Tampa Bay ended its five-game losing streak with a convincing 27-7 win on the road at Washington to improve to 2-8 on the season. What’s going right with the Buccaneers and what is going wrong in Tampa Bay? Find out in this week’s edition of The State of the Buccaneers.
WHAT’S RIGHT WITH THE BUCCANEERS
What A Rush For Bucs Defense
To steal a stat from former Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Gary Shelton (you can follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton and on GarySheltonSports.com), the Buccaneers have nine sacks in eight losses and 11 sacks in two wins. What an illustration as to how important the pass rush is to the Tampa 2 defensive scheme. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had 1.5 sacks at Washington and now has a team-leading 6.5 on the season en route to his third-straight Pro Bowl appearance. Nose tackle Clinton McDonald and defensive ends Jacquise Smith and Michael Johnson all recorded sacks of Robert Griffin III, who was sacked six times on Sunday, are tied for second with three sacks. Smith, who had a career-high two on Sunday, is coming on strong. The Bucs have 20 sacks on the season and are on pace for 32 this season after recording 35 last year.
Banks Is Rolling
Since dropping a potential game-winning interception against Minnesota in Week 8, second-year cornerback Johnthan Banks has stepped up and made plays for Tampa Bay. Banks had a key interception three weeks ago at Cleveland, and broke up a touchdown pass to Julio Jones the following week against Atlanta. At Washington, Banks recorded his third interception of the season, which was returned for a 19-yard touchdown. That was Banks’ first pick-six of his NFL career after notching three in college at Mississippi State. While prized free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner has disappointed, Banks has been the team’s best cornerback, especially down the stretch.
Lansanah Is Bucs’ Magic Man On Defense
The Bucs were able to seize momentum on the game’s first play as strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah caught a pass that was deflected by Redskins wide receiver Niles Paul and picked it off inside Washington territory. The interception was Lansanah’s third of the season and the only pick he hasn’t returned for a touchdown. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith praised Lansanah for hustling and said, “Good things happen when you are around the ball.” Since taking over the Sam linebacker role this year, Lansanah has been a playmaker and is tied for the team lead in interceptions.
Evans Is Keying Tampa Bay’s Offense
We would be remiss if we didn’t include rookie wide receiver Mike Evans in the list of what’s right with the Buccaneers. In fact, we saved the best for last. Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith has called Evans “unstoppable,” and that’s exactly what he was in Sunday’s 27-7 win against Washington in catching seven passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns – all were career highs. It’s no surprise that the Bucs have generated over 320 yards worth of offense over the past three weeks due to Evans, who has had three consecutive games with at least 100 yards receiving. In Sunday’s win, Evans generated all but 120 yards of Tampa Bay’s offense.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUCCANEERS
Sloppy Tackling Nearly Doomed Bucs
It’s great that Tampa Bay’s pass rush was revved up at Washington in the team’s 27-7 victory, but the run defense was atrocious at times. The Redskins rushed for 155 yards on 31 carries (5.0 avg.), and Alfred Morris was hard to bring down in rushing for 96 yards on 20 carries. The Bucs whiffed at Morris and tried too many arm tackle attempts. Tampa Bay’s tackling in the running game was embarrassing at times as the defense seemed to be allergic to Morris. If not for building a 20-7 lead in the third quarter and forcing the Redskins to throw the ball more, Morris could have had even more yards on the ground.
Falcons Starting To Surge
Despite the Buccaneers being just two games outside of first place in the NFC South division with a measly 2-8 record, Tampa Bay was swept by Atlanta this year, and the Falcons are tied for first place in the division with New Orleans. Both teams are 4-6, but the Bucs were swept by the Falcons this year, and lose that head-to-head tiebreaker, in addition to the fact that Tampa Bay is 0-4 in the division. While Bucs head coach continues to cling to the notion that the Bucs can still win the NFC South and thus automatically make the playoffs, Atlanta is in the driver’s seat with a 4-1 record in the division – and they have won two straight. That 27-17 loss to Atlanta two weeks ago could wind up really hurting Tampa Bay.
Bucs Have Been Here Before
Tampa Bay’s defense forces turnovers, gets a fistful of sacks and puts 27 points on the board to win on the road. Sound familiar? That line could apply to either of the Bucs’ wins this season – a 27-24 win at Pittsburgh or a 27-7 triumph at Washington. The problem with the win over the Steelers is that it took the Bucs five more games to notch their second win of the season. Just a week after a close 36-31 loss at New Orleans following the victory at Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay was blown out at home, 48-17, by Baltimore. Just when we thought that a hard-fought road win was a signal that the Bucs had turned the corner, it was over a month before Tampa Bay won again. Can Tampa Bay get another win at Chicago and put together a winning streak?
