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 scored a major upset with a team-record 48 points in a 48-40 shootout win over the Saints in New Orleans to start the season 1-0.

TWO BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: Fitzmagic, Monken’s Play-Calling Were Superb
Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter made the absolute right call in letting offensive coordinator Todd Monken continue calling plays in the regular season. The original plan was to let Monken call plays in the preseason with Koetter taking over during the regular season. With the Bucs offense averaging 387 yards per game and 28.3 points per game in the first three preseason games when the starters were in the lineup, Koetter made the absolute right call in calling an audible and letting Monken continue in the play-calling role in the regular season as the offense carried the day in Tampa Bay’s 48-40 win at New Orleans.

We saw a 58-yard touchdown shot from Ryan Fitzpatrick to DeSean Jackson in the first half – out of the slot no less. Per the Buccaneers communications department, DeSean Jackson tied Hall of Famers Terrell Owens and Lance Alworth for the third-most touchdowns of 50-plus yards in NFL history. Jackson wound up with two touchdowns on the day.

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

“I’m happy to announce that Fitzmagic is alive and well,” Koetter said in his post-game press conference. “Quite a start, huh?”

We saw a quarterback sneak on third down for a first down by Ryan Fitzpatrick – make that Fitzmagic. We saw vertical shots to wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who both scored touchdowns. We saw a run for a touchdown by a 35-year old quarterback. We saw tight end O.J. Howard making big, explosive plays. We saw Peyton Barber running wild and averaging a workmanlike 3.9 yards per carry en route to 69 yards. We saw 31 first half points in the first half – 24 by the offense.

Bryan Anger didn’t even punt in the first half. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Fitzpatrick wound up with two passing touchdowns of 50-plus yards in today’s game – one to Jackson and one to Evans. The last time they did that was in 1998 against Green Bay (Dec. 17, 1998; 62-yard touchdown catch Bert Emanuel & 64-yard touchdown catch Jacquez Green). Yes, it’s been a minute, Bucs fans.

Jackson fought through a shoulder injury and possibly suffered a concussion en route to catching five passes for 146 yards and two scores, including a key 36-yarder in the second half, while Evans defeated nemesis Marshon Lattimore to catch seven passes for 147 yards and one touchdown in the win.

“To go out and answer, that first one was big, that first drive was huge,” Koetter said. “I thought Fitz did an awesome job of just giving guys chances to make plays. We had one in the third quarter where he overthrew Mike when 23 fell down. But other than that, all of our other balls down field he gave those guys a chance to make plays and they did. I mean two of them, [Chris] Godwin, the one over the middle, two to O.J. [Howard], the guys were hanging all over him. Those were both pretty plays, but those are the plays O.J. makes in practice, he makes those plays.”

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and OC Todd Monken - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With Monken’s play-calling leading the way, we saw Tampa Bay score 41 of the team’s 48 points, which tied a team record as the team matched a franchise high three times – versus Atlanta on September 13, 1987; vs. New Orleans on December 31, 2001; and against Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVIII on January 26, 2003.

The Bucs punted once. They offense had zero turnovers and zero sacks. What a start to the season for Koetter, Monken and Fitzpatrick.

“Everything starts with protection,” Koetter said. “Protection beats coverage, we talked about that all week. Protection beats coverage.”

What a statement win to open the season with 529 yards of total offense, including 112 yards on the ground and converting 8-of-13 (62 percent) on third downs. This offense has been years in the making for Koetter and general manager Jason Licht, who were the architects. It arrived just in time for an opening day upset in 2018 – with Fitzpatrick as the unlikely hero.

STATEMENT 2: Smith’s Defense Is A Work In Progress
It was disappointing to see Mike Smith’s defense allow 24 points to New Orleans in the first half and surrender 40 points in the game, but keep in mind a few things – and I’m not making excuses for Smith. The Bucs had as many as six new starters on defense on the field at the same time on Sunday – cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart, defensive linemen Beau Allen, Vinny Curry, Carl Nassib and Jason Pierre-Paul. It’s going to take some time for this unit to gel – especially without top cornerback Brent Grimes.

Drew Brees and the Saints offense is going to score 30+ points against several teams this year. That’s a fact. I’m sure Smith and the Bucs defenders didn’t like giving up that many points against New Orleans, but there will be improvement as this unit comes together and learns to work in unison.

