Tampa Bay improved its record to 8-5 with another impressive outing by the Bucs defense in a 16-11 victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Bucs have won five in a row for the first time since the Super Bowl season in 2002, and are tied for the NFL’s longest winning streak due to Dallas’ 10-7 loss at the New York Giants on Sunday night. Tampa Bay’s impressive five-game road winning streak will be put to the test as the Bucs go on the road to face the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game.

TWO BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1. THAT’S 5 IN A ROW FOR THE STREAKANEERS
With Tampa Bay’s 16-11 win over New Orleans, the Bucs have won five straight games to improve to 8-5 on the season. That’s a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the Bucs won five straight games in 2002 – the year the team won Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa Bay has only won five games in a row four other times in franchise history, including 2002, 1999, 1997 and 1979.

Believe it or not, the Bucs’ all-time record for consecutive wins is just six games, which was set in 1999. Tampa Bay has a chance to match that mark with an upset win at Dallas next week on Sunday Night Football.

In fact, Tampa Bay had a stretch where it won nine out of 10 games, including a Divisional Playoff game at home against Washington. The only loss during that stretch for the Bucs was a 45-0 shellacking at the hands of Jon Gruden’s Raiders in Oakland. Tampa Bay would go on to lose 11-6 to the St. Louis Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

The Bucs are thinking about the playoffs, knowing that they still control their destiny with three games left in the season and a chance to finish 11-5 if they win out.

“It’s in my mind, but going 1-0 [each week] is very important to us as a team,” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who didn’t score a touchdown for the first time in a game since before high school. “We’re not really trying to look forward. Coach [Todd] Monken says all the time, ‘Be where your feet are.’ We’ve got to keep winning. As long as we keep getting W’s, the playoffs are going to be in there.’’

The Cowboys lost at New York on Sunday night, ending their 11-game winning streak, which was the longest in the league, and have been swept by the Giants this season. Who is owner of the NFL’s current longest winning streak now? Why Tampa Bay – and 9-4 Detroit, of course.

“It’s the NFL, man,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “The best teams in this league know how to win and lose and they find a way to win in times like this and we’re starting to figure that out a little bit. Complementary football, whatever happens with the offense, we adjust, defensively. Whatever we do, they adjust, offensively and special teams. So, we’ve just got to keep playing together.”

With the Falcons blasting the Los Angeles Rams, 42-14, Tampa Bay is tied for the lead in the NFC South with 8-5 Atlanta, but the Falcons currently have the tiebreaker. However, the Bucs are still in the playoff picture as the sixth seed behind the 9-4 Giants if the postseason started today.

STATEMENT 2: BUCS DEFENSE SIMPLY DOMINANT AT HOME
What’s the reason for Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak at home? It’s been the dominant play by the defense. Tampa Bay has beaten Chicago, 36-10, Seattle, 14-5 and New Orleans, 16-11, over the last three games, allowing an average of just 8.6 points per game, and registering 11 sacks, eight interceptions, four forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

The defense also scored a defensive touchdown on Chris Conte’s pick-six against the Bears and Robert Ayers’ safety against Chicago. Tampa Bay’s defense has scored 23 points this year, with all but seven of those points coming at home.

Bucs defense vs. Bears: 4 sacks, 3 FF, 2 FR, 2 INTs, 1 TD, 1 safety, 283 yards
Bucs defense vs. Seahawks: 6 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FF, 1 FR, 245 yards
Bucs defense vs. Saints: 1 sack, 3 INTs, 294 yards

The Bucs defense has only allowed just one touchdown at home over the last three games, and held notable quarterbacks like Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees in check. Neither the Bears, nor the Seahawks, nor the Saints reached 300 yards of total offense against the Bucs.

The two biggest Bucs defenders have been newcomers cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers. Ayers has 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a safety in the last three home games, while Grimes has two interceptions and three pass breakups in that span.

What has helped the Bucs defense out is the fact that Tampa Bay’s offense has played complementary football at home and only had three turnovers in the past three games. The Bucs didn’t have a turnover in Sunday’s win against the Saints and won the turnover margin 3:0. Over the last three home wins, the Bucs are plus-5 in the turnover margin.

