Late in the day, and who is going to capture the opponent’s king?

Imagine it. You are Jameis Winston, and you scan the offensive huddle of the Tampa Bay Bucs, unplugged. Who is going to make a play?

Here, there are plodders, and there, there are pluggers. Waiver-wire heroes and third-teamers who are playing second-team football. You could time the receivers with a sundial. There isn’t a first down in sight.

It’s like playing chess, and you are down to pawns. It’s like playing checkers, only no one has been kinged.

No Doug. No Jacquizz. No Vincent.

No hope.

It was this way in the late stages of the Bucs’ 30-24 overtime loss to the Raiders on Sunday afternoon. One team was dangerous. The other was running on a treadmill. You got the feeling that Raiders could score at any time and end this game. You got the feeling that the Bucs would score, oh, sometime on Tuesday.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t say it, of course. He can’t. To grumble about your hand – deuces and treys and six of clubs – is to belittle your soldiers. A general can’t do that. So he keeps pointing Antone Smith toward the line and hoping the pile will move. Of course, it does not.

But, really, where do you see gamebreakers? Where do you think that other defensive coordinators are staying awake to stop? The Bucs are like a flashlight with no batteries.

Winston? Yes, he’s the real deal. But his running game disappeared when Rodgers was hurt Sunday, and his receivers are slow. No wonder the Raiders kept daring the Bucs to take deep shots. They don’t have deep on the roster.

Bucs WRs Russell Shepard, Adam Humphries and Mike Evans - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs WRs Russell Shepard, Adam Humphries and Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images

Mike Evans? He’s a good (not great) player. He’d be perfect if you had a real burner on the other side of the line. But on Sunday, he was targeted 11 times (more than one-third of Winston’s passes) and he caught four for 50 yards. The Raiders had four receivers with more yardage.

Russell Shepard? Good guy, but he’s made his living as a special teams player. Besides, he was hurt late in Sunday’s game, too.

Adam Humphries? Every game, Humphries does something you like. But when the season started, no one was convinced he should be the Bucs’ No. 3 receiver. Now, he’s No. 2?

Cameron Brate? Another effort guy, and fans are pleased to have him play for the Bucs. But he isn’t going to confuse anyone with Tony Gonzales, is he?

Cecil Shorts? He was targeted four times. He didn’t catch any.

And so it goes. It’s like trying to win an archery contest when your quiver is fresh out of arrows. It’s like to win an auto race when your car is out of gas.

Consider their seven possessions after halftime.

On the first, Tampa Bay took over on its 24 … and lost five yards on three downs. Punt.

On the second, the Bucs took over on their 25. They ran five plays and gained 10 yards. Punt.

On the third, they went 47 yards in three plays and scored a touchdown to pull within a point, 17-16, thanks to another Roberto Aguayo missed extra point.

On the fourth, Tampa Bay went 38 yards and, with 44 yards of penalties against the Raiders, and scored to take a 24-17 lead.

On the fifth, they took over at their 25. They gained four yards in three plays. Punt.

On the sixth, the Bucs took over at their 42. Three plays gained four yards. Punt.

On the seventh, they took over at their 11. Three plays got them seven yards. Punt.

In other words, they moved like they were in a traffic jam. In five of their seven drives, they didn’t get a first down. And who, in this molasses bunch, was going to get it?

We knew, of course. We knew that the Bucs were desperately thin at running back and receiver coming into the season. A lot of teams can play through this injury or that one. Not the Bucs. Not against a good team like the Raiders, who are now 5-0 on the road this year.

To be honest, the Bucs are a little thin on the other side of the ball, too. They still don’t have a pass rush. They still struggle to stay with top-flight receivers. Tackling fades in and out like a bad radio signal.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper beat Bucs S Chris Conte - Photo by: Getty Images

Raiders WR Amari Cooper beat Bucs S Chris Conte – Photo by: Getty Images

Wouldn’t you love to have a chess piece like the Raiders’ Amari Cooper? At halftime, Cooper had two catches for 11 yards. After halftime, he had 10 catches for 163 yards. Michael Crabtree had two catches for 18 yards at the half. He had six for 90 yards afterward.

