Aqib Talib was ready for his return trip to Tampa Bay, but the Bucs and Jameis Winston weren’t prepared for him.

Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2008 picked off Winston’s first pass of the game and victimized the second-year quarterback again a quarter later. Both interceptions came in Bucs territory, handed Denver possession at the Tampa Bay 11 and 27, respectively, and resulted in Broncos touchdowns.

Talib’s assists proved to be the difference maker in a 27-7 defeat that began getting away from Tampa Bay in the second quarter and only got worse from there. Adding to the agony for Bucs fans in attendance was a fourth-quarter weather delay that cleared out Raymond James Stadium for over an hour.

Moments of Winston looking sharp were few and far between Sunday as he tried to lead a Doug Martin-less offense devoid of a capable rushing presence. Winston finished with an unattractive 40.1 passer rating after completing 17 of 35 attempts for 179 yards and no touchdowns. He bounced back after the first interception by marching the Bucs 75 yards in 13 plays to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:40 left in the first quarter. The drive was capped by his 7-yard scramble up the middle.

The deepest Tampa Bay would move into Denver territory after Winston’s touchdown came during a late second-quarter sequence that began at the 50 following Adam Humphries’ 15-yard punt return. That ended at the Broncos 26, however, with a Charles Sims fumble. Trailing 14-7 after Denver running back C.J. Anderson’s 1-yard run earlier in the quarter, Sims was hit in the backfield on first down and coughed up his first fumble of the year.

“Three turnovers in the first half,” Koetter said “You’re not going to beat the defending Super Bowl champions turning the ball over [like that].”

The third-year running back again proved incapable of carrying the rushing load in Martin’s absence, picking up just 28 yards on 15 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers nearly outgained Sims on fewer than half the touches (six for 25 yards) and Winston picked up 19 yards on five scrambles.

There weren’t many bright spots to single out Sunday and a few more injuries added to the gloom. Chief among those concerns came early when defensive tackle Gerald McCoy exited with a calf injury. Two other first-half losses were tight end Brandon Myers (hip) and Noah Spence (shoulder).

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald put together a big day with a team-high eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss, but he, too, appeared to injury himself during warmups after the weather delay. Trainers led him back to the locker room before play resumed.

YOUNG QBS
The day began with Tampa Bay preparing for a young, up-and-coming, second-year quarterback in Trevor Siemian. After completing 5 of 7 for 68 yards and a touchdown, Siemian was slung to the turf by McDonald late in the second quarter. The sack resulted in a left-shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game.

Replacing Siemian was an even younger signal caller – rookie Paxton Lynch. Making his NFL debut, Lynch threw for 170 yards and his first touchdown on 14 of 24 passing attempts. The touchdown – a 5-yarder to receiver Emmanuel Sanders – capped the game’s scoring in the fourth quarter.

4TH AND 43
The game was over well before this moment, but the fourth-and-43 Tampa Bay faced during its abysmal final drive pretty much summed up things up.

The Broncos’ pass rush obliterated the Bucs’ pass protection again and again, and Winston got away with a potential pick-6 dropped by cornerback Bradley Roby.

Ugly. Just like the late weather and much of the game, for that matter.

WHITE TOWEL?
As unlikely as coming back from a 27-7 fourth-quarter deficit seemed, it became borderline impossible when head coach Dirk Koetter opted to punt on fourth-and-6 with 7:30 remaining.

The Bucs were just across midfield – unfamiliar territory Sunday – and had little to lose at that point. The weather delay came one play after the punt and Denver eventually ran off more than three minutes before the Bucs got the ball back. At their own 19. With 4:19 left. To score at least 20 points.

“I’ve been watching our offense the whole game, all right?” Koetter said of the decision. “I don’t know why anyone expected we would make it on [fourth-and-6] if they’d been watching our offense the rest of the game. I sure didn’t expect us to.”

Well, okay then.

SACKS, BUT NO TURNOVERS
Tampa Bay did manage to record a season-high four sacks and hit Siemian and Lynch eight times, but it still didn’t result in any momentum-swinging moments.

The Bucs failed to turn their opponent over for the fourth time in three games. Two would-be, first-half interceptions weren’t capitalized on, either. Cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III let passes slip through their hands.

