With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently tied for the division lead they needed a big performance against the division rival to stay in contention. With a Bucs win they’d tie division record with the Falcons and make it even tighter in the division.
With the Atlanta Falcons easily pulling out a victory over the Los Angeles Rams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed to win this one to keep pace in the NFC South. The Bucs made the people sweat this one but managed to pick away a victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Packers, Redskins, and Vikings won earlier to get to get to seven wins and remain a half game behind Tampa Bay. With this win the Bucs stayed in the playoffs with a huge game next week against the Dallas Cowboys. Let’s take a look at this games big winners and losers.
Winner: Safety Keith Tandy
How was this guy been on the bench at the beginning of this season. Keith Tandy has been the Buccaneers best defensive player the past two weeks and now has back to back games with game saving interceptions. Tandy saved the game this week with 57 seconds left on 4th and 1 for the Saints. Brees tried to hit Willie Snead but was jumped in front of by Tandy. Not only did Tandy have this pick but two drives before he had deflected a pass that fell into Brent Grimes arms. The Buccaneers have been forcing a lot of turnovers lately and that is the main reason why they are on a five game winning streak.
Loser: Quarterback Jamies Winston
There was a lot on the line in this game and the offense really struggled to put points on one of the worst defenses in the league. Not only was Winston held to only 184 yards through the air but was held without recording a touchdown for the first time in probably his entire life. Winston struggled making big plays today finishing completing an average 62% of his passes for only 7 yards per attempt. Third down conversion percentage went down but the Bucs got enough yards when they needed to but this game was really won on defense and not on offense.
Winners: Kwon Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves III
Early in the second quarter the Saints were driving after the Bucs punched it in for a touchdown. On a quick pass by Drew Brees, Kwon Alexander went up the ladder and tipped the pass that fell into Vernon Hargreaves’ awaiting hands. This was a huge play for not only the Buccaneers defense but this was Hargeaves first career interception. Kwon went on to finish with seven tackles, a solid performance. Hargreaves, didn’t make many other plays but he did manage to keep Brandin Cooks under control all game. Hargreaves also performed admirably on his first game as punt returner.
Loser: Wide Receiver Josh Huff
Welcome to the Tampa Bay Bucs Josh Muff, sorry Huff. After spending four weeks on the practice squad he finally got his chance to make some plays due to Adam Humphries injury. With his first attempt at a kick return Josh Huff had the ball bounce in front of him and the ball bounced up, hit him in the face, and went out-of-bounds at the one yard line. It was like a punt that pinned them deep but if he didn’t touch it the Bucs would’ve had the ball at the 25 yard line. Not only that the very next play the Bucs gave up a safety on the next play.
Winner: Mike Smith and the Entire Defense
The Bucs needed big plays on defense today because the offense actually struggled to move the ball on the New Orleans Saints. The Buccaneers defense held the New Orleans Saints offense to nine points, with two coming off the safety. Drew Brees was held without a touchdown for the second straight week and the Saints only had two plays of twenty or more yards. They did have two dropped touchdowns but the Bucs didn’t break.
The Bucs only had one sack today but it was critical from Ayers because it held the Saints to a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown at the end of the half. Mike Smith has been a difference maker these past five games leading the defense to become one of the best in the league and he’s doing it with turnovers. They had three interceptions today, THREE, on nemesis Drew Brees. The offense didn’t turn the ball over and when you have a plus three turnover differential there’s a good chance you win the game. This hot streak on defense has completely turned this team around and right in the thick of the playoff race. I’m kind of afraid we may lose Mike Smith to a head coaching job this off-season.
Loser: Offensive Tackle Donovan Smith
Donovan Smith is still very young but he plays one of the most important positions on the team. With three penalties today he hurt the team more than helped. With an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter he killed an important drive for the Buccaneers. With all the penalties he committed this year the Bucs need to consider if he is the long-term answer. Potentially moving him to the right would be the best for his career if the Buccaneers can find a better player at the position.
Bonus Winner: Kicker Roberto Aguayo
Just like the Chiefs game, the Bucs relied on their shaky kicker to provide almost all of the teams offense. Making all four of his kicks today provided the Bucs with ten of the teams 16 points. Making field goals from 39, 41, and 26 he made them when he was called upon. Still hasn’t hit from beyond 50 yet but has definitely improved from the beginning of this year. I’d like him to continue not missing from here on out before I declare him the future kicker of the franchise.
8-5, the Tampa Bay Bucs are 8-5 with three left to go. The Bucs going to finish the season at 8-8 at least which many fans before the season would consider a win. In his first season as head coach Dirk Koetter has tied the amount of wins Lovie Smith had in his first two seasons and there are still three games left this season. The Bucs earned a prime time game against the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys next week but they are rolling at the right time and a win in Dallas would start to put the world on notice.