Wouldn’t you love for Winston to grow into a precise (his word, used repeatedly post-game) quarterback like Derek Carr of the Raiders? Carr had 513 yards, and he threw only 19 incompletions in 59 passes. After all these weeks of playing mediocre quarterbacks – Case Keenum, Derek Anderson, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Colin Kaepernick – the big kids got out of school on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Bucs sputtered. They didn’t run the ball very well (a 3.8 average), and they didn’t throw it very well (Winston kept overthrowing receivers).

If it hadn’t been for the self-destructiveness of the Raiders with an NFL-record 23 penalties for 200 yards, then the game would have been over much before it began.

Remember, this was the game that was going to serve as a barometer of where the Bucs were as a franchise. Where they are is a team with plenty of pluck, but not nearly enough pizzazz. Maybe that’s why their 3-16 at home since 2014.

Frankly, the Bucs need reinforcements. They need to find a receiver. They need to sift through the road kill to find another runner.

Someone needs to move the ball. Please, plug somebody else in for Winston prior to Thursday night’s home game against the Falcons before it’s checkmate against the Buccaneers.

No one has won more awards, including two national Associated Press Sports Editors Best Columnist awards and eight top 10 finishes, than the legendary Gary Shelton, former sports columnist of the St. Petersburg Times. Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can.

Shelton just received his sixth Sportswriter of the Year award for Florida by the NSSA, and no one has seen more big events, including 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics and 11 Final Fours. Shelton still goes into the locker room to obtain his stories.

And no one has made you angrier, or laugh louder, or think harder about what he has written. Simply put, no one has covered Tampa Bay sports like Shelton has. Now you can read Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton

Bucs fans can enjoy Shelton’s weekly post-game column on the Bucs following every Tampa Bay game exclusively on PewterReport.com, and our readers are encouraged to subscribe to GarySheltonSports.com for all of his expert commentary on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays, USF, Florida, Florida State and all of the sports teams and sports figures in the national spotlight.

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About the Author: Gary Shelton

Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
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EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
5 years ago

Worst of all Gary, they had the chess piece in hand…a guy DCs used to stay up night worrying about covering…a guy who caught the ball over and over for us, including a great TD grab against the Falcons….and we decided to make an example of him?, or was it we decided to have a no tolerance policy?, or was it we got fed up with his off field antics?….whatever the reason, we had the piece and we gave it away….willingly….and now we’re left where we are….in Bucville as usual.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

Not sure if youre talking about ASJ or not , but hes been out the last two weeks with an injury , so it’s not like we’ve lost anything losing him.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

ASJ was never a player other teams lost sleep over … he was at best, which wasn’t very often because he was constantly broke down with injury, a mediocre tight end. There’s like 100 other tight ends in the league who are better than ASJ on his best day, and about 1000 college players who are better than ASJ on a typical, broke-dick day.

When are some fans going to get over their broken hearts over ASJ self destructing? Really, people, get a grip.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Statistically speaking – our best TE. Maybe that’s not very good in your opinion, but still would have been our second best receiving option…statistically speaking.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Can’t argue with you Gary. We need to cut Shorts and call up another WR from PS. Our OL isn’t doing enough to give Winston time to throw to our slow WR’s, so maybe the play calling should reflect this weakness. The DL is weak and Smiths play scheme needs to adjust to this issue. Find a way to win Bucs!

gafikdetail
5 years ago

patriots have done more with less for years… it all comes down to the HC & OC putting the players they have on the roster in position to be successful… koetter is a lot like lovie he has his system and he sticks to it stubbornly

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  gafikdetail
5 years ago

gaficdetail, you beat me to it. I really love Gary’s articles as they make sense to me. However, as I was reading this piece about the lack of speed I started thinking that the Patriots have no speed, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

cettrue
cettrue
5 years ago

BS. Winston overshot at least 4 big gains or TD passes and the defensive line and scheme suck.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  cettrue
5 years ago

