Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay has now won four games in a row with a 28-21 upset in San Diego to propel the team to a 7-5 record, which ties the team with Atlanta for the division leadin the NFC South. The Bucs defense continues to shine with two big interceptions in the second half, including a pick-six by linebacker Lavonte David. Tampa Bay is now an impressive 5-1 on the road this year, but can they make the playoffs?
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.
TWO BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1. BUCS WILL BE DANGEROUS IF THEY CAN MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
Tampa Bay’s impressive road record in 2016 improved to 5-1 after Sunday’s 28-21 win at San Diego. What does that mean other than the fact that the Bucs are now 7-5 on the year – a one-win improvement over last year at least – and tied for first place in the NFC South? It means that Dirk Koetter’s team can really be dangerous in the playoffs if Tampa Bay can get in.
The chances of the Bucs winning the division still remain slim. Atlanta has a game at Los Angeles, at home versus San Francisco, a game at Carolina and home versus New Orleans to end the season. Tampa Bay has to run the table with a much more difficult schedule and finish 11-5 to have a real chance in my opinion.
The Bucs have a home game against New Orleans this week followed by a prime time road game at Dallas. Then it’s a trip to New Orleans before the season finale at home against Carolina on New Year’s Day. Tampa Bay must finish no worse than 3-1 down the stretch to get to 10 wins and have a shot at a wild card playoff game, and I think that’s the team’s destiny.
Yet the Bucs’ uncanny ability to win on the road – that’s five straight now – will be key if they make the playoffs because Tampa Bay will likely enter as a fifth or sixth seed and will have to travel in the postseason. When asked what has fueled the team’s success away from Tampa Bay, head coach Dirk Koetter was clueless.
“I have no idea,” Koetter said. “I have no idea, but we are looking forward to being at home this week. The home crowd was awesome a week ago at home against Seattle. We’re coming home to play New Orleans next week and we’re looking forward to have Raymond James rocking that place.”
Tampa Bay’s defense has keyed the team’s turnaround, especially on the road in victories at Kansas City and San Diego. If the team can continue to get sacks and takeaways on the road it has a fighting chance to make some noise in the postseason.
“We were fortunate, but I believe you make your own breaks, and we made our own breaks today,” Koetter said, noting two key interceptions that led to the Bucs winning the second half, 21-7. “I just think we’re one of those teams that’s starting to believe. Starting to believe – it’s crazy what confidence can do. When you start making plays it seems to build on itself.”
The Bucs were 6-2 on the road during Tampa Bay’s 10-6 season under former head coach Raheem Morris in 2010. That tied the franchise-best 6-2 mark set in 2002 by the Super Bowl XXXVII champions. It’s crazy to think that Koetter’s Bucs have a chance at tying that mark in Dallas in two weeks, and even setting a new franchise record with a win over the Cowboys and against the Saints the following week in the Big Easy.
A 7-1 road record in 2016? Why not? Anything is possible with this team.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
STATEMENT 2: WINSTON APPROACHING LEGENDARY STATUS
Any sophomore slump from quarterback Jameis Winston was short-lived earlier this season. Since the Bucs’ win at Carolina on Monday Night Football, Winston has thrown 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions in leading Tampa Bay to a 6-2 record during that span. He’s had a QB rating of at least 90 in all of those games except for the overtime loss to Oakland in which he had an 88 QB rating, but still managed to throw two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Winston has 23 touchdowns on the season with four games remaining, and with his fourth-quarter scoring strike to tight end Cameron Brate, he eclipsed his career-high of 22 he set as a rookie last year. He needs just five more this year to pass Josh Freeman’s 27 in 2012 for the most TD passes in a single season in Bucs history.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Winston currently has 7,222 yards in his career, which are the seventh most passing yards by a player in his first two NFL seasons. Winston will undoubtedly pass Oakland’s Derek Carr (7,257 from 2014-15) and Miami Hall of Famer Dan Marino (7,294 from 1983-84) against New Orleans on Sunday, as well as Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (7,336 from 2014-15) and move into fourth place.
