed to match the Rams in terms of points, and it turned out that Tampa Bay had more firepower in the end as the team moves to 2-2 on the season.
“It was very fun to be in L.A. and the Coliseum up in the lights – lights, camera, action – Hollywood!” Winston said. “We had a great game. We’ve just to continue to do that.”
STATEMENT 2: Bucs’ Defensive Stars Shine In L.A.
Not all of the Bucs’ game balls go to the offensive players in the team’s 55-40 victory in Los Angeles. There were plenty of stars on the defensive side of the ball too, but none bigger than outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who leads the NFL with nine sacks, including a key sack-strip of Goff in the fourth quarter with Tampa Bay up 48-40. The fumble was recovered by former Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who returned the ball 37 yards for a touchdown to put the game away.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s father passed away on Saturday night and Licht left L.A. Sunday morning to be with his family in Nebraska. Licht’s father, Ron, was a Nebraska alum and his favorite Cornhuskers player just happened to be Suh, who sealed the Bucs’ win. Licht was watching the Nebraska vs. Ohio State game when he died on Saturday night.
“You get that call – and I’ve had that call – and it’s tough,” Arians said about the phone call Jason Licht received. “Like Jason said, his dad was doing what he loved to do – football and family at a Nebraska game. That part about it was great. We’re all praying for him. We had [Jason] on FaceTime in the locker room and we gave him a game ball.”
Ron Licht was up in heaven watching with glee as Suh ramble for the game-winning score. There are no coincidences, folks.
Suh had a remarkable game with two tackles in addition to the scoop-and-score, and played a huge role in helping the Bucs shut down the Rams’ running game.
Barrett continues to make his presence felt for Tampa Bay’s defense. Early in the second quarter, Barrett, rushing from the left side, hit Goff’s hand as he threw the ball and strong safety Jordan Whitehead picked off the errant throw, recording his first career interception.
Barrett missed two sack opportunities on Los Angeles’ second touchdown drive, including on Goff’s scoring strike to tight end Gerald Everett. But in the third quarter Barrett got his first interception and his first pick of his career at the Tampa Bay 47.
Barrett now has nine sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception is making a strong case not only for a contract extension in Tampa Bay – but also his first Pro Bowl berth.
Tampa Bay inside linebacker Lavonte David, who is also a Cornhusker and a favorite of Ron Licht’s, also had his first interception of the season in Los Angeles when he picked off Goff in the first half.
“I love Jason and I had the pleasure of meeting his father and his family, so we send our condolences to him,” Winston said. “That was a big win for him. That was for him. We thank him for the opportunity he has given us to be players for this Buccaneers organization, and that was a big win for him. So shout out to Jason.”
2 PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Is There Any Good News About The Bucs Defense?
Watching Goff pick apart the Bucs secondary for over 500 yards and two touchdowns wasn’t pleasant. The Bucs gave up 32 points last week and 40 points this week, which isn’t good.
But Tampa Bay’s defense did pick Goff three times and sack him twice with QB captures by Will Gholston and Barrett, who had a strip-sack.
More importantly, the Bucs defense held the Rams to just 18 rushing yards on 11 carries, including 16 yards on five carries for Pro Bowler Todd Gurley – although he did have two touchdowns. This marks the third week in a row Tampa Bay’s run defense was stellar after holding the Panthers to 39 yards rushing in Week 2 – and Christian McCaffrey held to 37 – and confining the Giants to 72 yards rushing with Saquon Barkley having just 10 yards on eight carries last week.
“We’re built to stop the run and get after the quarterback,” Arians said.
Of course the Bucs’ young secondary continues to be shredded with Robert Woods catching 13 passes for 164 yards, Cooper Kupp catching nine passes for 121 yards and a score, and Brandin Cooks catching six passes for 71 yards in the loss for L.A. Making matters worse is that Carlton Davis suffered an unknown injury at the end of the game, and he might be the Bucs’ best cover cornerback.
Tampa Bay’s secondary will be under the gun against next week in New Orleans against Teddy Bridgewater, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Jr. and the Saints’ passing game. Will they show improvement over the past two weeks? We’ll see.
QUESTION 2: How Big Of A Day Could RoJo Have Had?
Bucs running back Ronald Jones II entered Sunday’s game as the team’s leading rusher with 164 yards – one more than starter Peyton Barber – and he returned to his old stomping grounds at the Los Angeles Coliseum where he starred for USC. So it was only natural that Jones would have a big day, right?
Barber had nine carries for 19 yards and a touchdown – mostly in the first half – but Jones had the hot hand once again and finished with 70 yards on 19 carries and his first touchdown of the season, and the second of his career. Jones’ day could have been a huge if not for a couple of costly penalties.
Jones had a 25-yard run called back in the first half due to an illegal shift penalty. That would have given him 95 yards rushing against the Rams had the run not been called back. In the second half, Jones had an amazing 54-yard jaunt called back on a holding penalty by tight end O.J. Howard. That would have given Jones nearly 150 yards on the day.
Jones also had one catch for 12 yards, which picked up a first down, and contributed to his great performance in L.A. Look for Jones, a second-round pick in last year’s draft, to unseat Barber as the team’s starter as soon as next week in New Orleans. With 50 carries for 234 and a 4.7 average, Jones has earned that right.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: Tampa Bay’s Road Warrior Mentality Continues
Tampa Bay is a maddening 0-2 at home, but is 2-0 on the road this year after Sunday’s upset win in Los Angeles. Can the Bucs continue their winning ways on the road with a victory in New Orleans?
Why not? For some reason, this year feels eerily similar to 2016 when the Bucs went 5-3 on the road, but finished 4-4 at home in Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach – only to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs by a game. Tampa Bay will have to adopt a road warrior mentality, as it will play its next four games away from Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs play the Saints on the road, have a home game against the Panthers in London and then travel to face the Titans in Tennessee and the Seahawks in Seattle. Tampa Bay’s next home game is against the Cardinals on November 10.
Don’t be surprised to see the Bucs at 4-4 – or even 5-3 – when they return home from Seattle. The good news for Tampa Bay is that it plays five of its last eight games at home. Or is that a bad thing, considering they’re better on the road?
PREDICTION 2: Bucs Stay On Schedule For Playoffs
Will the Bucs make the playoffs? No one is sure with Tampa Bay sitting at 2-2 after the first quarter of the 2019 season.
But one thing is clear – almost everyone expected the Bucs to be at 2-2 after the first four games. Yet most predicted home wins against the 49ers and the Giants and road losses to the Panthers and the Rams. As gut-wrenching as last week’s 32-31 loss to the Giants was, an upset win in Los Angeles against a very good Rams team evened the score as the Bucs stole a much-needed road win to make up for it.
“It’s still about finishing games,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians. “We’re 2-2 and back in it.”
Had the Bucs fallen to 1-3 on the season with a loss in L.A., it would have wrecked the team’s playoff chances. The Bucs may wind up 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 when it’s all said and done and still miss the playoffs, but at 2-2 they have a chance to stay on course to make a late-season run for the postseason.
“I guess we have to learn how to play at home – because we’re not bad on the road,” Arians said.