Bucs win comeback behind the old Folk at home

by Gary Shelton on October 2, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Nick Folk struggled early, but he hit the game-winning field goal./STEVEN MUNCIE

Nick Folk struggled early, but he hit the game-winning field goal./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 3 a.m.

First down and brain damage, you could hear the louder fans thinking, and Dirk Koetter was playing for the field goal.

Was he kidding? Should he be concussion protocol? There were 41 seconds left, and the Bucs had a first-and-10 at the Giants' 13? Why was Jameis Winston rolling to his right, until he reached the midpoint of the field, and collapsing for a two-yard loss?

It was as if there were giant thought-bubbles over the crowd. You could read those who wondered why you would trust the game to a kicker who could kick straight.

Why, Nick Folk had missed an extra point. And a field goal. And another field goal. It was like Roberto Aguayo was back in town, and he had brought Kyle Brindza with him. Nothing against Folk, but hadn't he earned himself the night off?

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Jameis Winston was five-for-five in the winning drive./STEVEN MUNCIE

Jameis Winston was five-for-five in the winning drive./STEVEN MUNCIE

Second down and numbskull. Koetter was committed to his plan.

There were 35 seconds to play now, plenty of time to throw a fade to Mike Evans. Granted, Koetter's quarterback has been known to throw an interception or two, but he was five-for-five in this drive. Isn't that why you drafted him No. 1? Don't you let him throw once before trying another field goal from a wayward kicker?

But Winston knelt again, and the clock moved forward.

Cameron Brate catches the ball for a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Cameron Brate catches the ball for a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Third down and genius? Okay, you had your doubts, and you were entitled to them. By the time you rolled your eyes, and by the time you wondered if Koetter had seen the same misses you had seen, Folk was on the field, and his 34-yard field goal was good. The clock had been milked, and there was nothing for the Giants to do but watch.

And then you thought: What a mastermind.

Folk kicked a 34-yard field goal. And the Bucs won, 25-23, over the New York Giants.

“No doubt about it,” Koetter said afterward.

This is the result of a player kicking himself out of jail. If Folk had missed another one, there might be a bus ticket waiting at his locker. Certainly, the kicking caravan would schedule a stop in Tampa. Folk had already cost his team seven points; 10 would have been inviting trouble.

“It's probably the worst I've ever felt after a game-winning kick,” Folk said.

Adam Humphries caught six balls for 70 yards./STEVEN MUNCIE

Adam Humphries caught six balls for 70 yards./STEVEN MUNCIE

Folk missed an extra point, and then he missed from 46 and 49 yards. He turned an easy win for the Bucs into one of those skin-of-your-teeth jobs.

“It was fun in the end,” Folk said. “It was a rough middle part, but it was fun in the end. Those other three hurt. I left seven points out there today.”

Ah, but in the kicking game, the last kick often counts the most. This will be remembered as a game Folk won; not one he almost lost.

“Oh, Nick's a pro,” said Koetter. “He's going to make that kick every time. They (kickers) have to make it. That's what they get paid to do. He was going to make that kick. No doubt in my mind. You play the percentages. You make them use their time outs. You run the clock down.”

Gerald McCoy makes a late tackle on Eli Manning./STEVEN MUNCIE

Gerald McCoy makes a late tackle on Eli Manning./STEVEN MUNCIE

Evidently, the players on the field didn't have any misgivings. It was the kicker's down, and Koetter was going to go down facing the odds.

“I was watching,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “I believed in him. I wasn't concerned at all. He's that type of guy. It's the NFL. You're gong to have some ups and downs, but everybody on the sideline knew what he was capable of. It was almost like 'Here we go. We have another home win.' That's what our mindset was.”

Ah, but the Bucs won. On a day when Dallas lost, and New England and Atlanta, it was good enough.

They won because Winston was terrific. He hit 22 of 38 for 332 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 113.0 quarterback rating. He also got his fourth fourth-quarter comeback and his seventh game winning drive.

They won because Jacquizz Rodgers finally got the ball. He ran 16 times (five last week) and gained 83 yards.

Jacquizz Rodgers gained 87 yards for Tampa Bay./STEVEN MUNCIE

Jacquizz Rodgers gained 87 yards for Tampa Bay./STEVEN MUNCIE

They won because four receivers – Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard 00 had at least 63 yards receiving.

They won because Bryan Anger averaged 49.8 yards per punt, including two inside the 20.

They won because they gave up only 3.3 yards per rush to the Giants (28-91).

They won because sub linebackers Kendall Beckwith (nine tackles) and Adarius Glanton (six) played well.

They won because they had last ups. Winston hit Cameron Brate for a 14-yard touchdown with 7:49 to play, but Eli Manning brought his team back and hit Rhett Ellison for a two-yard score with 3:22 to play. That set up Winston's drive.

And, they won because of a kid quarterback who swallows big moments. Let's face it: There are some games that Winston can drive fans crazy with his decisions, and there are some when he isn't as accurate as he could be. But Winston likes these game-winning drives.

Think about that last drive. Humphries for six. A scramble for seven. Evans for 14. Evans for four. Brate for five. Brate for 26. After that, it was all setting up Folk for his game winner.

Of course, if a fan is to quibble, he will start with all of the points the Bucs didn't claim. Mike Evans was touched down at the half-yard line, and the team couldn't get in. There were the seven points squandered by Folk. There was the complete lack of a pass rush.

But it's the NFL. Teams win by close margins if they win at all. No sense in throwing one back.

The Bucs don't have a lot of time to breathe. Thursday night, they play host to the New England Patriots in an 8:25 p.m. game at Raymond James Stadium.

Bucs defense take down the Giants./STEVEN MUNCIE

Bucs defense take down the Giants./STEVEN MUNCIE

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller October 2, 2017 at 7:10 am

Doesn’t it seem like the Bucs have the NFL version of a golfer’s putting yips when they get in the red zone? I mean 1st and goal from the 1 yard line and they can’t score a TD! Come on, man.

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Gary Shelton October 2, 2017 at 8:05 am

I don’t think this team is built for short-yardage. The backs are tiny. They could use a guy in the backfield who can move the pile. I did think the team shouldhave tried a sneak. Winston’s a tall, strong kid.

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