Winston needs just 975 yards over the last month of the season to surpass Peyton Manning (7,874 from 1998-99), Carolina’s Cam Newton (7,920 from 2011-12) and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (8,196 from 2012-13). That’s an average of 244 yards per game, which would put him at 4,155 yards for the 2016 season, which would also eclipse Tampa Bay’s single season record of 4,065, which was set by Freeman in 2012.
Winston passed for 4,042 yards last year as a rookie, which ranks as the second most passing yards in a single season in Bucs history. He has passed for 244 yards or more in seven out of Tampa Bay’s 12 games this year, including 280 yards in Sunday’s win at San Diego.
TWO PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OFFENSIVE LINE?
The Bucs offensive line will likely get its butt chewed by line coach George Warhop on Monday. Takeaways on defense and the brilliant play by Jameis Winston have fueled Tampa Bay’s four-game winning streak and masked an inconsistent running attack that could come back to bite the team down the stretch.
The Bucs are averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on the year, and Tampa Bay struggled against a run-blitzing San Diego front that overwhelmed the offensive line throughout the game. Tampa Bay rushed for just 81 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries (2.7 avg.) against San Diego.
The left side of the line – guard Kevin Pamphile and tackle Donovan Smith – and center Joe Hawley struggled to get much push off the line of scrimmage throughout most of the game, although the unit deserves credit for picking up 11 yards rushing and a key first down on three running plays to salt away the Bucs’ fifth straight win of the year.
Although Winston was only sacked one time, which came when right guard Ali Marpet didn’t recognize a simple tackle-end stunt and gave up a sack to Joey Bosa, the pass protection was spotty. Smith continues to give up pressure on plays where he shouldn’t due to poor technique due to lunging. And right tackle Demar Dotson continues to struggle bending his knees adequately and had another costly hands to the face penalty for the second week in a row as a result.
Warhop will point out the offensive line did just enough against a 5-7 Chargers team that was missing two starting linebackers, but that level of effort and performance won’t be enough to beat Dallas in two weeks, nor will it be good enough to win a playoff game if the Bucs are fortunate enough to make the postseason.
Bucs RB Jacquizz Rodgers – Photo by: Getty Images
QUESTION 2: WILL RODGERS STEAL MORE CARRIES FROM MARTIN?
Based on how good Jacquizz Rodgers looked in his first game back from a foot injury that caused him to miss four games, don’t be surprised if he gets more opportunities to touch the ball down the stretch for the Buccaneers. Doug Martin has struggled since his return from a hamstring injury and has failed to rush for 100 yards in any game over the past calendar year, while Rodgers has posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in wins at Carolina and at San Francisco earlier in the season.
On Sunday at San Diego, Martin seemed to injury his leg, and possibly re-aggravated his hamstring on a run for no gain on third-and-2 at the Tampa Bay 38 that led to a 54-yard punt by Brian Anger that preceded Philip Rivers’ pick-six. That injury occurred with 5:21 left in the third quarter, and although Martin made a brief cameo appearance in the fourth quarter after sitting out the Bucs’ next offensive possession, he didn’t touch the ball the rest of the game.
Instead, Rodgers did, taking over in the fourth quarter and producing 21 yards on a big screen pass down to the San Diego 17, and rushing for 15 yards on six carries. Rodgers sealed the Bucs’ win by picking up a key first down after Rivers was intercepted by safety Keith Tandy. He rushed for seven yards on first down, two yards on second down and two more on third-and-1 to clinch the victory.
Martin finished the game with 17 carries for 45 yards (2.6 avg.) and a touchdown, while Rodgers had seven carries for 29 yards (4.1 avg.). Rodgers still leads the Bucs in rushing with 422 yards on 95 carries (4.4 avg.) and one touchdown, while Martin has 313 yards on 105 carries (3.0 avg.) and two scores.
