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Bucs Start Second Half Off Right With Victory Over Chicago
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Take Care of Business Against the Visiting Chicago Bears Earning a Solid 36-10 Victory to Earn First Home Win of the 2016 Season
In what could be labeled as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ most complete effort all the way around this season, Dirk Koetter’s squad had it going in every facet of the game. Offensively, the Buccaneers, outside of a tipped ball interception by Jameis Winston to Cecil Shorts, limited turnovers and got going in the second quarter after their usual slow start.
The defense finally took center stage Sunday afternoon and disrupted, harassed and chased Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler all day. The Bucs defense forced four sacks and picked off two passes, including a 20-yard return for a touchdown by safety Chris Conte in the first quarter. Immense pressure on the defensive line by Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald, who made his first appearance back in the lineup since Week 4 against the Denver Broncos. With a defense coming off a combined two-game stretch in which they nearly allowed over 1,000 yards passing to Oakland’s Derek Carr and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan combined, holding Cutler to under 200 yards is huge heading into Week 11’s matchup against the red hot Kansas City Chiefs, who did the Buccaneers a favor this week by upending the Carolina Panthers on a game-winning field goal.
There’s a lot of good to take away from this victory, even though many can say the Buccaneers were facing a broken down Bears’ club without Brian Hoyer, who would likely be the team’s starter if he were healthy, and wide receiver Kevin White, who is out due to injury. Nonetheless, the Buccaneers took full advantage of that and turned in a masterful performance on all ends. Even place kicker Roberto Aguayo had likely his best day yet as a pro, connecting on all four of his extra point attempts and knocking down field goals from 27 and 30 yards out, respectively.
Seeing Doug Martin in the backfield was a welcoming sight for everyone, most of all for the Buccaneers’ offense, which has been lacking a primary ball carrier, with injuries to Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith basically depleting the team down to Peyton Barber. Though Martin only rushed the ball 16 times for a mere 33 yards on the ground, his presence alone helped bring confidence to Winston and gave the Bears’ defense something to think about when Koetter lined the team up in I-formation packages. The threat of Martin up the middle gave way to steady play-action passes by Winston, who threw for 312 yards and two more touchdowns, bringing his season total to 19.
Stepping up in the passing game was Shorts and tight end Cameron Brate, who made a game-high seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Top wideout Mike Evans was his usual self, catching four balls for 66 yards, including an unbelievable 38-yard grab off of Winston’s incredible scramble escape from nearly everyone on the Bears’ defensive line. Winston found a balance and spread the ball around nicely to his receiving corps, finding nine different receivers in the passing game. The usual close to 15 targets a game Evans was receiving just wasn’t equaling wins, and the adjustment could be seen that Winston would not be eyeing down one receiver.
If the Buccaneers can continue to play steady offensive football, combined with a very opportunistic defense, this could be a very interesting final seven games for Dirk Koetter and Tampa Bay. Will it equal a trip to the postseason? That is yet to be seen, but at some point Tampa Bay will have to string together some wins and what better time than now to go on a streak.
It’s a start with a solid 36-10 victory against Chicago.