Tampa Bay’s Special Teams Mistakes Continue
Just when the Buccaneers begin to make some strides offensively and defensively, special teams is one unit that just cannot get out of its own way. Tampa Bay’s special teams have been maddeningly bad this year, and have cost the Bucs two prime chances for victories against St. Louis and Cleveland. Tampa Bay had a blocked punt and a blocked field goal in both of those games. On Sunday at Washington, return specialist Marcus Thigpen muffed a punt return in the first half that led to Tampa Bay’s only turnover that day. Thankfully it didn’t lead to points for the Redskins, but the Bucs special teams has to stop making costly mistakes.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: [email protected]
I THINK THAT TAMPA IS NOW STARTING TO SHOW THE REDSKINS AND REST OF THE LEAGUE. THAT TAMPA COULD GIVE A LOT OF TROUBLE TO REST OF THE LEAGUE IN 2015. I HOPE TAMPA GOES UP TO CHICAGO AND SHOWS THEM WHY MIKE EVANS IS SO SPECIAL, AND IF THEY TRY TO DOUBLE TEAM EVANS THEN JACKSON COULD HAVE A FIELD DAY. I HOPE LOVIE WILL POUND THE BALL DOWN CHICAGO THROATS WITH RAINEY & SMITH COMBINATION. AND THE DEFENSE STARTING TO JELL. ALSO WHY NOT WIN FINALLY AT HOME VS CINCY-GO BUCS
georgehicks–Good to hear from you again!
Great article SR. I agree on all your assessments.
One area of warning. Our rookies are not used to a season as long as 4 pre-season and 16 regular season games.
Lets not put too heavy a load on Evans. Just saying.
Lets carry this forward and focus on the Bears. They are beatable, but we have to play even better against this team. Go Bucs!
I think we touched a few areas of why we are as bad as we are but missed a few other key areas for ex. Free agents underperforming like Verner, Dietrich-Smith, A Collins, Myers, Gholdson. Second reason- inconsistent play from Bucs qb’s, third- Playcalling on offense has been conservative fourth- players aren’t executing the cover two scheme with success fifth- zero running game sixth- O-Line has been abismal last but no least- I don’t even recognize the guys in our secondary anymore I think they pulled them right from the street and threw a jersey on them and to be honest there are more factors these are just off the top of my head
The Bucs are getting better, but better doesn’t equal wins, just the possibility of wins. I am curious if the improvements were a flash, or if they will continue.
These late season surges I believe do more harm than good…Yes we want something positive to look at for the season but with every win down the road kinda screws us for next years draft…If McClown pulls another win or 2 together then tanks the rest of this season~next year we enter yet another new season with a question Mark at QB and at the same time those two wins have moved us out of range of elite talent or cause us to give up picks to move back up to where we would have been if we just lost out…
with 2 more wins we will equal last year and we picked Evans
Good observation, Dbuc63!
One thing is certain, with proper OL play, Josh can play well enough to win a Super Bowl next year. He also can train a franchise QB for the future. Too bad Lovie kept Josh on the bench when he could play just to find that Glennon is the Albatross just as I said from the first of this year. Glad Lovie is winning now just as Dungy did his first year!
For those of you who would choose to lose games to secure a higher draft position, I invite you to sit in the stands with me and endure such things as “Let’s go Panthers”, Let’s go Rams”, Let’s go Vikings”, “Let’s go Ravens” followed by that obnoxious “O!” and look forward to “Who Dey?”, “Go Pack Go” and “Who Dat?” chants. Then try to remain gracious in defeat ignoring the snickers, the insults, high- fiving fans wearing the opponents jersey acting like they just won the Superbowl and then tell me you want to have Roger announce, “With the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select” ……………….We’ve made bad choices and good choices at virtually every draft slot. Get it right and it doesn’t matter.
@dbuc63~ but in the same range we picked Barron,Adams,and Caddy~and we all know where those picks went..Also Clayton had a good season than sucked it up~ until the end of next season~its really too early to tell with Evans…We really need to address the talent evaluation and those in charge in Tampa~the miss to hit ratio isnt what it should be if this is a team that needs to get better..
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