Two big takeaways by Smith’s defense and a third down sack by new defensive end Vinny Curry were keys to Tampa Bay’s opening day victory. Bucs free safety Justin Evans looked like the Pro Bowler that Smith indicated he could become with a scoop-and-score in the first half, as well as a nice tackle on a third down pass to prevent a punt in the second half.

Bucs FS Justin Evans - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs FS Justin Evans – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

“Yeah the turnover touchdown I mean, we were talking on the headphones to the coaches, and at one point, one of the coaches said, ‘It looks like it’s going to be a track meet,’” Koetter said. “And we said on the phone right then, “Okay, what happens in a track meet? Turnovers are what decide it.’ And that’s probably what happened.”

Middle linebacker Kwon Alexander redeemed himself from a rough first half with a key forced fumble in the second half. The Bucs defense was far from perfect in surrendering 439 yards passing and three touchdowns to Brees, and 40 points on Sunday, but it did enough to win.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was a start for a rebuilt Bucs defense that figures to get better with time – and more experience for rookies like Davis and Stewart.

TWO PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Why Was RoJo Inactive?
Initially, it looks damning for Bucs general manager Jason Licht, right? A total of four of the team’s draft picks on the inactive list today, including defensive tackle Vita Vea, the team’s first-round pick, and running back Ronald Jones, the Bucs’ second-rounder. Third-round pick Alex Cappa and wide receiver Justin Watson, a fifth-round pick, were also inactive.

But a closer look reveals that this Buccaneers team is deep at several key positions, and that Vea is recovering from an injury. Cappa is a work in progress at guard, and the Bucs are plenty deep at wide receiver, which is why Watson was inactive. Tampa Bay didn’t need much of its rookie class in New Orleans.

The big surprise – or maybe it wasn’t – was Jones being inactive. Yes, he’s a second-round pick, but he averaged less than a yard per carry in the preseason and doesn’t play on special teams, which is a problem.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones - Photo by Mary Holt/PR

Bucs RB Ronald Jones – Photo by Mary Holt/PR

The truth is that if Jones was a fifth-round pick he would have been released after rushing for 22 yards on 28 carries in the preseason. Last year’s fifth-round pick, Jeremy McNichols, was cut after rushing for 79 yards last August and averaging nearly four yards per carry. He’s a work in progress, and until that progress happens – or an injury to Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers or fellow rookie Shaun Wilson occurs, he’ll remain on the inactive list.

But the real reason why these rookies are on the inactive list is because the Bucs have enough capable veterans on this team. Keep in mind that five of Bill Belichick’s draft picks were inactive today in New England, including second-round running back Sony Michel. The Bucs won today without a lot of rookies, so at the end of the day, those inactives were the right call.

QUESTION 2: What Does This Opening Day Win Mean?
The Bucs caught the Saints off guard and scored a bunch of points in a shootout win to start the season 1-0, including a 1-0 start atop the NFC South division. So what does this victory ultimately mean? Not much, really.

It’s a great start, as being 1-0 is much better than starting the year 0-1. But this win counts as one win – and one division win at the end of the day. Tampa Bay started the 2016 season with a 31-24 Week 1 upset at Atlanta and finished 9-7 and one game out of the playoffs. Last year, the Bucs beat Chicago at home, 29-7, to start the season 1-0 and finished 5-11.

Koetter is now 3-0 in season openers as Tampa Bay’s head coach, which is the best opening day record for a head coach in franchise history, but what transpires over the next 16 weeks will ultimately tell the Bucs’ tale. A 1-0 start is great, but doesn’t mean much if the Bucs lose at home next week against visiting Philadelphia.

Bucs DE Vinny Curry and MLB Kwon Alexander - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs DE Vinny Curry and MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Yet for a Bucs team that had just one division win last year – in the season finale against the Saints – getting that first NFC South victory in Week 1 has to be quite sweet. It won’t be Tampa Bay’s last year this year.

“Again, we’re right into it – we got a whole new set of problems in about a few hours,” Koetter said. “But to win on the road, against a division team, NFC team, in a place like this, against a team like that, against a quarterback like that – that’s huge. That’s a huge way to start your season, I don’t think anyone here was picking us, I mean are you kidding me? That’s a huge plus, but they’re all tough, they’re tough. We got to figure out a way to do it better, different, some way, find a way to do it again next week because I mean, Philly, they don’t care about that game.”

TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Fitzpatrick Will Be NFC Offensive Player Of The Week
Fitzpatrick threw for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 36 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in Tampa Bay’s Week 1 upset at New Orleans. He’s got to be a shoo-in for the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. If the league gives it to someone else it it’s a crime. Five touchdowns and 450 total yards from a backup quarterback? Give it to him, NFL. The 35-year old Fitzpatrick deserves it.

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

PREDICTION 2: Winston Will Have To Wait
I’m predicting that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will not start in Week 4 at Chicago. Instead, Tampa Bay will continue to start Fitzpatrick at quarterback unless the offense grinds to a screeching halt for some reason over the next two weeks in big home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Bucs, who have not been to the playoffs in a decade, cannot afford to rock the boat if Fitzpatrick continues to have such command of the offense. Winston is the future at the quarterback position, but he’s 24. Fitzpatrick showed in New Orleans that he is Tampa Bay’s quarterback of the present.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Subscribe
Notify of
24 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
nitey
nitey
3 years ago

Agree on Fitzpatrick. As long as he is hot, Jameis should sit, it will make him want it more when he comes back. I slightly disagree on what this win means though, winning on the road against the division champs and hanging 48 on them, 41 of which came from a flawless offensive performance allows for a lot of confidence building going into the game against the Eagles. With a loss, they might have going into that game pressing knowing that they don’t want to be 0-2, now they can have some confidence. I doubt it will be over-confidence, but… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0
3 years ago

Bucs have swept the Saints dating to back last year. This team is starting to believe they can compete. Just have to make tackles, make field goals and put teams away this year. Do that and this is an above .500 ball club.

nitey
nitey
3 years ago

I’m really starting to believe in the offense after the pre-season and now the performance against New Orleans. Defensively, I know fans are really getting on Mike Smith, but he was down some really valuable assets and in the fourth quarter basically had a inexperienced secondary with Davis, Whitehead, Stewart and Conte on the backend and I think JPP was hurt. Playing against Brees in a loud hostile enviroment, I think Smith did a pretty reasonable job all things considered. The defense did force the Saints into passing 75% of the time and controlled the rush. Brees just gets the… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0
3 years ago

I love all the Bucs rookies drafted from the 2018 draft class. No point in rushing anyone to play.

surferdudes
3 years ago

Calling the plays on offense doesn’t make for a good head coach. Making the right decisions for the over all good of the team does. Give Koetter credit for making the right decision handing over play calling to Monkin. Koetter just became a better head coach.

BucLifer
BucLifer
3 years ago

That’s a bold prediction for Fitzmagic. Love the career day he had today, but remember week one results are always over rated one way or the other. Let’s hope the magic continues, and we’ll all be happy to see Jameis sit a while.

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
3 years ago

I like what you wrote except for the “What does this mean” part. It means everything. The Bucs went on the road and beat the Saints. This is now in the minds of all the Bucs. What ever comes next, this thought will be there. All the players played good enough to beat the best team in the NFC South. They know they can win…PRICELESS. This is what I think.

Pete Wood
Pete Wood
3 years ago

The Bucs won a game they should have won. This is huge. Bucs would have lost this game last year. They would have screwed up, not run out the clock and allowed Saints to tie. Saints then would have won in OT or on a last second FG. This is huge. Good teams win games like this. Bucs did not implode. And, they have the best receivers in the league. After Browns almost beat Pittsburgh, we may go two and one. No complaints from me about this win. It’s a divisional win and we’re undefeated. What’s not to like? Go… Read more »

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
3 years ago

As for Fitzpatrick playing; he should play as long as he is the best player. Winston is out because he is a screw up, not because he was hurt. He does not have the right to return. He must be the best option for the team to win and I have yet to see his play match the hype.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
3 years ago

It is not a surprise that the Bucs offense played well and the Bucs defense mostly sucked. That’s exactly how both units looked in preseason.

No surprise that Brees and the Saints offense also played well. But the Saints D were surprisingly sucky at their home opener.

What does this win mean beyond being 1-0 in the division? Only time will tell, obviously. Having a strong offense is great, but a weak D is a big risk to the season outcome.