TWO PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: HOW DOES THE BUCS’ FREE AGENT CROP SHAPE UP NOW?
During the first half of the season when the Bucs were 3-5, Jason Licht’s 2016 free agent crop looked underwhelming at best. Cornerback Brent Grimes had one interception in the first half of the season, 12 passes broken up and a couple of costly penalties. Defensive end Robert Ayers had just one sack, and a high ankle sprain cut into his production. Free agent guard J.R. Sweezy was out for the year due to an offseason back injury.

Bucs CB Brent Grimes - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

My how things have changed. In the Bucs’ five wins to start the second half of the season, Ayers has exploded for 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a safety. Over that same span Grimes has two interceptions, a forced fumble and five passes defensed.

Tampa Bay’s safeties – Chris Conte, Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy, which were all re-signed from a year ago, combined for just one interception in the first eight games. That was McDougald’s interception at San Francisco in a blowout win.

Over the last five games, the safety position, which was once considered a weakness, has erupted for four interceptions in the last five games. Conte got the ball rolling against Chicago, his former team, with a pick-six. Then McDougald got back into the act with the game-clinching interception against Seattle. Tandy has had game-winning, fourth quarter picks in each of the last two games in victories at San Diego and against New Orleans.

Punter Bryan Anger and cornerback Josh Robinson, who were signed to one-year free agent deals, were just beginning to make noise in the first half of the season, but nothing like they are doing now. Anger has been an absolute weapon for the Bucs, downing several punts inside opponents’ 10-yard line, including kicks that set up Ayers’ safety against Chicago and linebacker Lavonte David’s pick-six at San Diego.

Robinson has been an ace gunner downing many of those Anger punts. Robinson’s special teams prowess has rubbed off on rookie safety Ryan Smith, who made a daring save on one of Anger’s punts, swatting the ball to rookie fullback Alan Cross just outside at the goal line against the Saints.

It’s taken awhile, but the newest Buccaneers are making Licht, director of player personnel John Spytek and Tampa Bay director of football administration Mike Greenberg, the team’s capologist, look good. And those free agent signings are playing a huge role in pushing the Bucs towards the playoffs.

QUESTION 2: CAN THE BUCS OFFENSE COME TO LIFE IN DALLAS?
While Tampa Bay’s defense and special teams deserve plenty of praise and accolades during the team’s five-game winning streak, Dirk Koetter’s inconsistent offense has become worrisome. Does this team have enough consistent cannon fire to make up for a non-Herculean day from Mike Smith’s side of the ball, or a sub-par day from punter Bryan Anger, especially on the road against an 11-2 Dallas team?

Tampa Bay’s five-game road winning streak will be put to the test against a Cowboys team that is looking to bounce back from a 10-7 defeat at the New York Giants. Dallas still has plenty to play for as a win against Tampa Bay can lock up home-field advantage and give the Cowboys a first-round bye in the playoffs.

If the Bucs are going to continue their winning ways and extend their streak to six straight wins on the road and in general, they’ll have to pick it up on the offensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay’s offense has gotten off to good starts in each of its last three games, scoring 24 combined points over the last three games in the first quarter, but has fizzled after that.

The Bucs offense did score 10 points in the second quarter after a 3-0 lead in the first against the Saints, but was held scoreless in the second quarter by San Diego and Seattle the previous two weeks. Even more worrisome is the fact that Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled to finish, scoring just 17 combined second half points against the Saints, Chargers and Seahawks combined.

After Sunday’s victory, Koetter took the blame for the offense’s inconsistency against the Saints.

“The main reason we’re leaving points on the field is the play-caller is not going a good enough job,” said Koetter, pointing the finger at himself.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said the blame lies with the team’s offensive players.

“No, we didn’t (perform well),” Winston said. “We’re going to look back on this film and say, ‘A win is a win.’ Coach Koetter’s going to get after us. The coaches should get after us, because like Robert [Ayers] said, ‘We’re terrible.’ We’ve got to continue every week to get better and better. The offense, we have to play better for us to win football games.”

After 10 straight wins in which the Cowboys scored 24 points or more, Dallas managed just 17 points in a 17-15 win at Minnesota on Thursday Night Football two weeks ago. The 10 points the Cowboys scored in their loss to the Giants on Sunday was by far a season low. Outside of a 20-19 home loss to the Giants in Week 1, the fewest points scored by the Cowboys in Dallas has been 27 points.