Martin will continue to start for the Bucs as long as he is healthy, but don’t be surprised if Koetter ends up turning to the hotter hand for the bulk of the carries in any game, and that could very well be Rodgers, who is running harder and picking up more yards than any Tampa Bay running back this year.
TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: HARGREAVES GETS HIS FIRST NFL INT VS. BREES
It’s hard to believe given how well he’s played, but rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves doesn’t have an interception this year. Yet the rookie from Florida has caused two big interceptions with tipped passes.
Against Carolina in Tampa Bay’s victory against Monday Night Football, Hagreaves deflected a pass that was intercepted by linebacker Daryl Smith. On Sunday, Hargreaves deflected a pass near the end zone that was picked off by linebacker Lavonte David, who returned the interception 15 yards for a touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 17-14 lead in the third quarter.
Hargreaves has six pass deflections this year, but he gets his first NFL interception against future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves – Photo by: Getty Images
PREDICTION 2: THE BUCS BEAT THE SAINTS AND RAY-JAY ROCKS
Tampa Bay has won four games in a row, but it has the chance to earn its fifth straight victory with a win over New Orleans on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Should that happen it could signal a special season for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay has only won five games in a row three other times in franchise history. The first came in 1979 and keyed a 10-6 record for the Bucs, who made it to the NFC Championship Game. The Bucs next accomplished that feat in 1997, starting off 5-0 en route to a 10-6 wild card season. Tampa Bay’s most recent five-game winning streak came in the team’s Super Bowl season in 2002.
If the Bucs beat the Saints on Sunday as I predict – before a sell out crowd of mostly Bucs fans this time – this team will follow suit and make it to the playoffs, too. History suggests that’s the case.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Sticking with your 2-point conversion theme, I would like to add that the Bucs start going for more 2 point conversions. Based on their success already on 2 point conversions and Aguayo’s pathetic record, why not go for them more often?
The answer is math and probabilities.
Aguayo is 24 of 26 extra point attempts – 93.6% for the season, within is within 0.6% of the league average this season, and he hasn’t missed any extra point attempts in the last 5 games.
Two point conversions are a much lower probability. Season to date, the Bucs are just 4 out of 7 (57.1%), which is good enough to rank 9th in the league this season, though four of the eight teams that rank higher that the Bucs have only attempted 3 or fewer two-point plays. Only one team in the league has attempted more 2-pointers than the Bucs – the Steelers – but they converted on only 37.5% of their attempts. Half the league teams are converting 37.5% or fewer 2-pointers this season.
@naplesfan, assuming the percentages maintain the historical trend, you’ve just disproved your own point. the bucs have 8 points on 7 TDs going for 2, even a perfect aguayo would serve up less points. statistically, going for 2 is the more productive choice no matter who your kicker is. game situations and the like come into play, but with a player like aguayo who seems to let one bad kick turn into multiple bad kicks, limiting his attempts this year might be the best way for him to survive 2016 to compete for his job in year 2
Pick6 – yes, but coaches don’t have confidence that their teams will convert on as many as the Bucs have so far this year … as I said, half the teams convert at 37.5% or less (some at 0%). On 7 TDs the typical team will convert only 2-3 attempts, resulting in 4-6 points … where coaches expect 94% on extra points resulting in 6-7 points on those 7 attempts.
NFL coaches are conservative and will not go for 2 points unless there is a particularly compelling reason, such as what happened yesterday at SD. With a kick, we’d only be at a score of 27-21, so if SD scored a TD late they could win the game with an extra point kick, or be forced to go for two which is a lower percentage. So in that particular circumstance late in a close game, going for two made good sense. But going for two in the long run will produce fewer points for most teams.
In the long run, in any form of gambling, the house always wins. It’s only in the short run that a player can beat the house.
