Bucs QB Jameis Winston threw 4 TDs in Atlanta - Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay defeated Atlanta, 31-24, to start the 2016 season alone atop the NFC South with a 1-0 record, thanks to losses by Carolina and New Orleans, too. PewterReport.com is debuting a new 2-Point Conversion post-game column this year, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game.
TWO BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1. Winston Heats Up
The notoriously slow starts for Jameis Winston unfortunately continued into the 2016 season opener on Sunday. After starting the game 4-of-8 for 19 yards and an interception in the first quarter, Winston came alive in the second quarter, going 6-of-6 for 59 yards on Tampa Bay’s first touchdown drive, which was capped off with a 4-yard scoring toss to tight end Brandon Myers. A 26-yard wide receiver screen pass to Adam Humphries helped get Winston in a groove and he caught fire from there.
Tampa Bay’s second year quarterback also hit Sims for a 23-yard touchdown right before halftime to give the Bucs a 17-13 lead. Winston was 14-of-17 (82.4 percent) for 140 yards with two touchdowns in the second quarter, while compiling a QB rating of 139.2 in that quarter. Winston’s slow starts date back to his days at Florida State where he had a tendency to throw early interceptions before rallying the Seminoles for the win.
Winston finished the game completing 23-of-33 passes for 281 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Imagine what kind of day he would have had if Winston had started the day hotter. Winston became the second quarterback in Bucs history to throw four touchdowns in a season opener. Steve DeBerg accomplished the feat in 1987 against the Falcons.
STATEMENT 2. Aguayo Is Streaking
Tampa Bay rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo came into the 2016 regular season opener connecting on his last 11 kicks in the preseason. Aguayo made his final extra point and field goal at Jacksonville and was perfect against Cleveland (6-of-6) and Washington (3-of-3) on field goals and extra points after a rough start to training camp and the preseason.
Bucs K Roberto Aguayo – Photo by: Getty Images
In Atlanta, Aguayo remained perfect, hitting all four of his extra points and his first NFL field goal, a 43-yarder to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Aguayo has now made his last 16 kicks, which is an encouraging sign for the Florida State product.
Imagine if Aguayo’s struggles had continued into the regular season? A missed field goal and a missed extra point in Sunday’s 31-24 win over Atlanta would have changed the entire complexion of the game. So far, so good for Tampa Bay’s second round pick.
TWO PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1. Will Tampa Bay’s ground game get going?
The Bucs struggled to run the ball well in the preseason, averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. Doug Martin had just nine carries for 31 yards (3.4 avg.) with a long of 14 in the preseason, while Charles Sims had nine carries for 33 yards (3.7 avg.) with a long of 12, as I stated in my most recent SR’s Fab 5 column. Did the Bucs think they could just flip the switch and turn their running game on?
Tampa Bay had the league’s fifth-ranked running game last year, averaging 135.1 yards per game led by Martin, who was the NFL’s second-leading rusher last year with over 1,400 yards. Martin and Sims proved to be the league’s top 1-2 punch in the ground game in 2015, but struggled out of the gate in Atlanta. Martin had 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 avg) against the Falcons, while Sims had nine yards on four carries (2.3 avg.).
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs rushed for only 90 yards on 28 carries (3.2 avg.) against the Falcons and are capable of performing much better. Tampa Bay did enough in the ground game to keep Atlanta’s defense honest and open up the play-action passing game for Winston to throw three of his four touchdowns in that manner. What was concerning was that the Bucs were unable to run out the clock with their ground game in the four-minute offense and Tampa Bay was forced to punt with two minutes left. That gave the Falcons another shot at tying the game.
QUESTION 2. Will the Bucs defense show improvement at Arizona?
Tampa Bay’s defense was a mixture of good and bad against Atlanta on Sunday. The good was the red zone defense as the Bucs defense forced three Falcons field goals on drives that stalled inside the Tampa Bay 20. The Bucs also got some pressure on Matt Ryan, notching three sacks, courtesy of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, defensive end Robert Ayers, Jr. and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Tampa Bay’s run defense was also stellar, holding Devonta Freeman to just 20 yards on 11 carries (1.8 avg.), and limiting Tevin Coleman to 22 yards on eight carries (2.8 avg.). Ryan scrambled three times for 10 yards. Take away those scrambles and the Falcons only rushed for 42 yards on 19 carries (2.2 avg.). Tampa Bay will face a stiffer challenge next week with David Johnson, an up-and-coming, do-it-all back in Arizona.
