The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put together two games of playing complementary football, something Head Coach Dirk Koetter has been preaching since he became the head coach. The biggest factor in this turnaround can be boiled down to two aspects of the teams play, not turning the ball over, and an aggressive defense.
Why have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waited til now to put together a team effort when they had the chance early on in the season to make a run for the playoffs? That question may never be fully answered, but for now, we have something to base it off of.
Turnover Free Jameis Winston
Winston has looked every bit the part of the Bucs “franchise” quarterback since returning to duty midway through the New York Giants game. His play has been spectacular, especially in these past two games. We’re witnessing the side of Winston we had all hoped to see when his name was called in 2015 to be the Buccaneers “savior”.
The one thing holding his naysayers back from believing in him, and let’s be honest, there are still fans who will not like him no matter what is playing consistently good ball. Watching Winston on Sunday was such an enjoyment compared to the Winston of old.
His newfound ability to not try and make every play work has boosted this team to live to fight another down. Winston took four sacks on Sunday and I’d go out on a very strong limb and say two or maybe three of those were a conscious effort by him to end the play instead of making a possible mistake.
The “New” Jameis
Since being named Tampa’s starting quarterback again, Winston has been in the top seven of eligible quarterbacks in passer rating. If Winston can continue to play this way, he’ll get his multi-year extension and become the first Bucs quarterback to have a second contract with the team.
Let us not forget how incredible Winston was on his scrambling plays. Winston has a tremendous pocket presence which benefitted the offense on Sunday by extending drives with his legs. For the second time this season, Winston led Tampa in rushing yards. Not many teams are going to gameplan for Winston being a running and honestly, that is one of the key factors in the success he’s had over the past few weeks.
No More Soft Defense!
During the Mike Smith era, the defense became very predictable and easy to tear apart given the opportunity. On Sunday, The Bucs defense played a majority of man to man defense as opposed to playing soft zone coverage. The aggressiveness up front with the big guys made it a long day for Cam Newton.
Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib continue to push this defensive line each week to be aggressive in the trenches. Gerald McCoy had his time to shine during the game as well. Without a viable pass rush, the secondary wouldn’t be able to excel.
Looking back on the game, we saw single high coverage a few times which allowed for the blitz to work and get Newton to be pressured for what seemed a majority of the game. Interim Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner has really gotten the best out of his defense these past few weeks, especially his third and fourth string players.
No Names to Nick Names
If I were to tell you that at one point in this game there were seven players playing defense that wasn’t in anyway shape or form a starter at the beginning of the season, would you believe me? The Injury bug has been very mean to the Bucs this season and particularly bad this past Sunday. Starting cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Carlton Davis were inactive as was M.J. Stewart. That meant guys like Andrew Adams and Javien Elliot had to become those players in the sense of playing in those roles.
I couldn’t have predicted the monster game Andrew “AA” Adams would have this week. Three interceptions on the day with a near fourth for him ties an NFL and franchise record. This is where that old phrase ” the pass rush makes the secondary” comes into play. Duffner had his player ready to make plays and be aggressive towards the ball, something we haven’t seen much of this season.
The Bucs will have to continue to lean on these players to make plays during this last quarter of football.
Tampa’s Coaches were Prepared
It was very evident that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff came prepared for the Carolina Panthers compared to the results of the last contest. The offense started fast right off the bat and ensured that they would hold the lead over the Panthers early on.
This is where the defensive gameplan really started to take shape. Like Warren Sapp used to say, ‘ give me 17 points, and we’ll handle the rest.”. There were times where the Panthers could’ve gotten back into the game, but the Bucs defense denied them and allowed the offense to continue to build the lead.
You could argue that Christian McCaffery got his on Sunday. Explosive players like that are going to gain yards no matter what, but it’s if they can turn those yards into points that really matter.
If Tampa can continue to play as a complete football team and play somewhat turnover-free football, watch out NFL because this team can be a very scary team to play.