Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay scored a huge, 19-17 upset on the road in Kansas City against a Chiefs team that was 7-2 prior to Sunday. Dirk Koetter’s Buccaneers have now won back-to-back games and evened their record at 5-5. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, kicker Roberto Aguayo and safety Chris Conte were among the heroes in a season-defining win that puts Tampa Bay’s road record at an impressive 4-1.
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. PROGRESS IS BEING MADE IN TAMPA BAY UNDER KOETTER
Here we are again. The Buccaneers are at .500 with a looming home game against a formidable foe and have a chance at a winning record for the first time since Week 1 after winning at Atlanta 31-24. The last time this occurred was three weeks ago when Tampa Bay was 3-3 and lost at home in overtime to an Oakland team that’s now 7-2. Of course, the Bucs were also 1-1 in Week 3 before a close loss against Los Angeles, who is now 4-6, but this is different.
After a 36-10 blowout victory over a downtrodden Chicago squad, Tampa Bay scored a huge upset, 19-17, on the road against a Kansas City team that was 7-2 and had won five straight entering Sunday’s contest. This was a huge, quality win for the Bucs against another playoff-caliber team like Atlanta.
“Today we were a really good football team,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Today we played well in all phases, defense minus a few plays, played really strong. [On] offense we had good mix, special teams held up their end. This is a very tough, a team that’s won 17 of I think their last 19 games and shoot I’m proud of these guys for the way we came in here, awesome atmosphere, always an awesome place to play here at Arrowhead and we played good football today.”
In two years under Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay won eight games, including just one quality win over a playoff team, which was a 27-24 upset in Pittsburgh. Koetter, in his first year as an NFL head coach, has already beaten two teams with winning records this year – and on the road – in Atlanta and Kansas City through just 10 games.
Another opportunity awaits this Sunday at home against Seattle, which is 7-2-1 this year. With six games left against Seattle, at San Diego, New Orleans, at Dallas, at New Orleans and home against Carolina, it’s not out of the question that the Bucs could finish 7-9 or better, which would represent progress over last year’s underwhelming 6-10 record in Smith’s last year.
With the 5-5 Bucs trailing the 6-4 Falcons but just one game, Tampa Bay is still very much alive for the playoffs. That’s the message Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston delivered to his team after practice on Wednesday when he read a handwritten note aloud to his teammates.
“Jameis came to me last Saturday night – a week ago Saturday night before the Chicago game and had his letter written on a notepad, and asked me,” Koetter said. “I thought he was talking about doing it for the Chicago game, and he said, ‘No, Coach. After we beat Chicago, I want to do it on Wednesday of Kansas City week.’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course. That’s fantastic.’ It was a fantastic letter. He read it to the guys on Wednesday after practice. He just reminded them about it in there. Jameis is a special guy.”
And the way Koetter’s efficient offense performed in Kansas City, outgaining the Chiefs 442-343 and converting 11-of-16 (69 percent) on third downs, while controlling the clock 35:18 to 24:42, he’s becoming a special coach and offensive coordinator.
STATEMENT 2: WINSTON, AGUAYO WON THIS GAME FOR THE BUCS
Perhaps it was hearing the Chief Osceola War Chant that Florida State Seminoles fans do at Doak Campbell Stadium that is mimicked by Kansas City Chiefs fans on third and fourth down, but former FSU greats Winston and rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo played inspired football on Sunday at Arrowhead.
“Man the crowd noise was amazing,” Winston said. “Every third down they did an O-chant and I was so pumped up, it really made me feel at home. I love playing here. Every time I get the chance to hit an O-chant, I was even doing it with the fans at the beginning of the game.”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Winston was masterful on third down with his biggest pass of the day being a 14-yard pass to Mike Evans on third-and-3 that picked up a key first down and allowed Tampa Bay to run a good deal of time off the clock and preserve the win. Winston finished the day completing 24-of-39 passes for 331 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, although he did have one fumble.
“The way he controlled the game today, other than a very brief stint at the start of the third quarter, he was as accurate as I’d seen him, made great decisions and took care of the football,” Koetter said. “He played really good today.”
