It is said that winning games in the NFL is not easy so when you do get a win, make sure you cherish it as they are no guarantee each week. Well our Bucs have found a way to win another game, making it two in a row as they defeated Miami 30-20. It was a strange game, as the Bucs should have been up by a mile with all the turnovers they forced(4 in first half), but again red zone errors and lack of identity kept that from happening. The Bucs were solid enough in the first half to go up 13 with a score of 20-7 at half, but then came the second half in which nothing really worked until the end.
The Dolphins would go on to tie at 20 and the way the Bucs offense looked, most were thinking it would go to overtime. However, the Bucs would get big plays to move into field goal range, which set up Pat Murray for the game winner to put the Bucs up by three with only seconds remaining. The Bucs are now 4-6 and will head to Atlanta for a division showdown in which the Bucs must win to keep playoff hopes alive. Now I want to go into further detail of my thoughts of each unit and how they did against Miami.
Offense: After watching the game back, the offense did some really nice things especially in the first half. Getting the ball more to OJ Howard needs to be a priority going forward. Howard is just a mismatch at all times and the Bucs found him early and often including this nice touchdown to put the Bucs up 13-7.
1st TD to OJ, GREAT block by Martin to give Fitz time to move out of the pocket and find Howard. pic.twitter.com/6XIU2Cp89d
— RealBucsTalk (@RealBucsTalk) November 20, 2017
Hopefully the offensive staff is beginning to understand how to use Howard properly and can be featured more down the stretch. Same can be said with Desean Jackson who they are starting to utilized better by allowing him to use his speed to separate and catch in space.
Bucs ran a play similar to this using Jackson’s speed on the outside as he had a 1 on 1 in which he created easy separation on a deep out route. With Mike Evans on the other side, Jackson will see his share of favorable matchups and getting the ball to him in space is the right way to go. I thought Fitzpatrick played decent for what he was asked to do, again doesn’t have a great arm but did a good job of being smart and not forcing the issue. Before I get to the negatives, I think it’s time for Chris Godwin to start as he has shown especially over the last two weeks what he can do when given the chance. If Godwin started it would present the offense with more matchups to exploit allowing Desean to move into the slot which should open up more space for everyone. This is what smart teams would do, but then again it’s the Bucs who have not been smart consistently this season.
Now to my frustrations for the offense which starts with the head coach Dirk Koetter who still looks lost as playcaller and how to attack defenses consistently. Good offenses in this league attack by running multiple plays in the same formation via run or pass, but what keeps the defense off balance. It’s really simple as they just change the primary option whether it be a direction in run or block scheme or target via the pass. Dirk Koetter actually did this with the Desean Jackson touchdown in which it was the same exact play but different primary option.
2nd TD. Same exact play formation and routes as the first yet different primary WR. DJax was open on first play and he’s open again on this one. Easy TD. Good block again by Martin. pic.twitter.com/67ol6prPgr
— RealBucsTalk (@RealBucsTalk) November 20, 2017
The Bucs don’t do this enough as it seems there is no identity to this offense as the Bucs are doing things that worked in the first half, then the second half comes and it’s a whole new gameplan. The run game has been a mess due to poor blocking and poor technique. The Bucs have tried to get their zone runs to work but it just hasn’t come together due to getting beat up front consistently. Now when the Bucs do try to run simple power runs going north and south they are having some success which is something that needs to be called more consistently. As for the toss play, the Bucs just need to burn that play from the playbook as it usually ends up in 5 yard loss. Overall, this unit has so much potential but is being held back due to lack of identity and an below average O-line.
Defense: Again much like the offense it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Bucs were doing good things by being aggressive in which helped them caused 4 turnovers including three interceptions. After allowing some big plays in the first quarter, the Bucs D started to fly around and make plays up front and in the secondary. Gerald McCoy was force throughout the game and probably has had his two best games against the Jets and Dolphins.
Lavonte David as well who has been the Bucs best player each week as he continues to make big plays to help his team win. This defense is at it’s best when it is being aggressive and attacking the football and at times i thought they did that especially in the first half. However, in the second half it was non existent as they didn’t attack Matt Moore enough and gave too much time for him to picked them apart. Too many explosive plays allowed along with not getting off the field on third down is never a good sign for the defense.
Mike Smith needs to show the 3-3-5 defense more and bring the heat to the opposing offenses. The Bucs have speed on defense let them play downhill and attack the ball. The Bucs did a great job of this against the Jets and need to utilize it more going forward. With the Falcons coming up and the Bucs not having a great front four, the Bucs need to take chances and try to create havoc with variety of pre-snap looks and blitzes. So again it’s time to create an identity and stick to it as this defense should be playing aggressive for 60 minutes.
Special teams: I will keep this short and say it’s time to sign Patrick Murray long term. Murray has been money so far and just plays with a confidence which is great to see coming from a kicker. Bryan Anger has been up and down the last two weeks but is still probably the best punter in the league. Both return and coverage teams were solid again and even got a touchdown to seal the game at the end.