I agree with Naples fan. Aguayo has been pretty good lately and deserves to be our kicker at least to the end of the season. It takes rookies some time to adjust to the NFL and it appears it took him 5 weeks. Even Janikowski started off his rookie season shaky. He almost got cut. Over the last 8 games Aguayo has looked the part. That doesn’t stop me from cringing every time he kicks a field goal though. If the Bucs would just be more efficient in the red zone and score more TDs we wouldn’t have to worry about this problem.
for the record i said more often, not always
Unlike Scott, I don’t believe that the Bucs’ chances of winning the NFC South are slim at all.
I like the chances of the Falcs losing AT LEAST two, and quite plausibly three of their remaining four games, including division losses to New Orleans and Caroline. I also like the chances of the Bucs winning at least three of our last four games. That gives us an out right division championship.
I even like the chances of the Bucs winning out, including a road win against the Cowboys. That is how well the Bucs are playing, and how up and down all three of our division foes are playing right now.
Nice article. The Chargers are no joke, they should have a much better record so like you said it was a quality win! I was nervous Seattle ate too much turkey and overlooked us but they’re making me a believer!
I don’t feel Marpet missed Bosa on that stunt, I was so pissed that the refs didn’t call Defensive Holding. The DT clearly grabbed Marpet and pulled him into a 3-way collision with Dotson, opening the door for Bosa to get to Winston.
Can’t wait for the game Sunday!
The Bucs are playing good football but at some point something must be done about the worst kicker in the league. Statiscally he’s the worst and he’s not even reliable on chip shots. We have been able to overcome his shortcomings thus far but that wont always be the case. Bring in some competition for the kid and if he crumbles under that pressure then he’s clearly not the guy for the job. Would hate to see a great season go down the tubes bc of a kicker thats been awful all season being gifted a job free of competition.
You’re not paying attention to facts, stl … you’re still stuck in his first three games in the league when he had a slow start.
Since Week 5, Aguayo has made 14 of 16 field goal attempts (87.5%) which is considerably better than the league average, and in that same timeframe he’s 16 of 17 extra points which is equal to the league average this year on extra point attempts. He’s been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 11 – just two weeks ago.
Naplesfan, you are overlooking the only fact that matters. He’s the only kicker with at least 20 FGs that’s making LESS than 70 percent of his kicks and it’s by a wide margin. His long on the year is 43 yards yet another LOW for all kickers eligible. He missed a chip shot this past week but we were good enough as a team to overcome it. Now I know you are in love with his percent on extra points but Im certainly not going to give him glowing reviews for what he should be doing. Anybody that says they know they are getting from him at any distance is lying bc I get nervous every XP, chip shot FG and thats not even taking into account the longer FGS which as a team arent even an option bc the guy barely makes kicks from 40 and in. Just dont want to see us lose a game late bc we were too foolish to correct whats a rather obvious shortcoming on the roster.
I’m not overlooking a thing .. I am looking at Aguayo’s performance in his last 8 games which is very different than his performance in the first four games. He is a rookie, and like all rookies, there is an NFL learning curve. It applies just as much to Noah Spence, for instance, whose performance in the first month of the season bears no resemblance whatsoever to the last two months. He has clearly learned a lot in the last half season, as has Aguayo. Ditto with Vernon Hargreaves.
Same thing even applies to the entire defense. In the first four games of these season, our D was in the top one to three worst defenses in the league, giving up 32 PPG. In the last 8 games, however, our D has improved tremendously, as every single observer of the Bucs has noted in the last several weeks. We’ve given up an average of only 19.6 PPG in the last 8 games.
You wouldn’t try to make the argument that our Defense today is the same as it was 12 weeks ago. Same is true of Aguayo.
Plus im saying he needs competition not firing him outright. If we bring in people and he outkicks them then ok but standing pat sends the message that hes doing a good enough job and hes not.