Aguayo wasn’t really good on Sunday, he was perfect, and the Bucs needed all four of his field goals and his extra point to come out ahead, 19-17, in Kansas City.
“We couldn’t punch it in,” Koetter said. “These guys are really tough in the red zone. They’re tough to score on. It’s not like we were doing anything wrong, no one is scoring points on these guys. We had a couple things we thought we could take advantage of, but they shut us down. We needed all those field goals.”
Aguayo is now 13-of-18 on field goals (72.2 percent) his four field goals made on Sunday at Kansas City is a new career high. Aguayo has connected on 10-of-11 (90.9 percent) of his field goals since nailing the game-winner at Carolina. And he’s hit on eight of his last nine extra points and has been perfect the last three games with seven consecutive makes. The once criticized Aguayo is 20-of-22 (90.9 percent) on extra points this season.
Consider general manager Jason Licht, the man who stuck his neck out to trade up and draft a kicker in the second round, a very happy man today – along with the rest of Pewter Nation.
TWO PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: DO OPINIONS CHANGE ABOUT CONTE AT ONE BUC PLACE?
The Bucs’ front office re-signed free agent safety Chris Conte to a one-year deal for a reason. Tampa Bay wanted him back because of his size, coverage ability and football I.Q., but uneven play last season prompted the Bucs to give him a one-year, prove-it deal. The Bucs wanted to find out if Conte could thrive in Mike Smith’s defensive scheme before committing to him with a long-term deal. Conte had only played in Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme throughout his career.
It has taken awhile for Conte and his teammates to come around in Mike Smith’s defense, but the safety has made strides and has had huge interceptions in back-to-back victories. Conte recorded a pick-six against his former team, Chicago, that got the Bucs off to a 7-0 start in a huge, 36-10 victory last week. Against the Chiefs, Conte had a big fourth quarter interception in the end zone that he returned 53 yards to set up the Bucs’ only touchdown of the day.
Bucs S Chris Conte – Photo by: Getty Images
Conte did give up a touchdown to Kansas City receiver Albert Wilson in the fourth quarter, but that was mostly due to an ill-time blitz call by Smith, who called for nickel cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah to blitz, forcing Conte to switch to man coverage on Wilson. Conte was in a trail position from the start of the play, and had no chance to defend Wilson, who was running an out route to the side of the end zone.
Conte will be 28 in February, and if he finishes the season strong he deserves a contract extension and the right to challenge for a starting safety spot next year. Yes, the Bucs should draft a safety in 2017, but why not bring Conte back for competition if he ends his first year in Smith’s defense on a high note. For the year, Conte has 58 tackles, four pass breakups, two interceptions and one fumble recovery and is coming off a season in which he posted 79 stops, six pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2015.
QUESTION 2: WHERE WAS McCOY ON SUNDAY?
Although he finished with zero tackles and was double-teamed all day by the Chiefs offensive line, Bucs Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had a hand in both of Tampa Bay’s takeaways – literally. McCoy got his hand up and deflected Alex Smith’s pass into the end zone that Conte was able to pick off and return 53 yards to set up the Bucs’ touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to seal Tampa Bay’s victory.
And when the Chiefs tried their desperation laterals on the game’s final play, it was McCoy that pounced on the loose ball and recovered the fumble for the Bucs. For those quick to look at the stat sheet to see which Bucs played well, the stat sheet doesn’t always tell the story. Sometimes a player can have 14 tackles and give up several big plays. Other times, a player like McCoy can have zero tackles as he was constantly blocked with two offensive linemen and still make a few huge plays when it counts.
TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: MARTIN RUSHES FOR 100 YARDS AGAINST SEAHAWKS
A week after I called Tampa Bay’s upset over Kansas City, I’m not ready to predict a Bucs win over the Seahawks just yet (although I’m not saying it can’t or won’t happen, especially without rookie running back C.J. Prosise). Stay tuned for our Pewter Predictions story on Saturday to see how I forecast the game. But what I can predict is that Doug Martin will go over 100 yards rushing against Seattle on Sunday.
