CB VERNON HARGREAVES III
When you start a rookie cornerback there will be some growing pains. Some times they hurt worse than others. Saturday was one of those painful days both literally and figuratively. Hargreaves was picked on by Drew Brees for a big part of the game and the rookie from Florida was beaten a number of times. In his defense he was shaken up in the first half and then later in the game but was able to tough it out. Despite his struggles Hargreaves did manage six tackles along with two pass breakups. Better days are ahead for Hargreaves, and days like Saturday will become more and more rare as he develops and learns the slightest errors can turn into big plays, first downs and touchdowns. 

QB JAMEIS WINSTON
Casually glancing at the stat sheet Winston’s final numbers don’t look terrible. But the bottom line is, elite quarterbacks find ways to win tough, meaningful games in December. To be fair, it isn’t like Winston had a ton of weapons to work with, and after the Cameron Brate injury, he lost one of his favorite targets. But two very costly interceptions on poor decisions really hurt the Bucs chances of winning, and basically put a stake through the heart of the Bucs playoff chances.

Quarterbacks get took much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. Again to be fair, Dirk Koetter did him few favors in the second half, throwing 25 times and only running the ball eight times., despite the team averaging over four yards per carry. In fact, Winston dropped back over 20 times in a row from midway through the third quarter, until the end of the game.

But that is life in the NFL, and a lesson hopefully learned. Winston finished 23 of 35 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Winston also took a costly sack in the first half on a ball he could have thrown away. The second half sack wasn’t one that can be pinned on him. 

KR JOSH HUFF
Josh Huff seems like a nice guy. And the staff thinks he has potential and brings a speed dynamic to the team. However if Huff is lined up to return kicks again next week, someone should have to answer for it. Once again, a mishandled kickoff spelled disaster. Opening the second half with the Bucs down just six points, the ball got way from Huff who dropped it after gathering it in and was tackled inside the five. A run went for no yards next, and that was followed with with an ill-advised Winston interception that lead to another Saints score and a 20-7 lead.

RG ALI MARPET
The Bucs’ shuffled-up offensive line did a good job protecting Winston, limiting the Saints to two sacks and four total quarterback hits. The group also did a fairly decent job in the rushing attack. Led by Jacquizz Rodgers, the Bucs gained 4.2 yards per carry but ran just 21 times for 89 yards. Marpet was the line’s weakest link Saturday, however. The second-year right guard got beat a few too many times and committed three penalties. Two of those penalties – a hold and false start – came within four snaps of each other. Marpet’s other infraction – a fourth-quarter hold to try and keep Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley from teeing off on Winston – was declined in favor of Winston’s intentional grounding penalty.

COACHING
As mentioned above, when the coaching staff watches the film they will most likely wish they had leaned on the running game a little more, particularly in the second half when the last run came with 4:10 left in the third quarter. Granted the Bucs were playing from behind, but the Bucs defense struggled much of the game getting off the field and one way to keep the Saints from scoring was the use a ball-control approach. The onside kick was also an odd decision as the Bucs had all three timeouts left with two minutes left. Even had the Bucs forced a punt, most likely they would have been pinned inside their 20 with no timeouts, needing to go at least 80 yards to tie the game. 

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Mark, I can’t buy into this on Christmas Day. It was the whole team that was Disappointing; none of those player did anything that bad to be on the list. Idon’t believe our Coaching helped these players tonight. Wrong passing scheme when the OL couldn’t block long enough to throw the ball accurately down the field. Koetter should have thrown shorter and be quick about it to. Smith didn’t get enough pressure on Brees and why we played back so far is beyond me.

surferdudes
5 years ago

Two weeks ago Huff let N.O. back in the game with a muffed kick return. Give Peyton credit, he tested Huff at the perfect time, and this time it did contribute greatly to our loss. That’s good coaching on their part, not so much us. Koetter should take a lesson from Garrett, and Peyton, give up play calling duties. Wearing both hat’s rarely works out well. Either you want to be a play caller, or a H.C., pick one. If we want to be a run first team that relies on play action, we better improve our stable of backs,… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

Didn’t you see Sean Payton calling plays?

