This past Sunday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed their fans and the San Francisco 49ers that they can put together a complete game from start to finish. Quite frankly, it was refreshing and a new concept for most Buccaneers fans.
We are so used to Tampa shooting themselves in the foot after building a lead or having the defense give up towards the end of the game. That was not the case last Sunday.
This week we asked our staff here at Full Press Coverage Tampa Bay Buccaneers the simple question everyone is wanting to be answered; while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the most complete and “team” game on Sunday, what made it possible and why does it come together now?
Now you can say that playing the 49ers was a factor and for some fans the only reason they played as well as they did. I’ll say pump the breaks on that and check out what our staff had to say.
In a return to the starting role at quarterback, Jameis Winston led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a victory. The defense also played well making for the most complete game of the season. So why did it take so long? Why now? The answer may lay in the opponent they played. Missing their top two receivers and an inexperienced quarterback in his third start may have played the biggest role.
Let me explain my theory.
Winston throws most of his interceptions when the team is down which leads to him trying to win the game on every play. That’s just his gunslinger mentality. It’s what gets him in trouble. So first, with San Francisco, there was no offensive threat. Winston and the offense knew they would not have to put up huge points even with Tampa’s poor defense. They were able to establish the run and keep it going. There was no urgency to score on every drive just to stay in the game.
Secondly, when your offense is missing so many key pieces like the 49ers were, then its hard to compete. Even the Buccaneers defense can be made to look good when your three starting receivers are relative unknowns. When a team starts their second string running back and raw quarterback, the defense should have the advantage.
The Buccaneers defense really played what was the 49ers subs at most skill positions. I prefer to think the team turned a corner last week, but the next few games will tell the real story.
The Bucs played their most complete game Sunday for a few reasons. The first reason, and biggest for this team, was the lack of turnovers. The team was able to sustain drives and take some pressure off themselves and their defense. This allowed the defense more rest between drives. This in part led to increased pressure on the quarterback, forcing an undrafted player in Nick Mullens to make bad throws, which resulted in multiple interceptions.
As in two turnovers in one game!!!
This team knows change is coming in the offseason, and all of them are essentially on an audition to keep their jobs through a probable regime change. The most important player to know this was Jameis, of course. He played one of his best games as a pro, with it being his second highest passer rating, EVER!
He was able to protect the football, which is his biggest issue. Apart from that, he got help from a more balanced offense, which took some pressure off of him. We all hate to see players hurt, but if DeSean Jackson does not return this season, Jameis will have his three favorite wideouts to throw to on nearly every offensive snap where he drops back to pass.
We could see a repeat performance if the more balanced and conservative play calling continues in addition to an inactive Jackson.
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The Buccaneers played their best game of the season against the 49ers on Sunday. Yes, part of the reason was that the 49ers are currently slotted to have the first pick in the NFL Draft next year. But Tampa Bay also deserves credit for producing a solid performance on the field. The Buccaneers have a reputation for making even backup caliber quarterbacks look like All-Pro players (Case Keenum, Nick Foles, and Derek Anderson to name a few). However, this game was different, and the reason is simple: NO TURNOVERS!
Sunday was the first time since September 9th that the Buccaneers completed an entire four quarters of football without giving the ball away to the other team. The Buccaneers are currently ranked last in the NFL with a turnover differential of negative 21. The next closest team is San Francisco with negative 17, so it makes sense that this would be the game that Tampa Bay would be able to win the turnover battle. Heading into last Sunday, the Buccaneers had not forced a turnover since October 21 against the Cleveland Browns. The team is 2-0 this season when they force more turnovers than their opponent.
Turnovers have killed Tampa Bay for several reasons. Turnovers seize momentum, change field position, and keep points off of the scoreboard. The Buccaneers possessed the football for more than eight minutes more than the 49ers, keeping the San Francisco offense on the sideline and allowing the Tampa Bay offense to score points. The offense constantly set up the defense with excellent field position and the momentum favored Tampa Bay throughout the game since the game was at Raymond James Stadium.
Wow! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played four quarters of football on Sunday that displayed their strengths and mostly shadowed their inconsistencies. First and foremost, Jameis Winston, number three in your programs, played one of his cleanest and most decisive games as a pro. The one and only thing that was somewhat bad for Winston was his connection with Desean Jackson. That’s for another article. Now, why did the Buccaneers decide to play “team ball”, as I like to call it, so late in the season?
Let’s go back in time a couple of months ago when Dirk Koetter fired his longtime friend, former Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator, Mike Smith. Smith’s defense was on the brink, and still could possibly be heading that way still, of being the single worst defensive unit in the history of the NFL. That’s just straight up embarrassing! Now that interim defensive coordinator and Bucs linebacker coach Mark Duffner has taken over the defense, there is a bit more execution being done from the defense.
The Bucs have played marginally better at home this season on defense this season. I say all this to make this point, these sort of changes take time to flourish. It’s evident that Duffner simplified the playcalling for the Buccaneers defense and allowed the players to make fundamentally sound decisions, for the most part. The Bucs have played pretty well defense the past several weeks and I fully expect them to keep it up even against one of the most brutal stretches of games left to play this season.
If you pair the defense playing better with the reemergence of Jameis Winston, if that’s a thing, then you have a winning chance any given Sunday. This team is reliant on the play of its signal caller in Winston and whether or not the defense can perform each week and I believe that’s why Tampa has been putting everything together as of late.