Can the Bucs defense hold the Cowboys offense to under 20 points for a third straight week? Perhaps more importantly, can Tampa Bay’s offense score more than 20 points against a Dallas defense that has allowed that to occur just four times this year?

TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: BUCS WILL FINISH WITH 10 WINS AND A WILD CARD SPOT
I’ve hit on a few predictions in recent 2-Point Conversion columns, from predicting a Thursday Night Football loss against Atlanta, to a road win at Kansas City and a home win against the Saints. I’ve also accurately predicted that the Bucs vs. Cowboys game would get flexed to Sunday Night Football, and that rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III would get his first NFL interception against Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

I wish my crystal ball painted a rosier picture for the Buccaneers and that they would win the NFC South title with an 11-5 record. That would mean three more wins to close out the year, and that Tampa Bay would end the regular season with an eight-game winning streak.

If the Bucs offense was more consistent I would go out on a limb with that forecast, but I have a gut feeling that this is a 10-win Tampa Bay team that will earn a wild card playoff spot in 2016. By the way, that was my original prediction for the season.
 
PREDICTION 2: TAMPA BAY WILL LOSE IN DALLAS
I hate to be the bearer of bad news – and I hope I’m wrong for the Bucs organization’s sake and for the sake of the team’s fan base and the PewterReport.com readers – but I think Tampa Bay’s five-game winning streak comes to an end in Dallas on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys are coming off a loss to the New York Giants and still have everything to play for – locking up the NFC East, which became more difficult after getting swept by the Giants, securing a first-round bye and locking up home-field advantage for the playoffs.

Dallas’ offense hasn’t played well the last two weeks, scoring just 24 points, but it’s capable of much more and should rebound at home after two straight tough road games. The Cowboys also have more experience in big games in the national spotlight than the Bucs do. The last time Tampa Bay played before the nation in a prime time game it suffered a 43-28 embarrassment at home to the division rival Atlanta Falcons.

Can the Bucs win in Dallas? Yes, this team has proven to be quite formidable on the road, evidenced by five straight victories away from Raymond James Stadium. But I don’t think it’s going to happen and the Cowboys will show why the are the best team in the NFC at the Bucs’ expense Sunday night.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Subscribe
Notify of
36 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

Actually, I’m more bullish on the Bucs beating the Cowboys on the road than I am for the Bucs beating the Saints twice in two weeks. The Vikes and Giants exposed the Cowboy’s offense for what they are – good against weak defenses, poor against strong defenses. And what do the Bucs have? How about the strongest defense in the entire league for the last 5 weeks? 10-6 is still the most likely outcome, but anything from 8-8 to 11-5 is still very plausible. Coach Koetter is right that his playcalling was suspect yesterday. When Huff put us on the… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

And our red zone offense continues to suck. We’ve got to get better in that regard, we’re among the very worst red zone offenses in the league for the last two months.

Garv
Garv
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

No doubt. You are much smarter than Coach Koetter and should be an NFL HC. There will be openings in January!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Garv
5 years ago

Koetter admitted himself that his play calling was not good. Take it up with him if you want to argue.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Naples, me and my brother were screaming the exact same thing when we had the ball backed up. It was guaranteed single coverage. Let jameis drop back in max protect and fling it deep. We knew it would be a safety on a run, the saints sold out on it. Id have to agree on your assessment of us getting too conservative as well. Koetter did say so after the game. I hope he doesn’t rely on the defense too much. Need to open it up a bit. We run on first down entirely too much.

wnb0395
wnb0395
5 years ago

Over the last five games, the safety position, which was once considered a weakness, has erupted for four interceptions in the last five games. Conte got the ball rolling against Chicago, his former team, with a pick-six. Then McDougald got back into the act with the game-clinching interception against Seattle. Tandy has had game-winning, fourth quarter picks in each of the last two games in victories at San Diego and against New Orleans. FYI Scott Reynolds, Conte also had a pick in the KC game. It was the game changing pick in the end zone which he returned for 53… Read more »

Garv
Garv
5 years ago

Stupid “prediction.” Just STUPID! How many “predictions” saw the Buccaneers holding Drew Brees to 0 TD’s and three ints? How many “predictions” saw the Bucs winning by holding the highest scoring team in the NFL to 11 points? Does NONE ring a bell?

“Predictions” are a meaningless waste of time and as relevant as the wild guesses shown weekly in the NFL Network and ESPN.