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Our lack of run defense sure made it difficult to stop the more balanced Saints attack. The outcome of this game was disappointing, but like Dirk Koetter noted, the effort was there. Last year this team would have gone in the tank. Only the Falcons and Broncos home games left me thinking we weren’t competitive and “sucked.” What games like the loss against the Cowboys and this one against the Saints do is highlight weaknesses. Jason Licht and staff know much better what is needed to take the next steps to improve the team. In my view, its protection and… Read more »

russmillerwy
russmillerwy
5 years ago

Not in agreement on several of these: 1st, the Bucs needed to gain yards quickly once they were down by two touchdowns in the third. The Bucs defense could not stop the Saints ground game, so the Saints could easily put together a slow, 10-minute drive if they felt like it. I was relieved that we gave up the ground game and managed to be one score behind with 3 time outs and the 2 minute warning left. The no huddle worked well, too. Finally, a screen pass is similar to a running play, with a low chance of an… Read more »

surferdudes
5 years ago

Peyton has given up play calling duties in the past. Garrett was stripped off his duties by J.J., saying he needed to concentrate on being the head coach. They’ve been better since. That doesn’t mean you won’t see them heavily involved on game day. Bellichick is a defensive genius, he doesn’t call the defense on Sunday. Koetter has to let go, and let the next guy make a name for himself, that would be Monkin. Coaches like Garrett through experience have learned to trust the guy they hired to do the job as well, or better then them. IMO, it’s… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

I disagree with this list quite a bit. First of all on the defense, the backfield including Hargreaves played well considering the defensive line couldn’t rush Brees worth a damn. No backfield in the league can cover the Saints receivers if Brees is given time to throw as he was throughout the game. The blame for the productive offense of the Saints is squarely and entirely on the defensive front seven, particularly the line. With Gholston out it seemed to really disrupt the performance of the entire line. Secondly, I don’t put Winston on the most-disappointing list. He didn’t play… Read more »

76Buc
76Buc
5 years ago

There is only one thing this team is lacking in order to go to the playoffs…talent. Specifically, a WR with speed that can take the top off the defense and complement Mike Evens. You’ll be surprised how much better the OL gets when that happens. We do need another quality lineman even if Sleezie, Breezie, or what ever his name is comes back to play. A tight end with speed to go with Cam would be nice.
On defense I know about safety and another edge rusher, but what we really need is depth.
First round I say BPA.

GIJoeWasThere
GIJoeWasThere
5 years ago

VH3 is definitely at the top of the list for me.

Jeff Robertson
Jeff Robertson
5 years ago

Hargreaves struggled early but played better down the stretch. It’s hard to blame Koetter for trying the onside kick. Do you really think we could have gotten a three and out the way the Saints were moving the ball? Even after the failed onside, we gave up 8 yards on a first-down run that basically ended the game. The biggest disappointment to me is the front office. It was obvious to everyone before the trading deadline that Jameis needed some offensive weapons after all the injuries. Instead of picking up someone to help, they decided this wasn’t the year to… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Jeff Robertson
5 years ago

And just which trading partner is going to offer something for nothing and who are you picking up this late in the season with any chance of helping the team? These street guys are available for a reason. What hurt most was the rapid decline and injury to Vincent Jackson, the injury to Cecil Shorts and ASJ literally taking a shit. Recovering from that has been a real issue as you noted, but fixing it during the season is nearly impossible.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Jeff Robertson
5 years ago

It’s extremely rare for an offensive skill player to become available via any means after the season starts. It’s unrealistic to expect the cavalry to come to the rescue when your team leads the entire league in players on IR, as the Bucs did this season.

Frankly, it’s a wonder that the Bucs avoided another losing season give that fact.

surferdudes
5 years ago

It’s going to be an interesting off season to say the least. A lot of holes to fill, with new questions now at running back, once thought to be a strength. Koetter crows about having four good backs, but I’d trade them all for one Zeke Elliott. I think Sunday’s game is the biggest of the season, and not because of play off possibilities. Finishing the season on a three game losing streak, and another home loss could be devastating to this young team, and fan base. The Panthers won’t be going through the motions, they’ll want to embarrass us… Read more »