He did over shoot some throws as hes trying to be too careful in my opinion. Koetters so far in his head it’s obvious. And Koetter needs to call a better game too. I thought Lovie left and took his weak before half play calling with him. Koetter plays scared before the half every game. The cupborad is bare at the skill positions and that can’t be denied. When your number two is your best special teams player, that’s not good and I love Shep. I mean we all know Dougie won’t play next week, he’s already got that new… Read more »

cettrue
cettrue
5 years ago

BTW Mike James is on the Detroit practice squad. We know he doesn’t put the ball on the ground and can catch out of the back field.

jme0151
jme0151
Reply to  cettrue
5 years ago

Well that would make way to much sense for the Bucs. Tampa is once again becoming looserville!!!

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Make no bones about it Winston is my guy and i still have great faith in him. But I would be disingenuous if said he is playing well because he is not. I think he is so aware of throwing an interception that he is throwing to areas where no one can catch the ball. His coaches may be responsible for his mindset or he’s just trying too hard. Bottom line it manifests itself as inaccuracy, most obviously throws beyond the reach of a defender and consequently beyond the reach of his receiver. I can’t tell him what to do.… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

I am not anti-Winston … have defended him this season here on these pages. But, if a number one overall draft pick quarterback halfway through his second season in the league still presents his coaches with a “frying pan or the fire” choice on play calling (i.e., throw the ball a lot, and get lots of INTs, or don’t throw the ball a lot, and get lots of incomplete passes and most of those completed are dink’n dunkers under 5 yards), then he is seriously not worthy of the no. 1 overall pick. Sorry, he just wasn’t worth that no.… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Great insight Gary. It’s tough to win with offensive players for whom DC’s would characterize as ho-hum. As you said; no one is game planning to stop anyone but Mike Evans. The offensive skill position roster is a collection of players barely in the league. Of course there are only so many Drafts and only so many opportunities to reach for the stars. Street free agents are out there for a reason. I totally agree with my friends macabee and cgmaster that Jameis looks like he is playing cautiously. It’s not the play calling so much as Jameis is missing… Read more »

surferdudes
5 years ago

Why do the Bucs lack for talent when they’ve drafted high the last few years? How about giving a draft pick up to move into the second round to draft a kicker who can’t kick. A receiver, safety, D lineman, might have helped more. Funny so many productive x bucs out there. Talib, Penn, could use a power back, right Blount, N.E.. Tedford wanted to draft Carr, Lovie locked in on McCown. These are the reasons we’re doomed now.

Michael WestDominguez
Michael WestDominguez
5 years ago

Hopefully I’m not bursting anyone’s bubble here but IMO, this is the same script as last years team. I feel like I watch the movie groundhog day when it comes to this franchise. Absolutely not enough pass rush or anything close to being effective. 40/59 and over 500 yards? I thought that was only possible if you played the Bucs in the old school video game Tecmo Bowl? I’m a huge Noles fan as well, so I have always liked Winston, but the deep ball…..you have got to give your receivers atleast a chance to catch them…..All week, all I… Read more »

warrenfb12
warrenfb12
5 years ago

I agree that the bucs should have made a move for a veteran receiver and leaving Jameis out there with guys that started the season on the couch is foolish. That said, we flip back and forth all the time on Mike Evans. Oh he is great, oh he is good, oh he is great, oh he is good and we need more speed and guys can’t get open. Disagree completely on Evans. He is a great player. Evans had steps on the secondary pretty consistently and Jameis Winston over throws him by 15 yards. The number one issue yesterday… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

I couldn’t agree more! We are devoid of talent right now because of past mistakes and misjudging talent. Jameis is inconsistent for sure, but it doesn’t help him at all that he only has one receiver to work with. We saw the same thing last year when VJax went out. We need to swing a trade and find at least one more threat to take some heat off Evans. We can’t fix our past mistakes but we need to look forward. Hopefully Aguayo will beat his demons and become the accurate kicker he was in college. No point arguing the… Read more »