The Buccaneers’ dismal 2014 season has come to a close, but before the 2015 campaign gets underway let’s take one last look at some of the most memorable – and forgettable – performances in Tampa Bay this year. The PewterReport.com editorial staff has voted on the final awards of the year.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: OFFENSE Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans vs. Washington
Tampa Bay rookie wide receiver Mike Evans had a sensational game at Washington with a career-high 209 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches against the Redskins. That performance earned Evans the NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound wide receiver had a 36-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put the Buccaneers ahead, 20-7, after the team had built a 13-7 halftime advantage. Evans then had a career-long 56-yard touchdown on a pass from Josh McCown at the start of the fourth quarter to increase Tampa Bay’s lead to 27-7 and put the game away. Evans nearly single-handedly helped the Bucs win its second game of the season, while posting the highest yardage total for any rookie receiver this year.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: DEFENSE Tampa Bay LB Danny Lansanah at New Orleans
Lansanah recorded his second pick-six of the season when he returned a Drew Brees interception 33 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to help Tampa Bay increase its lead over New Orleans to 24-13. Lansanah finished the game with 10 tackles (seven solo), two passes defensed and his interception. Lansanah recorded his first pick-six of the season in Week 3 at Atlanta and he finished as the only linebacker in the NFL with two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Bucs would have an 11-point lead twice in the second half, but would fall to the Saints in overtime, 37-31.
BEST WIN OF THE YEAR Tampa Bay’s 27-24 win at Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay’s first win of the season would be against the AFC North champion Pittsburgh on the road. The Bucs built a quick 10-point lead in the first quarter thanks to a red zone sack-strip by defensive end Michael Johnson of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked seven times by Tampa Bay. That led to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to Mike Evans. Pittsburgh would come back to take a 17-10 lead at halftime and a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But a Patrick Murray field goal narrowed the margin to 24-20 and Glennon led a fourth quarter comeback by finding Russell Shepard twice for 30 yards and Louis Murphy, who had six catches for 99 yards while replacing the injured Evans, on a 41-yard catch down to the Pittsburgh 5-yard line. Glennon’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with seven seconds left gave Tampa Bay an improbable, 27-24 come-from-behind win.
WORST LOSS OF THE YEAR Tampa Bay’s 48-17 loss vs. Baltimore
While Tampa Bay was trailing at Atlanta 56-0 at one point, which marked the largest deficit in Buccaneers history, the worst defeat of the year actually came in Week 7 at home against Baltimore. Tampa Bay was shellacked by visiting quarterback Joe Flacco, who had five first half touchdown passes, including two to Torrey Smith, who was facing a Bucs secondary that was without starting cornerback Johnthan Banks. The Bucs added 17 points in the second half after the Ravens led 38-0 at halftime, which was the largest halftime deficit in team history, to make the final score 48-17. The Ravens defense dominated and sacked quarterback Mike Glennon five times and picked him off once. That loss left a bad taste in the mouths of the coaches, players and fans for two weeks as the Bucs entered the bye week.
EARLY PROJECTIONS FOR 2015 Bucs will have a 5-11 record
Due to costly penalties, poor execution and questionable coaching, Tampa Bay lost a handful of halftime leads that contributed mightily to the team’s dismal 2-14 record, including a 0-6 mark in the NFC South division and a 0-8 mark at home. The optimistic Buccaneers fan will look at that and think that improved play, better players and some new assistant coaches, including an offensive coordinator, will dramatically improve Tampa Bay’s chances at a better record in 2015. The fact that the Buccaneers only play four teams with winning records next year and have opponents like Jacksonville and Tennessee at home might suggest that the Bucs could quickly turn things around and be a surprise team in 2015, grabbing a wild card playoff spot. But the realist Buccaneers fan will note that the team will likely have a rookie quarterback under center – thanks to the No. 1 overall draft pick – and a new play-caller on offense. While Tampa Bay’s defense has improved this season the Bucs’ offense isn’t going to turn things around in one year, especially with a rookie under center and operating behind an offensive line that needs to be revamped. Until we see which players will be acquired in free agency and the draft, and which offensive coordinator will be calling plays, it’s hard to project any more than a few more wins for Tampa Bay in 2015.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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
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