Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

If you listened to this week’s Pewter Nation Podcast you heard a very animated version of myself. I had just watched the Buccaneers lose a game they shouldn’t have before hitting the record button, so that was my raw, natural reaction to it all. Not only should they have won Monday night’s game against the Steelers, for the first time in a long time there wasn’t even the aura of “Oh well, not like it mattered in the long run anyways” since the team hasn’t been close to the playoffs in quite some time outside of 2016 – a year where they weren’t even that good.

This year that loss could mean something, in the end, and it means something now, too. And to watch Tampa Bay shoot itself in the foot time and time and time and time again was disappointing.

But even more so than the loss itself the fact that it happened in prime time irked me.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I was annoyed. I wasn’t annoyed because I have something at stake as if I’m a member of the team, but I suppose I was more annoyed for them. This team has heard all the criticism from local media, national media and all kinds of fans and followers over the past few years. They went into this year’s training camp and worked their butts off to make sure they didn’t hear that again.

For a moment, they didn’t, as the team started 2-0 and had one of the hottest offenses in the NFL. But even then, their first game was a 1:00 p.m. kickoff on the East Coast, which meant no one west of the Mississippi even knew the game happened outside of their fantasy team, and their game against the Eagles was overshadowed more from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s post-game wardrobe than the win itself. Not that that was a bad thing. I loved that. It was just supposed to be a part of the next step of national recognition this team deserved.

That was all supposed to build up to the national audience on Monday Night Football. How, for the first time in many years beyond the last time they’ve been on the sacred weekday night of football, the Buccaneers had the chance to show they could be something more than just a win.

They didn’t. In fact, they beat themselves up so poorly they lost to a team that couldn’t even convert on all four turnovers and couldn’t even score in the second half.

That’s the part that annoyed me. I was annoyed for them, because they don’t get that stage again. They don’t get to re-prove themselves to those who don’t watch every week. They don’t get to re-assure people that this team is going in the right direction. They don’t get to show everyone that the team on Hard Knocks from last year is gone, and that’s due to the hard work they put in this offseason.

They don’t get that chance again in prime time – not until the postseason, unless this team gets a late December game flexed because the Bucs are in the playoff hunt.

I said in the podcast that it’s annoying that this team can’t win on the big stage. The Bucs are 3-2 in Monday Night Football games since 2010 and are 1-1 in Sunday Night Football games since 2006. But Tampa Bay is an awful 1-5 in Thursday night prime time games, and thankfully doesn’t have one this year.

But outside of a Sunday Night Football game at Dallas in December of 2016, those games have never mattered like this one could have.

I’ll also say that the only two teams who have been featured less in prime time games than the Buccaneers are the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns. That’s not the company you want to be in, but that’s the reality for this team.

There is nothing “prime time” about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I mean, if you didn’t live here, why would you think there would be? They have the star players in certain areas, but it’s never amounted sustained team success. They have the legendary past, but all that’s done is overshadow and pressure things more than motivate and inspire, it seems.

Former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

That shows up the most in prime time games when the broadcast can’t help but remind you of what used to be for the Buccaneers, especially when Tony Dungy is getting inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime.

On Monday night against the Steelers, the Bucs had the chance to right a lot of their wrongs. They had the stage, the players, the personalities, but they let that opportunity slip away. Tampa Bay didn’t embarrass itself, but it didn’t win – and that’s what matters at the end of the day.

Losing on Monday Night Football isn’t a tragedy, and, in the end, it doesn’t count on the season standings for anything more than one game. Heck, all of you would’ve taken a 2-1 start if I offered it to you a month and a half ago. But it was a missed opportunity. It was a missed chance to put the Buccaneers where they belonged. Not because of what they’ve done yet, but because of how hard they’ve worked.

But that chance is gone, and the only thing they can do now is work even harder.

If they do that, they’ll get their shot in prime time again – possibly as one of the final 12 teams still competing for a Super Bowl.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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Gulfstrings
Gulfstrings
3 years ago

What would I do? Fitz starts in Chicago, Winston starts game 5.

Wausa
Wausa
3 years ago

I would start Jamies this week and it would be a very easy decision. He is 24 and the best QB this franchise has ever had(not including Steve Young). If he would’ve used all of his college eligibility last year would have been his rookie year. He has had to try to win with horrific defenses, no running game(except his rookie year) and horrible kicking over the past three years(Fitz has had to do the same these first three games). Per ProFootballFocus he was the number two ranked passer(Tom Brady was #1) in the NFL last year over the final… Read more »

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

I think Fitz should start. He has earned it. I think Jameis gets in the game especially if there is any dsrop off in performance but I think both playing will be game planned.