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Getty Images
The Seahawks gave up 113 yards on 26 carries (4.3 avg.) to the Eagles on Sunday, including two 18-yard runs, and although Bucs running back Doug Martin ran for just 63 yards and averaged 2.4 yards per carry against the Chiefs, he had a 12-yard run and looked electric on a 27-yard screen pass. Martin hasn’t rushed for 100 yards since November 22 when he rushed for 235 yards at Philadelphia. If left guard Kevin Pamphile returns from his concussion this week Martin tops the century mark for the first time in over a year.
PREDICTION 2: THE BUCS AT COWBOYS GAME GETS FLEXED TO SNF
If Tampa Bay can win at least two out of its next three games (vs. Seattle, at San Diego, vs. New Orleans), don’t be surprised to see its 1:00 p.m. ET game at Dallas on December 18 get flexed to Sunday Night Football. The Bucs could be 7-6 or 8-5 if they continue their winning ways, and that would be a much more intriguing matchup against a Cowboys team with the league’s best record right now at 9-1.
The NFL would rather pit two hot, young quarterbacks in Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott, two hot, young wide receivers in Mike Evans and Dez Bryant, along with running backs Doug Martin and Ezekiel Elliot in prime time against each other rather than the scheduled match-up of Pittsburgh at Cincinnati on December 18. The Steelers are currently 5-5 and the Bengals are 3-6-1 and are without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green for the rest of the year.
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]
I would love to see the Bucs on SNF! Go Bucs, it’s go time!
I too would enjoy the SNF switch! Go Bucs!
I think Sunday was a step in the right direction for this team. We’ve been in that position before – leading better teams – and in crunch time they always seem to make several bucs blunders to give up the lead and lose at the last second. That didn’t happen Sunday, and I really think they executed the final few minutes of the game perfectly. If we’re going to be a good team, we need to consistently close out games like we did against the Chiefs. If we could’ve done that earlier in the year, we may very well have had 2 more wins against the Rams and the Raiders.
After the Chiefs scored the final time I texted my friends and asked him: Final score 20-19 or 24-19?
Oh ye of little faith.
Great pass by Winston on third down to practically seal the game up.
We’re going to get screwed on the officiating against Dallas anyway, so maybe putting it on prime time will help mitigate things a little 🙂
Why do you say that? You think the refs will be biased?
Although I tend to think down on us most of the time b/c we always seem to shoot ourselves in the foot….We are starting to get healthy and it really looks like the defense is starting to mesh well and come into its own….I think being at home (even though we’ve only won 1 game there) is a bit of an advantage b/c of the big win we had there last then followed up against a team that had such a hot streak. We might can pull out a win over a team that barely escaped a loss with a tie against a struggling Arizona team a few weeks back…if thats the case I think the bucs keep playing good football and we could really have a shot at the falcons for 1st place if they screw up and choke like last year! ( but there remainig schedule is very week so its probably a long shot).
Regarding your statement no. 2, I’d say that Jameis Winston, Roberto Aguayo, and Chris Conte who won the game, if individual players need to be singled out above their teammates.
Really looking forward to watching the Seahawks come to Tampa. I’m a fan of the Seahawks, especially Wilson and of course their defense …. just less so than of the Bucs. Too bad someone has to lose, but the Bucs are going to be competitive and I can see our guys winning, for sure.
Re: the Dallas game, this game could be a trap for the Cowboys, who have made a living for many years by fading in the month of December, and who by Dec 18 may be well ahead of the Giants in the race for the NFC East. We should be competitive, especially given our performance on the road in tough venues.
Statement 1: I absolutely believe there is progress, you can see it in the players. This team isn’t folding like it does in the past. Starting to develop a little different mindset. Not having Lovie there to butcher our defensive calls helps and it’s good to see the guys latching on to Mike Smiths defense.
Statement 2: As a noles fan I was at the bar watching the game so there was no sound. I would’ve loved to have heard the war chants when Jameis was ripping 3rd downs. Would bring a tear to my eyes, of glory days past. haha Also great to see Roberto get his mojo back. They might have been shorter kicks, but after all of those missed kicks yesterday, 12 in all, that’s a damn good showing.