Dman
Dman
3 years ago

One point of disagreement Scott, I think this win does have a significant take away – the Bucs have figured out how to use all these weapons on offense. All of these players were on the roster last season, but it was as though we didn’t know how to distribute the ball to get them all involved. Today demonstrated we can and if you’re a D coordinator, you just got wake up call preparing for this team. The one concern is the running game because once Barber came out we got nowhere. With a strong second back this is a… Read more »

seat26
seat26
3 years ago

It is way too early to predict that Fitzpatrick stays as starting QB. And it also takes away from the play calling that Monken was able to accomplish. This game is a result of an expertly executed offensive plan. And for that Monken and Koetter deserve credit. Whatever Fitzpatrick accomplished is appreciated, but Winston has a skill set that will only make the results, in the long run, even better.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  seat26
3 years ago

+1. Perfectly said Seat 26

wnb0395
wnb0395
Reply to  seat26
3 years ago

You are right about an Expertly executed offensive plan. This game is a result of Monken calling the plays. He calls them the complete opposite of Koetter which caught the Saints off guard. You know the Eagles are watching and wont be caught off guard next Sunday.

BuccaneerBill
BuccaneerBill
Reply to  wnb0395
3 years ago

No one would notice, or care, who is calling the plays when they’re executed perfectly. Be it Monken, Koetter, or Scott Reynolds perfect execution equals great play calling.

alan skelly
alan skelly
3 years ago

As to Fitz being named Player of the Week – Scott wrote this before Rodgers decided to write a new chapter in his GOAT auto biography.

BuccaneerBill
BuccaneerBill
Reply to  alan skelly
3 years ago

Good point Alan. Fitz should still get it, but it will be closer after Rogers’ performance.

wnb0395
wnb0395
Reply to  BuccaneerBill
3 years ago

Really. Rodgers isn’t even the 2rd best QB of the week
Fitz 21/28 417 yds 4 td-o ints 12 rush 36 yds 1td
Rodgers 20/30 286 yds 3 td-0 ints 1 rush 15 yds 0td
Brees 37/49 439 yds 3 Td-0 Ints
Mahomes 15/27 256 yds 4 TD-0 Ints 5 rush 21 yds

BuccaneerBill
BuccaneerBill
Reply to  wnb0395
3 years ago

Preaching to the choir wnb, I want Fitz to win. However, I suspect the voters look beyond the statistics. That’s why I made the comment I did.

fredster
fredster
3 years ago

Great game. I said before game I think the offense is for real but defense is going to struggle. Too many new faces and rookies starting and partly well because it’s Smith. I predicted close 4th qtr win but I guessed maybe low scoring. Lol. Glad to be wrong! Not sure Fitz will keep starting. Only if he plays crazy like that. If he struggles but we win with running ball and get some turnovers can’t see them not starting Winston the way he played pre season as well. Could argue he was more consistent Fitz kind of stunk week… Read more »

Vinny
Vinny
3 years ago

(Sang to the theme of B.o.B’s – Magic)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq-NShfefks

We’ve got FitzMagic in TB,
Every time he throws the ball,
It turns into 1st and goal,
Everybody knows…

We’ve got FitzMagic in TB,
His beard is magical,
No one can sack our new QB,
Now everybody wants a pass from…

FitzMagic, Magic, Magic,
FitzMagic, Magic, Magic,
FitzMagic, Magic, Magic… aaawoooo
We got FitzMagic in TB

bigbuc
bigbuc
3 years ago

Sure felt good to root for a team when our QB isn’t A) picking fights from the sideline B) stuffing his hand in his mouth like a 6 year old to eat W’s, C) groping young women D) missing wide open D Jax, and E) turning the ball over like a hot potato. Hope JW is watching closely to see what he can potentially become……

EricNV
EricNV
3 years ago

“The Bucs had as many as six new starters on defense on the field at the same time on Sunday”

And for all the bitching and moaning going on today, the Bucs’ defense was better than the Saints’ defense was yesterday. Give Coach Smith and his NEW defense a chance. I’ll bet they get better and better as the season progresses. In the meantime – GO BUCS OFFENSE, GO!!

Buc-n-Philly Fan
Buc-n-Philly Fan
3 years ago

Hey Buc76, here was your last comment:

Buc76 Sep 8, 18 at 11:43 am
Trevor you are being realistic. 38 to 13 saints. This team has done nothing to improve the wins and losses. JPP will not be enough to turn this defense around. They get carved up by Brees and the offense will not produce. You’re not going to win there with a backup quarterback.

Where are you? You want to say the Bucs suck and can’t win with a back up. Be a Man and show back up now you Asshat!