I believe the Buccaneers believe in themselves and will play to win on Sunday. They have proven that to me and it’s good enough for me.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  Garv
5 years ago

Garv; I agree with you. This team can beat the Cowboys.

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  Garv
5 years ago

Relax man who cares what his prediction is worry about your bills and if your wife is faithful ha better things to get upset about

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  jongruden
5 years ago

I’d bet money Garv would smack you in the mouth for that comment. Me I would not stop at a smack.
GO AWAY

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Garv
5 years ago

You know you always show up on these threads every week, including the game prediction threads, and cast shade on the posters and commenters here on PR. You kinda remind me of the guy who likes to show up at the poker party, drink the host’s bourbon, make a couple of penny-anty bets, and then bitch about how poker is such a stupid waste of time and money.

You know, if you don’t want to play, just don’t come. Because otherwise you’re just “trolling”.

jshumaker
jshumaker
5 years ago

I am with Naplesfan and I am very bullish on the Bucs against Dallas. The reason is because of how the defense is playing. They are playing like the Sapp/Brooks/Lynch/Barber defenses. If Alex Smith, Russell Wilson, Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees couldn’t move the ball against this defense, I don’t see how Dak Prescott is going to be any better. Especially considering how he looked against the Giants last night without JPP. I am expecting another ugly game against the Cowboys where our offense puts up a couple scores early and the defense just wreaks havoc on Dak.

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan
5 years ago

The Bucs are more than capable of winning this Sunday night. But, so are the Cowboys. I am not worried about the offense. Offensive funks happen in the NFL. Just ask New Orleans. Coach Koetter and his staff are good enough to work thru this. Go bucs!

e
e
5 years ago

Looking ahead, ahead… I really wish that the Bucs ownership could find a way to hold on to Mike Smith. He may have been the best pick of all in the offseason. I imagine that he’s going to turn into a hot head coaching prospect by the end of the year.

wnb0395
wnb0395
Reply to  e
5 years ago

Its amazing how 5 weeks can change everything. 5 weeks ago everyone was calling for the firing of Mike Smith. After the Raiders and Falcon games everyone said he was a horrible coach and our defense was terrible. 5 weeks later he is a hero.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  wnb0395
5 years ago

Yes I was one of them and it’s why I’m not a coach. I’m totally happy to be wrong. Go Bucs!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  wnb0395
5 years ago

No – everyone was NOT calling for the firing of Mike Smith. Most of us were not. A few were, and they revealed themselves for being not very intelligent about coaching and the NFL.

e
e
Reply to  wnb0395
5 years ago

It takes time to install any new system… yes, it was a rough start, but Mike Smith has proven that his a very good HC and he deserves credit for the work that he’s done with the D. I don’t see a big defensive slide with this team in the near future. I just hope that he’s there next year to keep it rolling…

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  e
5 years ago

Amen, resign at any cost.

Keith F
Keith F
5 years ago

I’m with Iowabucfan, I’m not that concerned with the offense. I truly believe the Koetter is calling a more conservative game because how well the defense is playing right now. Think about it, the Defense is playing like a top 5 defense, why give a team the opportunity to get an easy score. I wanted a pass at the GL too but I understood why we ran the ball and got a safety. We were aggressive in the first quarter and when Koetter saw we were able to shutdown Brees (I have to pinch myself just to say that), he… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Keith F
5 years ago

The issue is not the capability of our offense to score a reasonable number of points. Dirk called a very conservative game plan, and he criticized himself after the game in the presser for not calling plays well. All’s well that end’s well, but as good as our defense played, it was Saint’s receivers dropping two sure touchdown passes in the end zone that were the difference in the game score, one of which required a lengthy replay review to overturn the call on the field of a touchdown. That is calling it too close – we got lucky last… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

If you’re going to put an asterisk on this game as “lucky” then you might want to point out the Saints’ luck when Jameis overthrew Evans by 6″ on what would have been a TD or the near interception by Lavonte. All of those things are just football’s game of inches. Were not the Saints also “lucky” when the ball took an odd bounce and hit Huff in the face followed by the misguided kick that game the Saints the ball on the 50?