Nobody is going to bring in competition, let alone fire, the NFLSpecial Teams player of the week who is performing at or much better than the average of all league’s kicker over the last two months.
You’re being ridiculous.
All I know is that in spite of his improvement he still missed a 31 yard chip in picture perfect field conditions. So again yes he’s improved but in some instances improvement still doesnt mean your better than what can be found on the streets. If I was a student getting F’s then got a 95 on a test or two and became a C student that doesnt mean I’m invincible. His “improvement” still equates to a guy missing 31
Question 1: The Bucs can absolutely be a force on the road when need be because winning road games is a mindset. Having Robert Ayers come to this team might have been the biggest signing of this off season player wise. He was a perfect compliment to the defense as Jameis is to the offense. Our record indicates we would be no easy out that is for sure.
Question 2: Jameis is indeed making his mark, as us “homer” noles fans knew he would. This isn’t just about stats either as he has maneuvered a culture change in this team that was more needed than anything. He has complete command of the huddle and is making the right reads now. I said it when he was drafted that he would have us in the playoffs within 3 years and I was “homered”. And he is doing this with Mike Evans and a bunch of no names. He makes everyone around him better and that’s his talent you can’t find at the combine. Although as I have stated last week, has anyone noticed how much better his mechanics have gotten? The high throws have almost completely disappeared and he has been WAY more accurate. And the great part is this is just the beginning. This kid is only 22
Statement 1: I would love to see Hargreaves get his first pick this week. Brees looked like ass against the Lions this week and that was in NO. Hargreaves has been playing fantastic and has made some big plays, The picks will come soon. He is playing much better than I anticipated.
Statement 2: There is nothing more I would love than beating the saint and getting another home win. And this is very possible. Brees will give you some chances so you have to take them. Continuing to get pressure will be key as if Brees has time, forget about it. I would love to see about 4 more sacks, but not too hard, Brees is one of the darlings if you hit too hard, you’ll get 15 yards.
It is so exciting seeing this team coming together. When I watch the games even I believe they are going to win, no matter how it happens. It is an incredible feeling. Before the Seattle game Winston and Hargreaves (mic’d up) met on the field and you hear Winston tell him, “back to back games, like a champ, you know what I’m saying, you’re on my team now…” Seeing these two and knowing they are the young face of this franchise for years to come is exciting. MANY young faces, seeing all of these guys learning to succeed together as a family is exciting. Right now it’s is all about the Saints… that stadium is going to be rocking this weekend! Loving my Bucs!
I see us going 3-1 and possibly 4-0 over the remainder of the season. New Orleans is a high powered offense with no defense. If we can slow down the pass game, our offense is good enough that we win. The way our defense has been playing lately that is highly likely. Carolina shouldn’t be a problem.
Dallas is the big test, we’ve had a little trouble stopping the run and that O-line will give our D-line problems. I think we’re still good enough to win though, especially if they’re already resting some of their starters.
Nice article Scott. But here comes the but. I think the bucks have just as good of a chance to win the south for one reason. Better coaching. Both Koetter and Smith are better that Quinn and whoever the hell runs the defense for the chickens.
I did not bother to fact check you but you are saying that if Winston passes for 83 yards in the remaining games he will pass Marino and Manning?
That’s Dan Marino and Peyton Manning, right?
I’ll ask that again.
That’s Dan Marino and Peyton Manning, right?
Close your eyes here comes an F Bomb. Sometimes it’s just right.
I’m not going to raise hell about Roberto. He is getting enough ass chewing by his coaches.
Keep your chin up kid.
I think part of the Bucs problems running the ball is predictability. Seems to me they run on first down like 90 percent of the time. It’s their tendency, even after a big completion, back to the run on first down. When was the last time Dirk let Jameis wing three, four in a row? They need to change it up once and awhile, and let the passing game, open things up for the running game. Warhop can yell at Dotson all he wants, he is what he is, needs to be replaced. Hawley is scrappy, but is a notch above average, will never dominate at point of attack. It’s time to draft a center that can grow with Jameis. Marpet might be our only O lineman that has pro bowl talent, until that changes, this unit will continue to struggle.