SPEAKING OF QB HITS
Winston took quite a few.

According to the NFL’s official stat keepers, the Broncos made contact with him a whopping 16 times and sacked him on five of those occasions. The main culprit terrorizing the Bucs backfield was defensive end Derek Wolfe. The fifth-year pro hit Winston five times and picked up 2.5 sacks.

MISERY LOVES COMPANY?
If that statement’s true, the Bucs should be feeling comfortable in the NFC South right now.

So they’ve got that going for them.

Sunday’s loss coupled with Atlanta’s 48-33 barnburner win over Carolina and New Orleans’ 35-34 win at San Diego leaves Tampa Bay (1-3) in a three-way tie for last place with the Panthers and Saints. Atlanta sits all alone atop the standings at 3-1.

NEXT UP
Speaking of those wounded Panthers, that’s who Tampa Bay has scheduled next week. The Bucs travel to Charlotte for a Monday Night Football game before taking a Week 6 bye.

Last year’s Super Bowl runner-up had to finish the Falcons game with Derek Anderson at quarterback after Cam Newton exited in the fourth quarter with a concussion.

The Bucs will be going for the first win over Carolina since sweeping the two-game series in 2012.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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fredster
4 years ago

Not sure what to say. Pretty much expected loss but thought might be close. Oh well. Reality is this team isn’t there yet. Need another draft or two. I still like Koetter and Winston but they both are learning as they go. Pretty pathetic game for us on offense. Defense played better than expected first half.

cgmaster27
4 years ago

Got straight smacked around in this one. Jameis played like absolute garbage. everyone knows, I’m his staunches defender, but I’ll call him out when it is time and he needs to play MUCH better. His turnovers are inexcusable and we aren’t built with enough talent to overcome those mistakes. I would also love to see a running game at some point, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. What happened to the holes we used to see last year? The line, that’s another issue. We knew there would be pressure, especially with Denver, but damn, hit 16 times,… Read more »

76Buc
Reply to  cgmaster27
4 years ago

I’m not sure the ’76 Steelers were built to overcome this stuff.

Garv
4 years ago

Face it. The Buccaneers STINK! They beat themselves because they STINK and other teams beat them because they STINK! they are getting worse every week and have blown every opportunity to compete in what is now a winnable division because, you guessed it, they STINK!

They STINK healthy and hurt, day or night, week after week after week, and the REALLY STINK at home where it matters most.

Yeah, I’m ranting because that’s what rooting for a team that STINKS does to me.

pinkstob
Reply to  Garv
4 years ago

That’s pretty much how I was going to start my post, only I was going to replace “stink” with “suck”.

76Buc
4 years ago

Things will improve during the 2nd half of the season Garv:)

pinkstob
Reply to  76Buc
4 years ago

Based on what, our schedule? I see few teams left on our schedule that are playing worse than we are and the history of these players suggests we’ll incur more nagging or critical injuries by then.

Horse
4 years ago

Yes we got out coached, out played from the get go. Disappointed coaches try to pretend Sims and Rogers are the next men up to replace Martin and that’s not working. We should have given Winston more easier targets at the beginning of the game; what happen to our slant passing. Wnston was the Winston I saw at the beginning of last year and he has to not try to do everything; some times you just have to run or throw it away. Defense looks slow and the Safety’s and CB’s forgot how to tackle. Some players are just underperforming;… Read more »

LordJim
4 years ago

Remember when we used to defeat defending Super Bowl champions? Christ I’m getting old.

fredster
4 years ago

They stunk it up pretty good. Winston was garbage. Great defense but he was still garbage. I’m over Sims. He is about worthless. Can we please get another RB off practice team or something? God he sucks. Dancing around side to side like a jackass and responsible for 3 fumbles in 2 weeks. Reminds me of Pittman. Lots movement but little gains. Lol. This team really sucks still. Oh well. My favorite saying as a Bucs fan….always next year. This year is over. Blame it on injuries,lack talent, lack depth,Licht being a retard with the kicker thing, coaching, qb, etc.… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  fredster
4 years ago

