In what was arguably the biggest regular season game since 2008, when the Bucs needed just one win in their final four games to clinch a playoff spot, the 2016 Buccaneers feel short in their bid to upset the NFC’s top ranked Dallas Cowboys and take a step closer to making a case for the postseason.
The stage was set for the Bucs to show the nation who they were with a national television audience watching, but quarterback Jameis Winston, who had been better at protecting the football over the team’s five-game winning streak, fell back into his early season pattern of turnovers. Tampa Bay’s signal caller accounted for four turnovers, and also a costly personal foul penalty in the first half.
Head coach Dirk Koetter was asked if Winston’s issues hurt the team.
“Yeah, sure did. He got his arm hit on the fumble,” Koetter said. “They blitzed. We did relatively well but one guy got off and hit his arm on that. We had a penalty. Jameis let his emotions get the best of him on that. That can’t happen. He had the one interception at the end of the half. He did a great job in the third quarter, though, getting us back in and then we couldn’t get anything going in the fourth.”
Winston explained what happened on the penalty.
“I was protecting my teammate,” Winston said. “Doug (Martin) runs hard for us all the time, and got thrown on the ground late. It was passion versus emotion and I can’t do it.”
While Winston didn’t have his best game of the season by any stretch, his third quarter play got the Buccaneers back into the game, and even an improbable lead following a dismal first half.
“We saw the streaky side a little bit of Jameis,” Koetter said. “He got off to a slow start. Even though we got a good drive and got that early lead, against a team like this, you can’t kick field goals and expect to win. You look at the stats at the end and we’re 1-for-3 in the red zone. Those other eight points would have helped us. The second one was that penalty that you mentioned earlier. That’s been hurting us the last few weeks and it caught up to us tonight. The flip side is what Jameis was able to do when we got some rhythm going there in the third quarter. That’s a plus. That shows you what we’re capable of doing when we’re firing. We got a little hot there in that third quarter and we came right back.”
A somewhat dejected Koetter was asked if, despite the loss, was this a building block for his young football team.
“Well, that’s hard to judge, tonight. Tonight it just feels like you got your tail kicked by a good football team. That’s a possibility. We came here with higher expectations but we got beat by a good football team, and give them credit.”