Very good Article. I thought I saw Martin with a slight limp. My concern is not RB, but how long Stocker is down for. Maybe we should bring the TE up from the PS? As to WR’s; as long as humphries can past protocall we’re okay. If he can’t then we have to bring up someone with some decent experience.
Uhhhhh, I hate to spoil all of you peoples fun in regards to the need to replace
Arroyo, but the real question is shouldn’t we have a kicker who cam make a field goal from the 2 yard line, but why should we need a field goal kicker if we have gotten it inside the 10 yard for a first down.
This team’s TD scoring needs to improve inside the red zone or it won’t matter how many chip shot field goals you make, you will inevitably start losing games to the better teams in the NFL.
Good point Dr.D. Score TD’s and it’s not an issue. As much as it pained me when Roberto missed the FG right before the half; as Naples pointed out, he is doing a little better than when he started the season. I do expect next Training Camp will include another kicker for insurance. I know a lot of rookie kickers struggle, which is why they often bounce around for a few years before settling on a team. For a while I thought he was rushing his kicks, but this week he looked like he was aiming it. I’m not ready to give him the “Capece is Kaput” roster move just yet.
Our red zone efficiency is atrocious this season, even throughout our 4-game winning streak. It needs to get better.
Coach Koetter seems to believe that running Martin up the gut from 2 or 4 yards out, when the defense has 9 or even 11 guys in the box on the goal line is a high percentage play. It’s obviously not. Yes, occasionally Martin can sneak one over as he did yesterday, but as a percentage conversion rate it’s not good.
I’d like to see us do more creative playcalling down in the red zone. Try play action passes to our tall receivers (Evans and Brate), halfback end-arounds, quarterback keepers (Jameis is actually pretty good on those plays, but we hardly ever call them this season), etc. etc. Because we’re so predictable, we greatly limit our success.
To put things in numerical perspective, the Bucs are currently 31st in the league in red zone scoring over the last three games! 20th in the league for the entire season.
This has gotta get fixed, and our kicker hitting more than the 87.5% of his field goals (higher than the league average) is not the solution.
We need more red zone TDs … a LOT more.
Saw a mind blowing stat about Jameis today. His QBR when being blitzed is 87.1. That is 21 points higher than the next closest guy and the highest since they started tracking that stat in 2009. That is just nuts.
Interesting. Jameis obviously isn’t bothered at all by pressure … and because it doesn’t bother him, blitzers aren’t there to cover his receivers. He’s also very good in throwing the ball while on the run.
Maybe there’s a solution to our crappy red zone offense in there somewhere … maybe Jameis needs to be coached to run the ball in himself more often. He did that last year quite a few times but we’ve hardly seen it this season. I imagine his coaches asked him to stop putting his body at risk to get into the end zone, and that is a real risk. But if he’s scrambling to look for a receiver under pressure, and we’re only a coupla yards out, I’d love to see him take it into the end zone. That in turn will probably cause defenses to “spy” Jameis, which removes another defender from pass defense.
If I were Koetter, I’d think about changing up his instruction. Because right now, over the last three games, the Bucs are the second worst red zone offense in the entire league. Something else has to change if we are going to win three or four more games this season.
I think our red zone woes are a combination of a few things. For one, we’ve had very untimely penalties that cost us two TD’s that I can think of off the top of my head. Those two alone produce a much better percentage. But on top of that , I’d agree with you that Koetter should switch it up a bit in the red zone. He’s called run far too often on first down and it’s getting slightly predictable. Every time Jameis rolls out and has an option, it’;s usually successful. It would’ve again this week, he just missed Mike crossing over. Just little things, although playing two top 5 defenses also factors in a bit here.
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