Sims spends too much time dancing like he has a bee in his pants. It might work in the open field but not deep in the backfield. Just go!

artpac
4 years ago

Not much positive out of this. As bad as our defense is, I think this next draft has to be heavy with OL/WRs because we can’t protect and our weapons don’t separate. Defensively, at least we got a pass rush. But our secondary is awful. Just awful. I don’t care if the next safety we get off the street is terrible….he has to be better than Conte right? And I miss the days when what people were worried about with Grimes was his wife.

fredster
4 years ago

Horse, I gave smith benefit of doubt but now I’m starting to think it’s at least partly him. I mean why are guy constantly wide open? Like a stupid zone defense and nobody picks anyone up. The middle of field is always open. Always! Doesn’t matter if it’s Lovie or Smith. Who is responsible for middle of field? Why are guys constantly not covered on intermediate routes? So frustrating. I knew we needed an upgrade at safety but the open receivers over and over is just so stupid. Doesn’t seem to matter who coach is either. The D line played… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  fredster
4 years ago

For once I agree with every one of your comments my friend.

fredster
4 years ago

Done with McCoy too. Yes he is a very good DT when he’s healthy. Can’t stay healthy though. What has he had 1 frigging year where he stayed helalty all season? Just don’t get it. Sapp played hard and Missed very few games. What a frustrating year this is. Not much better than last year.

pinkstob
4 years ago

Well, a quarter of the season is over so I’ll give more in depth feedback with what I’ve seen so far and do it again every quarter of the season. Besides Hargreaves, Spence and Aguayo we’ve seen these players play for the Bucs or other teams enough times where it doesn’t make sense to me to give a full breakdown after every game. We know who they are and what they can and can’t do. Garv summed it up better than anybody, see his post above. Winston turns the ball over too much and is entirely too inaccurate when he… Read more »

pinkstob
Reply to  pinkstob
4 years ago

BTW, everything I said above is a direct reflection of Licht’s handiwork.

pinkstob
Reply to  pinkstob
4 years ago

Oh and one last thing. I’ve come to the conclusion I’m never going to let this go simply because if I was I would think I would have by now, but we should have never, ever gotten rid of Aqib Talib. I’ve never been as livid with the Bucs as I was the moment I read that we had traded him for a 4th round pick.

stlbucsfan
4 years ago

I sure hope the plan is to let the Ryan Smith start after the bye week bc the safety play is awful. I hope somebody wakes up and puts Peyton Barber on the 53 bc from what I saw in the preseason this is the only guy not named Doug that can handle running between the tackles and getting the tough yards this offense needs. But as usual Licht is busy hoping he can drown another suit as opposed to improving the roster. Vincent is trash I have said it all offseason and will continue to do so. Not going… Read more »

Garv
4 years ago

Wow. Reading so many posts from pissed off fans like myself, talking with a man walking his dog this morning with a Bucs polo on, listening on the radio…. fans are ANGRY and SICK and TIRED of the same old CRAP year after year. I WANT to believe but having been sucked in so many times only to be let down it’s hard. Been a fan for a long time and I’m always going to be one but that seems to be a curse these days instead of proud statement it used to be. And why, WHY do they ALWAYS… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  Garv
4 years ago

Garv, I feel for you. Hang in there. You are a true fan.

Garv
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

Thanks but there are a lot of us who are being let down week after week. And everyone but the trolls are sick of it. And we will keep coming back, it’s in our blood at this point. LOL

nmkinley
4 years ago

Surprised at the backlash at this loss, as it was expected (but perhaps not expected to be so bad). I see a common theme that we can’t beat really good defenses (ARZ, DEN), but we look decent against others. I fully expect the Bucs to be more competitive – and for Jameis to look better – now that those two stellar defenses are behind them. It’s just unfortunate that 2 of our first 4 games were against def where the Bucs were just outclassed.

Garv
Reply to  nmkinley
4 years ago

Well we’ll soon see. The Panthers gave up 48 points to the Falcons and although their offense might be directly responsible for many of them we did beat the Falcons on the road. Shouldn’t fans expect to be competitive against the 1-3 Panthers on the road too?

I hope to hell nmkinley is right but seeing what I’ve seen so far? PROVE IT!