We should run screen plays at Mack’s side of the ball early to slow down his rush and help Dotson. I also think we can run up the middle on them and hopefully Jenson is feeling better cause he got manhandled in the last game.

We have a good shot at making the playoffs if the defense can get in a groove.

Hank Scorpio
Hank Scorpio
3 years ago

I’ve wavered back and forth on this, and could see legitimate rationale for starting either against the Bears, but I think you have to go with Winston. Fitzpatrick’s been great, and I think he would continue to play well. But if the team thinks they have a better chance at winning any game with Ryan Fitzpatrick than they do with Jameis Winston, then trade Winston for a 1st rd pick now and draft a new QB next year, because Fitzy isn’t a long term solution. I look at what the Eagles are doing with Wentz and Foles. Sure Foles is… Read more »

fredster
fredster
3 years ago

That game sucked. Was beyond frustrating. I was there. Steeler fans made more noise when Bucs were on D than we did when Steelers on D. Lame. Bucs has a chance to show world something and we showed them we are still a joke. As far as QB it’s a Short week start Fitz. If he starts to struggle I’d put Winston in and never look back at Fitz as you can’t have that crap. QB looking over their shoulder all time. Winston should play week 5 unless Fitz plays just amazing and no mistakes. I know one thing if… Read more »

Buc-n-Philly Fan
Buc-n-Philly Fan
Reply to  fredster
3 years ago

I take issue with the comment “we showed them we are still a joke”. They played their asses off and you minimize that with a comment like that.

This Team has done things no Bucs Team has done in the past on offense. Defensively, they pitched a shut out in the second half. How is that a “joke”??? I agree it sucks to have lost that game but it just shows how small a margin of error there is in the NFL

I am proud of this Team! They are no joke…
Go Bucs!

FLASH
FLASH
Reply to  fredster
3 years ago

Steelers fans seem to be confused about when to make noise. Maybe they were reading the jumbovision. The problem with Winston is not with talent. His problem is when and where to throw the ball. He misses WRs running open many times during games and holds the ball way too long. When the throws are not there he needs to make up his mind to run with it and not dance around with the ball unsecured. His deep ball is not very good at all. This offense needs to hit on those deep balls to be effective. It’s not an… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  fredster
3 years ago

This is spot on, Fred. There wasn’t this level of energy to defend the turnovers that weren’t Winston’s fault last year. Where was the support of the failed comebacks last year? Fitz did not play a good first half and had at least two other balls not picked off, but nobody is talking about those bad decisions. It’s a double standard. Fitz struggles with pressure worse than Winston. If Fitz has another half like he did on Monday night, pull him and don’t look back.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  RootsCrew
3 years ago

Fitz didn’t make bad decisions with the ball. Not like Winston routinely does. He was hit in the act of throwing on two of the three balls intercepted, and the third one was all on Evans who admitted in an interview with Rick Stroud that it was his fault that he sat down in the zone instead of running as he was supposed to do, and which if he had either he would have caught the ball or it would have gone incomplete. The review of the gametape clearly shows that Fitz played much better than you and the other… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

Ahh, Naples. My old adversary. Still missing the point and accusing people. All good. I’m a Bucs fan…for the 100th time. If Winston was off the team tomorrow, I’d still be a Bucs fan. Balance in coverage and fan outrage is simply what I want. I watched the game tape. No, Fitz did not play particularly well in the first half and did make bad decisions he got away with on Monday. You can deny it all you like. That’s fine. Doesn’t mean I think Winston should start vs the Bears.

Brooks Dunn-Winston
Brooks Dunn-Winston
3 years ago

Jameis Winston is the starting QB of the Tampa Bay Bucs. If he’s able to play, he should. He should absolutely start against the Bears.

RudeGuy
RudeGuy
Reply to  Brooks Dunn-Winston
3 years ago

Is he able to hit the deep ball or does he still need more practice? If not, then I would take a pass for now.

Casey Morgan
Casey Morgan
3 years ago

Simple. Fitz gives us the best chance to win this week. You can then re-evaluate after the bye. I think he probably give us the best chance to win for the next couple years too, but that’s another story…

Buc-n-Philly Fan
Buc-n-Philly Fan
Reply to  Casey Morgan
3 years ago

Now that is just ignorant! Be a Winston hater all you want but don’t be an ignorant one!

Winston is a Franchise QB from a talent perspective and understanding football perspective. Has he made the smartest of choices off the field…hell no but he is still our Franchise QB and the best chance for winning long term.

sunshineben
sunshineben
3 years ago

why would buc fans want the face of our fave team to be Winston? ? He is not a man to be proud of !

