BY ROY CUMMINGS
How about them Bucs?
Few saw it coming but the Bucs, who many gave up for dead a few weeks ago, have now won two in row, the second of those victories coming in the form of a 24-17 outlasting of the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
The hero this time? The defense, and in particular safety Andrew Adams, who became the first Buccaneer to pick off three passes in a game since Aqib Talib did it in a loss to the Redskins in 2009.
Adams three-pick effort was part of a continued resurgence by the Bucs defense, which has actually been on quite an impressive role since the Bucs fired former coordinator Mike Smith and replaced him with Mark Duffner.
The Bucs went into Sunday’s game ranked second in the NFL in sacks (22), fifth in third-down defense and 12th in total yards allowed since that move was made, which makes it difficult to argue with.
About the only thing the Bucs haven’t done consistently well with Duffner at the helm is take the ball away, but with two takeaways last week against San Francisco and four more Sunday, they’re starting to do that as well.
Here’s something else, the Bucs are allowing an average of only 16 points per game at home this year, and that’s including the games when Smith was in charge. The problem is, they’re allowing 38.6 points per game on the road.
This uptick in performance is just the kind of thing the Bucs owners like to see, which makes you wonder if head coach Dirk Koetter just might be able to hold on to his job after all.
The foregone conclusion for weeks is that Koetter will be fired at the end of the year, but a strong finish could change all that, and considering the way the Bucs are playing right now, maybe it should.
Let’s face it, few teams can produce yards and points with the Bucs and Koetter deserves most of the credit for that. If the defense can keep playing the way it has under Duffner, there’s cause to keep him as well.
It all makes for what should be an interesting finish to what was once a lost forgettable season for a team that is no longer in the cellar and, believe it or not, still in the playoff race.
The Jameis Winston redemption tour rolls on. Winston turned in another strong performance Sunday, completing 20-of-30 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 114.4 passer rating.
The TD passes gave Winston 81 for his career, which are the most in franchise history, one more than Josh Freeman, which is sure to elicit plenty of wise-ass remarks.
Those remarks may be valid, but the bottom line is that this was further proof that Winston can indeed be the franchise quarterback the Bucs want and need him to be and why it would be a mistake to quit on him at this point.
Winston is far from a finished product, but if the Bucs cannot guarantee they can procure a better quarterback before the start of next season, there’s no reason not to stick with Winston, for at least another year.
Boy, the Bucs really missed DeSean Jackson on Sunday, huh? Well, actually, they didn’t. Look, it’s glaringly apparent that Winston and Jackson have very little chemistry together. But that makes Jackson the outlier on this team.
On Sunday, for example, Chris Godwin caught five of the six passes thrown his way, Mike Evans caught four of six; Adam Humphries caught seven of nine and Cam Brate caught three of six while dropping two.
It seems pretty obvious that Winston has a good chemistry with just about everyone on his team except Jackson, which makes you wonder if Jackson will or even should play again this year.
Jackson missed Sunday’s game because of a sore thumb, but the Bucs didn’t need him to beat the Panthers and you really have to wonder if they’ll need him to beat anyone else left on the schedule.
A lot of people criticize DT Gerald McCoy for not making enough big plays. Whether he does or doesn’t is debatable but one thing that’s certain is that when McCoy does make a play, it really is impactful.
Take, for example, the quarterback pressure he recorded midway through the fourth quarter Sunday. It was that pressure that created the duck of a pass that Adams picked off for his second interception.
Adams went on to grab another one of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s passes, and for those keeping score at home, he had more picks in one game (three) than Darrelle Revis (two) had during his entire Bucs tenure.
Roy Cummings is the Bucs Insider for Pewter Pirates.com