Question 1: I think you bring back Conte on another 1 year deal and still draft a safety. Conte has made some big plays for us the last couple of weeks, but also still gets routinely burnt. I can’t give the secondary too much credit when the receivers they are facing are the likes of what the Chiefs have. Not trying to cut into a good performance, just trying to not get caught up in the moment.
Question 2: Well personally I thought Mccoy was invisible. The tip on the pass was big so no doubt he deserves credit for that, but falling on a fumble when no one else is around isn’t going to get him too much credit from me. A lot of people give him credit for taking up double teams as well and that’s all nice and good, But I don’t recall him anywhere near Alex smith. While I understand they get rid of the ball quickly, so I didn’t expect much in the way of sacks, but there wasn’t even much pressure at all. He didn’t even have to leave the pocket but once, for the the TD. I do expect a little more out of Mr. Mccoy. I still think the bucs should make a push for Sheldon Richardson next year and stack him with moccy so they can’t double Mccoy. Then he could rise to his potential as they say.
Prediction 1: I’d have to disagree on this one. I don’t think Doug looked good at all yesterday. Now I know the line didn’t help much at all, but he was fumbling hand offs and dropping passes. I did love his pass blocking though, that I can’t deny as he picked up some solid blocks on blitzes. He runs hard and that is whats great about Dougie, I just don’t see him as explosive at all. It might still be rust as he’s sat for half of the season so we’ll see. But I think Seattle is going to bring Earl into the box a bit more.
Prediction 2: The Bucs and Cowboys game getting flexed would be beautiful , but we have to keep winning to do that. This week is going to be very tough and I’m worried about this one, but I guess that’s just part of being a fan of this team and getting used to winning again. Our schedule is just brutal the rest of the way so it’s going to be tough.
I already have my tickets to the Cowboys game, I can’t wait!!! I’m the only member of my extended family that lives in TX that isn’t a Cowboys’ fan. My son and in-laws are die-hard Cowboys fans. Of course, the last Dallas-Tampa game that I went to was on Oct 7, 1990 and that one didn’t turn out real well!!!
Andy Reid calls a very conservative game and he lets his defense win it for him. We had to have some luck and breaks in this game; we got them both. I will be very happy if we go 7-9 or 8-8. I don’t see Doug Martin getting a 100 yards in the next game against Seattle. This is a very good team who also had injury issues and there is nothing conservative about them on defense or offense. If we beat them then I would say we have moved to the next level and are now competitive to beat anybody. This is the game that is going to tell us where we are. Go Bucs! Get this win!!!
I am very happy they pulled out a tough win but I caution everybody to slow down. This team gets really high after big wins and then has lead to major let downs. This team was 6-6 last year and playing well before it all came crumbling down. Definitely hope this is different but Im going to stay focused after this win like I hope the team does. We have lost a few winnable games so this helps in balancing those out but they need to win a few more and actually validate the hype before I get excited. Some of the seasons usual under achievers stepped up and the defense continues to make the incremental improvement I’ve noticed for the last month of the season, minus the ATL game. Good win but hopefully its a building block for the season and not the peak. Go Bucs!!
How right you are! So much went right for us in this game.
I’ve heard some say slow down. I say speed it up. Why not get excited and feel some exuberance for a change. I’m feeling like the BUCS are turning a comer here. Win lose or draw Koetter and crew will bring it to the Seahawks. They won’t lay down for them for sure.
Chris Conte deserves another shot with us. Look, he’s not the best safety but he is far from the worst. He’s going to get burned by good receivers, all safeties will. I’d say draft a good one in the second round and bring the safeties up to at least average.
A good Pass rush will make them look brilliant.
About Martin getting a 100. Sure I’ll go for it.
Martin did not look like his old self but was tough enough to keep KC honest. That was I believe the biggest factor in Winstons success throwing the ball. If Reid would have brought out a safety to help defend the pass Dougie might well have gotten a 100.