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

Now that is just ignorant! Be a Winston hater all you want but don’t be an ignorant one!

Winston is a Franchise QB from a talent perspective and understanding football perspective. Has he made the smartest of choices off the field…hell no but he is still our Franchise QB and the best chance for winning long term.

Bob Will
Bob Will
3 years ago

I am glad I’m not the coach and don’t have to make those decisions, but for all of those who think this is easy and say Winston starts he is the best QB and the future of the franchise, I agree but that is why you have to be careful. If the start Winston and they begin to lose because he struggles. If you are Koetter you have to go back to Fitz to save your job. As soon as you go back to Fitz, Winston is done in TPA forever. So we might be better off to see another… Read more »

FLASH
FLASH
Reply to  Bob Will
3 years ago

Another thing with Dirk changing to Winston right now. You might lose the locker room. Many of our players are riding the Fitz train right now as they are having personal success.

fredster
fredster
3 years ago

Take issue all you want that’s what the national media sees. I didn’t say I thought they were a joke. They blew a very winnable game I have every right to be disappointed and pissed and I guarantee the Bucs are too.

FLASH
FLASH
Reply to  fredster
3 years ago

You said they showed the country they are “still a joke”. So yeah, you kinda did.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
3 years ago

Sorry, I never bought into “FitzMagic” nor the even more ridiculous “FitzTragic” spewed by Scott earlier this week. There is no magic or tragic in football – there is just calling and making plays, and calling and not making plays. Your emotionalism was well evident in the first part, Trevor. You calmed down enough to do your usual fine job of analytical work in the last two parts. The Bucs did not play badly on MNF. It was actually a very exciting game, with a great fourth quarter comeback by the Bucs that was unfortunately not quite great enough to… Read more »

Buc stops here
Buc stops here
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

I fully agree with what you wrote Naplesfan. A perfect offense will overcome the defense which only has two potential outcomes. One is getting a turnover and stopping a drive. The other is allowing a TD or if you are lucky, a field goal. People may say “but the Bucs stopped Pittsburgh in the second half!” Sure, and Pittsburgh played it conservative until the final drive of the second half. All they did was run, run safe pass, punt for the the other three possessions. That last possession they opened it up again and look what happened – they immediately… Read more »

BrooklynBucsFan
BrooklynBucsFan
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

I agree mostly. But I think our D played really well in the second half and we have to agknowledge that the offense gave the Steelers a short field and a TD in the first half. We lost by 4 points, so that TD and short field matter. But overall I agree that our D needs to play better witjought question. I’m confident that will happen as the season goes on because we have 3 roomies starting on defense and they have shown flashes of their potential, especially in the second half of this game. I don’t expect to have… Read more »

StPeteB
StPeteB
3 years ago

QB1 on the depth chart is Jameis Winston. Fitz was great in his role as QB 2 through the first 3 games. Jameis is ready and I’m sure he’s learned from his mistake and served his suspension like a man. This is his job tho I start him…no hesi

BrianDorry55
BrianDorry55
3 years ago

Maaaaannnn….

Humphries in the flat on that first INT that was deflected…that’s six.

Definitely plenty of good and bad with Fitz on Monday…but they blitzed the hell out of us and the blockers couldn’t handle it. Eventually, when you make no attempt to establish a running game, a defense capable of making you pay via a pass rush is going to…and that they did. Better establish that rushing game against Chicago.

Billy
Billy
Reply to  BrianDorry55
3 years ago

I just got done thinking the same thing. You can blame tipped passes and hit arms all you want, but he was looking right pre-snap and never even saw Humphries left WIDE OPEN.

I understand why with the blitz coming and Dotson was clueless, but you also move outside the pocket, not plant and throw with your eyes closed.

Jameis should start, no doubt about it. Jameis kills Chicago every time he plays them.

Forget about our record there. You wanna win, start Winston!!!!

gafikdetail
Reply to  BrianDorry55
3 years ago

thought i was the only one the saw Hump standing there wide open 🤦🏾‍♂️

Benjamin
Benjamin
Reply to  BrianDorry55
3 years ago

Seriously BrianDorry55!!! We need our running game to show up if we are going to do anything this season. We only won those first two games because the play calling and the execution was damn near flawless. Every game has been a one score game. What the Steelers did was make Fitz win the game and by that i mean they had no respect for the run game and sold out on bringing pressure which lead to 3 Int’s. If we can become balanced on offense and get the run game going this offense will be unstoppable and able to… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  BrianDorry55
3 years ago

No quarterback ever sees all the possible plays on the field in the three seconds they have to get rid of the ball. Tom Brady doesn’t see all open receivers. The ball was tipped and that was that.