But where the Bucs defense struggled was in the area of tackling, especially in the second half, and the fact that Mike Smith’s unit didn’t force a takeaway was concerning. No interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries for the Bucs. Tampa Bay will face an even more explosive offense next week in Arizona and will likely have to force some turnovers to find success in the desert. The Cardinals offense features some speedsters in John Brown and J.J. Nelson, in addition to big, physical receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Malcolm Floyd.
TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1. Kwon Alexander will be the Bucs’ Defensive MVP this year
Four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had a great season debut on Sunday with three tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and two pass breakups, including one on fourth down to seal Tampa Bay’s opening day win. Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David had eight tackles and a team-high three tackles for loss.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
But the defensive star for the Bucs on Sunday was Kwon Alexander, who had a career-high 17 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Alexander was a one-man-gang in Atlanta, which was the place he had his coming out performance a year ago with 11 tackles, which was his previous career high, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. I said it in our Pewter Prediction earlier in the week, and that prediction is looking quite sound after the season opener.
PREDICTION 2. The Bucs make a statement and score an upset in Arizona next week
That’s right. After a rousing 31-24 win in Atlanta, PewterReport.com is changing its prediction for next week’s Tampa Bay game. We’ll give you a score prediction later in the week, but the Bucs offense has enough firepower to hang with Carson Palmer and the Cardinals.
As a collective staff, PewterReport.com predicted a 9-7 record for Tampa Bay this year, and I took it up a notch with a 10-6 prediction. A 2-0 start to the 2016 season would certainly increase the likelihood of at least the 9-7 scenario happening.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Love to see upset Buc’s upset in Arizona but it’s a tall order.
Hawley and Smith aren’t big enough so the run game will not be there as it was last year. Teams know how to contain the Bucs run after having a year of tape . Suggest Gottschalk get promoted to the 53 man squad and get him ready for next season as the back up for Hawley this season. Dump Griffin and put another QB on the PS. We’re going nowhere if Winston is injured.
Scott next question? Pewter Report when is there going to be some adjustments to this new web site as it’s not easy to pull down and look for earlier articles? Also the lighting color in the background isn’t to pleasing to the eyes?
I agree with you about the new site. Don’t like it a bit. Didn’t want to be the first guy to say it. Thanks Horse.
Yep all the white is blinding.
And it is cumbersome to get to past articles.
Horse: They are the same guys whose blocking was good enough to be in the top of the league last year. I don’t think either is the greatest center in the league, but there’s more to it than girth. Game plan was about passing this week.
Really? They tried enough times to run. we lost the starting guard who happened to be pretty darn good despite in his twilight years.
Thrilled to see them win first game. Alexander has become our best player. Winston is close behind with a stellar performance getting 4 TD’s in first game. How lucky are we to have Winston as our QB ? This guy has Moxie. He comes through with big plays when we need em. Running game was a little soft, but it will get better has the line gets jelled. Evans if he stays healthy is going to be impossible to stop. Glad to see Jenkins get a TD. Aguayo was perfect, keeping my blood pressure in check. I am really excited about this year.
If Winston keeps slinging the rock like that, the ground game will open up. Don’t forget Scott, Marpet, and Pamphile missed some training camp, and preseason. This is the most work our starters have had all summer. If they stay healthy, and together, I still see big running games ahead.
I love this new 2 pt conversion post game column. One of the best new features yet. What a thrilling game and with Koetter at the helm I just knew the Bucs would hold on to victory!!
I love the way the kid Alexander plays. However, enough of the HoF and MVP hype. Let’s let the season and his career play out.
Kwon just might be our best ever 4th round choice.
Watched jonnyg’s Cardinals play the Flying Elvise’s last night to get a jump on next week’s opponent. Might not be an easy task, but they, like all teams, are beatable. Wonder which jersey jonnyg wears to the game.
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