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

All teams either benefit from, or don’t benefit from, the close calls and bounces of the game. But then don’t act like it was inevitable that the Bucs D had to win that game for us. What separated us from a defeat was extremely narrow and no team can count on the bounces to go their way every close game. In the Saints game, not only did offense only score a single touchdown all game, while failing to convert on three other trips inside the Saints 23, but our offense also gave up a safety (aided by a special teams… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

If we have one weakness on Defense right now , it is stopping the run up the middle; the Cowboys have the biggest line I’ve seen for awhile. On Defense if we stop Elliott, we control the opportunity to get interceptions in their passing game. The Cowboys are in the top 2 or 3 in stopping the run so I’m all for passing then runing. Of course I’ve probably been more wrong than right, but it’s fun being an armchair coach. Go Bucs!

jongruden
jongruden
5 years ago

Nice to finally see the home game actually look and sound like a home game welcome back Bucs Fans time to wear those boats on heads and wear your beads the Bucs are hot right now, Scubog can finally have fellow Bucs Fans around him now

scubog
scubog
Reply to  jongruden
5 years ago

There were a few Saints fans, although not as many as I expected. Funny, not one “Who Dat” cheer. Of course the guy behind me sold his tickets to the enemy as he does every week.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
5 years ago

I agree with most above as Koetter has been calling it very conservative recently based on how good our defense is playing. However that will bite us in the ass at some point. Against Dallas we need to open it up a bit. They will stop the run no doubt. And stop running it every first down!

chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

Bucs and Lions best winning streak. That is something that is beyond belief. Good for the Lions, that city could used and infusion of hope. Good for the BUCS. We also deserve it. I see no good reason to not think that we can beat the Cowgirls. Beating them would make a good season great. Myself and other poster here who abhor that team might be on cloud nine for a long time. Is the Giants defense any better than ours? I don’t think so. So, why can’t the BUCS go there an whip them. Drop a big hammer on… Read more »

seat26
seat26
5 years ago

I am going to continue with my good luck bad luck pick. If you have been following I have admitted that I have an unusually bad reputation well deserved I am afraid for poor football picks. And as a rabid Bucs fan, I of course want them to win. So in that spirit of never die football fan frenzy I am picking the Bucs to lose to the Cowboys. Hoping of course my bad pick past will be wrong again. Dallas will be at home, they lost to the Giants, but it was rare bad performance. Winston will bounce back,… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  seat26
5 years ago

Don’t throw me into the briar patch.

fl0nase
fl0nase
5 years ago

IF the Cowboys had beaten the Giants then I’d be more comfortable taking the Bucs to win in a sleeper. With the Giants beating them, I don’t see us pulling a ‘W’ now.

@Train40
@Train40
5 years ago

I really like this site and have been a reader for several years. It’s really nice to have a site like this dedicated to your favorite team especially in a small market like Tampa. I finally decided to join. I would like to say that someone needs to proofread and verify the facts being supplied in them. The Bucs have won 4 straight on the road, not 5 as was mentioned twice in the article. Won in ATL, Lost in ARZ, Won in CAR, SF, KC and SD for a 4 game road win streak. Also, the Cowboys did not… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

It appears that Koetter may be dialing it back a bit on offense because the defense and special teams are holding back the opponent’s ability to score. That said, the execution in the Red Zone has been on the players. Penalties and passes just a bit off target. As he said, “the object is to end up with one more point than the opponent.” I must admit, Scubog would be much more relaxed with a three score lead. After that Indy game in 2003 I never think we have a big enough cushion.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Please, please, please don’t mention that game. Pretty please with sugar on top.
GO BUCS

WiltheBrewer
WiltheBrewer
5 years ago

Statement #1- yep, my wife & I were at that game in OAK. That was rough…Then scubog just had to mention one of the other greatest Bucs games to forget.
It is strange how the O has regressed as the D has started to dominate – just hope they can turn it on if needed late in a game.
These Road Warriors definitely have a shot in Dallas- let’s hope they can erase the memory of the last big primetime game v Atl

CDNBUCSFAN
CDNBUCSFAN
5 years ago

A little late to the party with comments, but what I’d like to see is Koetter totally cross-up the Cowboys and start passing to open up the run. I also want to see some more screens, especially against this Cowboys D. I also like when Sims lines up outside with an empty backfield. He typically gets a good matchup in coverage and should have had more in the game vs. the Saints. Defensively, let’s make sure there is a spotter on Dak, especially on 3rd down, so he doesn’t sneak away and get the first down with his legs. I… Read more »