BrianDorry55
BrianDorry55
Reply to  BrianDorry55
3 years ago

For the record, I’m not bashing Fitz for not seeing Humphries. I don’t think Humphries is ever the first or second read and when you have a free rusher bearing down on you, it’s a risky proposition to try to turn away from that rusher and go to your other reads. The correct play in that situation was probably just step up in the pocket and fall down. It’s just unfortunate that Hump was so open and Fitz’s reads happened to be on the other side of the field.

Buc stops here
Buc stops here
3 years ago

Remember that Winston has not only been on the sideline, but he has not practiced with the team since September 1, 2018. He rejoined the team on September 24, 2018 – three weeks later. The only decision that will be made by the coaches is if they believe he can be ready to play in six days or not – and if he is the better option after six days back on the team. i If they believe he is he better option, we will see him on Sunday. If not, we will see Fitzpatrick who has been a capable… Read more »

gafikdetail
3 years ago

hold up!! where was all this “it’s not the QBs fault… it’s the o-line” talk the last few years? 😂😂😂😂

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  gafikdetail
3 years ago

I thought the same thing. Strange how Jameis doesnt get these excuses. Humoheries was WIDE open in that first tipped pass and wasnt even looked at.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
3 years ago

You completely misread gafik’s comment.

chefboho
chefboho
3 years ago

Fitz has been magical so far and as a fan I can truly appreciate the work he’s put in. That being said, if Jameis has a game like this, all I’d be hearing is how all he does is turn the ball over. If you want to have Fitz take less blame for tipped or batted passes, then how many of jameis’ interceptioned COULD let him off the hook for. I mean let’s be real, an int is an int. Fitz still played well in the second half but let’s not kid ourselves, this is still jameis’ team. Let’s go… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  chefboho
3 years ago

With Winston it was not just the INTs but also the fumbles – a total of 26 turnovers last season, with more fumbles than INTs. He also is unable to hit the long balls, which has been a huge part of the offense’s success this season with Fitz under center. And Winston has had some real stinker games with passing yards in the sub-200 yards range (that was two of his 13 starts last season). And no, this is not Jameis’s Team. It is the Teams Team. Winston is just a player, and he has not been a leader, which… Read more »

Benjamin
Benjamin
3 years ago

I for one would start Jameis week 4 and put Fitz back on the bench. Fitz is not the answer, he is not the franchise QB and is 36 years old. He has played damn good these first 2 and a half games but Winston needs to start and play this season out so the front office can see if he is what they thought he was as a QB. I also look at the yards Fitz has thrown as a bigger product of the play calling and game planning than it is talent and ability. Going off of what… Read more »

Keith F
Keith F
3 years ago

Honestly, I have confidence in Koetter to make the best decision for the team. I mean, he gave up play calling because he knows it was best for the team so why put another player above the team. I think the one thing I agree with the most from previous comments, this is a new team, new year and a new coach calling the plays but I will add we now have Jensen, OJ is more involved in the passing game (he’s a beast) and DJax is being used better (I know kind of goes hand and hand with the… Read more »

DT25
DT25
3 years ago

For the Fitzpatrick INT’s, while I agree they weren’t ALL his fault, you can argue all 3 could have been avoided. The first, he had Humphries WIDE open on the other side. He tried to make a quick read and saw the free-runner, so it’s understandable he didn’t flip his vision and throw the other direction…but I’d argue he should have read the two DB’s dropping into coverage on that side as soon as he snapped the ball and immediately looked left rather than focusing on that side of the field so long that he forced himself to commit to… Read more »

seat26
seat26
3 years ago

Let Fitz start. If he struggles, Winston is on the sideline waiting to come in. We have bigger fish to fry. Like a running game that does not exist. Like a Defense that still seems to struggle with finishing. Fitz had one bad half. Bucs should be looking for help at running back so that defenses don’t just key on the pass.

Ron Gibson
Ron Gibson
3 years ago

For Sale Cheep – Lots of 100 Fake Beards !

4girls
4girls
3 years ago

I understand the argument that Fitz should start vs Chicago and wait to start Jameis until Atlanta. Here’s my problem with that. I’d rather have Jameis get his overhyped antics and overthrown balls out of the way in Chicago than in a divisional game. Also, Jameis and the coaches would have that extra week to dissect game film to improve for Atlanta and beyond. If Jameis sucks, Magicman is ready to come in and sling away. Honestly, I think Fitz would get drilled by Mack and then we could be down to Jameis and Ryan Griffin.