It's too early to say "must win" but this was a biggie for the Buccos. Coming off an embarrassing roadie in Minnesota, and having the game seemingly at hand (at home no doubt) versus the Giants--losing this one would have been devastating in a number of ways--especially with those Patriots looming large this Thursday night.
A lot of good and bad after this one to sort out, so here are my five takeaways from an entertaining, stressful and ultimately victorious Sunday afternoon at the Ray Jay.
5 TAKEAWAYS (BUCS FINALLY CONQUER MOUNT ELI)
(1) PERFECTLY CLUTCH JAMEIS---You were thinking it, his teammates were thinking it and the coaches were hoping for it---with the ball in his hands with just over three minutes and change---could WInston deliver a game winning drive?
The Bucs quarterback was not only clutch he was perfect--going 5 for 5 with the dagger coming via a huge 26 yard connection to Cameron Brate.
It was the seventh game winning drive of Winston's young career.
In year three, number three is expected to deliver in these moments and he did---making the performance even more impressive was his short memory. A week after having three interceptions, Winston didn't have any versus the G-Men in favor of three touchdown passes.
(2) THE "NICK" OF TIME : Jason Licht may be wondering--can we ever find a kicker? Licht's done a great job in the draft and in free agency but his kickers continue to keep him up at night.
This game never should have come down to a game winning field goal as NIck Folk left 7 points off the board by missing a pair of field goals and an extra point but did redeem himself with a game winning 34 yarder---where you wonder if the game winning kick saved his job for the time being?
“In the end, that’s all that matters,” Folk said on his game winner. “But I’ve probably never felt worse (overall) after a game-winning kick.”
(3) DeSEAN DRAMA: Last week it was Mike Evans not happy on the sidelines, this week it's Diva dejour DeSean who came off the field and slammed his helmet, threw his gloves after WInston failed to find him on a huge 2-point conversion.
I like the competitiveness but on a young football team, DeSean needs to set a better example as afterwards he left the locker room unhappy, not talking to reporters.
Not a good look.
Dirk Koetter defended DeSean on a day where he caught just two of the six passes thrown his way, and finished with just 20 receiving yards.
"DeSean should be frustrated because DeSean is an elite player in this league and we didn't get him the ball," Koetter said afterwards.
I expect this plot to thicken....
(4) SACK-LESS The good news for Tampa Bay, Eli Manning lost his first game against the Bucs in an amazing...six tries but the bad is he wasn't sacked all afternoon.
Sure All-Pro Gerald McCoy is winning his battles as usual but as usual he isn't getting any support. This Bucs D-Line leads the NFL in Quarterback pressures but continually can't seal the deal and get game changing sacks.
This has to change and in a hurry with the greatest QB in the history of the league ready to pick apart this team in a matter of days.
(5) BECKWITH SHINES: No doubt this Bucs defense is hamstrung by the hamstring injury of Kwon Alexander and the departure of Lavonte David--their speed and athleticism completely change the dynamics of this unit.
The silver lining is that rookie Kendell Beckwith continues to step up and handle everything thrown his way. In the preseason, he proved he could be a force on the outside and with Alexander out, he has taken on the responsibility of middle linebacker as well.
EXTRA POINT---Good news for this team is the re-emergence of the running game. Jacquizz Rodgers finished the game with 108 yards on the ground---and remember some guy named Doug Martin will be back in business just in time for the Pats......