BY ROY CUMMINGS
Back in the good old days, when Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch were protecting the Buccaneers end zone and the Bucs won more often than they lost, the Bucs defense made a weekly promise.
“Give us 17 points and we’ll take care of the rest.”
The current Bucs finally played a lot like those Bucs of old on Sunday. Now, they weren’t special in any way, but for the first time all year, the current Bucs gave up less than 21 points.
And guess what? They still lost. The final score was a very un-Buccaneer-like 16-3 and it came despite the offense, as is its want, racking up 501 yards. So how did they manage to drop this one?
Here we go
This game came down to red zone play. In particular, it came down to the play of the Bucs offense in the red zone, where we’re going to say Tampa Bay went 1-for-6 on the day. And it was a bad 1-for-6.
The Bucs first red-zone opportunity, which came on their first possession, ended with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception on a ball he underthrew for running back Shaun Williams at the goal line.
Their second red-zone opportunity ended with kicker Chandler Catanzaro missing a 30-yard field goal. Their third resulted in Catanzaro actually making a 33-yard field goal, but then the real fun began.
On their fourth trip inside the Redskins 20, the Bucs got as far as the 16. Then on third-and-7, center Ryan Jensen fired his snap past Fitzpatrick for a 14-yard loss to the 30. Catanzaro then missed the ensuing 48-yard field-goal try.
The Bucs next advance into the red zone won’t go down as an official red zone possession because they never ran a play from scrimmage inside the red zone but we’re going to call it a red zone opp anyway and here’s why.
On a first-and-10 play from the Redskins 28, Fitzpatrick hit running back Jacquizz Rodgers with a short pass over the middle that Rodgers ran 10 yards with to the Redskins 18.’
It was there that linebacker Zack Brown came up from behind and popped the ball out of Rodgers arms so hard that the ball rolled in and out of the end zone for a touchback.
Finally, Fitzpatrick finished off the kind of game that got Jameis Winston benched as the Bucs starting quarterback by losing a fumble at his own 7 with a little more than three minutes left on the clock.
Score there and the Bucs have a chance to win this game, but that ended all hope of the Bucs winning what was yet another winnable game against yet another beatable team, which doesn’t bode well for coach Jason Licht’s future.
The Bucs are a team that simply can’t seem to put all the winning ingredients together on the same day. If it’s not their defense that lets them down, it’s their kicker and if it’s not their kicker it’s their red zone offense.
On Sunday it was the kicker and the red-zone offense, and given that Fitzpatrick was responsible for two of those blown scoring chances, you have to wonder if the time has come to go back to Winston.
The belief here is that it has. The switch back to Fitzpatrick has not provided the Bucs with the spark it was designed to and he’s not playing any worse than Winston was when he was benched.
Granted, the Bucs lost on Sunday for reasons that stretch far beyond quarterback play. But that’s been the case all year. So why not go back to Winston right now? It certainly can’t hurt.
Roy Cummings is the Bucs Insider for pewterpirates.com