Same thing with Seattle. You got to respect the run man.
Seattle is beatable. Glennon almost pulled it off during the Seahawks Super Bowl year in Seattle.
Any team can be beat. Even the effen Cowboys. You know why I hate Dallas, for years thankgiving day games was a Detroit thing. Old man ford gave away most of the tickets to his employees and the men who made that city go.
Then Dallas had to horn in on the tradition. I still have friends up there who resent it. So far this year has sucked. A lot of great people died and tumultuous elections.
This would make my year better.
Love to see us sneak a win against Seahawks. Will be hardest challenge of year but it’s very possible if they play like they did against chiefs and run ball little better. D line will have to play their best game too.
Honestly I’d love to beat Hawks at home and I’ll be there, but if had to choose I’d be more satisfied with beating the stupid Cowgirls on prime time. So sick of hearing about how great Prescott is. He’s had it so easy with that line and run game. Americas team. Blah.
Ditto on that Fred. If I had to choose between Cowboys and Seahawks I’d rather see us beat the snot out of the Cowboys. I really have no rational reason to hate Dallas, I just do.
Maybe because they insist on being called America’s team. Ain’t my damn team and I’m an a American.
I will say that I do not think the Bucs will make the playoffs unless Atlanta melts down (again). However, I consider this season a success for Dirk Koetter and co. This team feels different than teams in years past and we finally look to have a franchise QB. I was expecting bad Jameis vs the Chiefs with that pass rush but wow he played lights out. Winston will be at least a top 10 QB in the NFL. I would also LOVE if the Bucs-Cowboys was flexed to Sunday Night, what a game that would be. The Cowboys don’t have a very good defense at all so I expect that if Jameis and friends are clicking we would have a real shot. I was at the Bucs-Cowboys game last year, phew that was a struggle but there was no better feeling seeing Jameis keep that ball and stroll into the end zone, Go Bucs!
I’ve often observed that most NFL teams are fairly equal when it comes to the talent on their rosters but for a few stars. What separates them is their mental approach. For the past several years the Bucs players and we fans expected to lose at the first sign of trouble. Their collective heads would go down, they would lose their confidence, play with less “juice” and ultimately concede defeat. I’m not seeing that this year.
While there have certainly been times when disaster has struck and injuries seemed to be an every game occurrence , the team has hung in there and made no excuses. To me that’s a big step.
The Seahawks are one of the best teams in the league. They exude confidence that borders on cockiness. I suspect we will have a few of their “12th Man” invade our “home” turf. Perhaps traveling all the way from the northwest will make the players a bit weary. I believe the Bucs will welcome this challenge and play with a bit of swagger of their own.
A victory in this game just might ignite a dormant fan base that has been apathetic for a decade.
I always look at the weeks practice photo’s on the Bucs website. Leading up to KC I saw a lot of smiles, and what looked like a lose Buc team. You can see these guys really love each other, and will lay it on the line for whats becoming a band of brothers. Jameis has all to do with this new atmosphere, and it helps he’s backed it up with solid play. The most dangerous team is the one that believes they can.
Agree totally. A band of brothers.
Man, how can you not love Jameis Winston? This guy is a leader, a guy thinking ahead (the letter prior to the KC game) knowing in his heart that they would beat Chicago and to motivate his teammates to beat KC. I love it, I love Dirk Koetter’s offense, the team is getting healthier, the defense is gaining confidence and it’s all starting to come together. It’s a fun ride and I hope it lasts, but definitely know that this team is on its way up, and a certain improvement over last year. Good point Scott about McCoy – stats don’t tell all. He gets double-teamed all the time, but his tip was key to the interception, which was the key to the game. Go Bucs, let’s take down the Seahawks next!
It is great to be in the hunt and we will see just what progress has been made. Last year we were in the hunt before dropping games to LA and NO and this year the schedule is not as friendly. I am out in California, my neighbor is a huge Seahawks fan, I would love to drink his tears. Then I will be cheering loud in SD…. lets win some games! Any team with confidence is dangerous and it is building. GO BUCS
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