Bucs’ offense faces challenge in Kuechly

by Gary Shelton on December 21, 2017 · 3 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston goes against Newton (1) this week./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston goes against Newton (1) this week./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 2 a.m.

For a change, the Bucs had life. For a change, they had sizzle.

Jameis Winston was very good. Mike Evans was very good. Peyton Barber was very good.

Now comes the defense of the Carolina Panthers, ranked fifth in the NFL and smelling blood. Of all of the Bucs' opponents this year, only the Vikings have a better defense.

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Winston struggled against the Panthers earlier./CARMEN MADATO

Winston struggled against the Panthers earlier./CARMEN MADATO

Can the Bucs' offense, which managed but three points the last time they played Carolina, make it a game against linebacker Luke Kuechly and his friends?

Kuechly was the only Panther voted into the Pro Bowl off the 10-4 Panthers.

In the earlier game between the two, Winston had 17 incompletions, two interceptions and only 210 yards passing.

“He is the best that we’ve gone against,” Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said. “We’ve gone against him many times and he is the best. I think there (are) probably other players in the league that know what is coming, but he also verbalizes it and tries to get everybody else on board.

“I think the thing for me, just studying him over the years, he’s off the charts but when he tries to get everyone else (on the same page), they don’t always get it. When you really look at the tape, sometimes they are all right [and] sometimes if just one guy is off — like any play — then it doesn’t always help. But, he knows your tendencies. There was a game a couple years ago when as soon as Jameis [Winston] made the check, he was calling out the play (and) what our check was. We do have to be constantly on guard about trying to give him different looks and trying to change it up, but the guy is sharp.”

Koetter said the Panthers are very good across the defensive front.

“Their front seven is top notch,” Koetter said. “The other thing is, even though they play some man, they are what you call a vision-zone team, where they are playing zone but they are looking at the quarterback. I think that gives them confidence and they play what we call palms coverage where the corner knows that he has help from the safety and he is looking at the quarterback, so he has a little more freedom to jump routes. I think they made the decision a year or so ago to go with two young guys and I think they have both improved a lot. I think they both really compete hard and I think they both do a good job of fitting within what their system demands of them. I just don’t think they ask them to play a ton of man, but they can play man. I don’t look at Carolina at all and say that corners are the weak spot of their defense. That is not really how we look at them.”

Across the line of scrimmage, the Bucs again have to contend with quarterback Cam Newton.

“He is arguably their best running back on the team,” said defensive coach Mike Smith. “I don’t mean to take anything away from the guys that don’t receive the snap that do run the ball, but he is a big, strong guy and often time in defenses you aren’t always accounting for the quarterback. You have to do that when you are playing the Carolina Panthers. They are running him more. He is their leading rusher in terms of average, so he is a guy that we’ve got to make sure we can get him on the ground and have guys that are going to be shadowing him on certain defensive calls.”

Making it tougher for the Bucs is their run defense, which has been inconsistent this season. Against Atlanta last week, the Bucs gave up 201 yards on the ground.

“We have not played the run consistently, just like we haven’t played the pass consistently all season,” Smith said. “I can think of three games where we’ve had close to 200 yards run up on us. It comes down to everybody is responsible for a gap and when you’re not in your gap, the back is able to roll back and if he gets into that gap it’s into the second level. That’s been the story of what we’ve done this year in terms of the negative things. We haven’t been very consistent in anything that we’ve done. When you’re not holding your gap, good running teams are going to be able to run the football on you.”

The Bucs' game time is 1 p.m. in Charlotte on Sunday.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Shelton December 22, 2017 at 10:45 am

This letter below that Scott Myers wrote to Stu Sternberg over 4 years ago, becomes more prescient with every passing year. Scott’s response disappeared, so here goes:

August 11, 2014

Subject: Baltimore Orioles celebrate their 60th anniversary

Mr. Stuart Sternberg

Hi Stu,

I am writing this letter to you to urge you to watch this video, if you have not already done so.
It is entitled “Baltimore Orioles celebrate their 60th anniversary” and is available at:

The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles after the 1953 season (54 wins/100 losses) and duplicated that record in their 1st season in Baltimore – essentially starting out in Baltimore at the same quality level as a modern day expansion team.

As the years rolled by, and six Hall of Famers spent significant parts or all of their careers with the Orioles (Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken), they enjoyed more than their ‘fair share’ of success winning 6 AL pennants and 3 World Series. And, of course there were many other very good players to complement these stars, such as Boog Powell, Paul Blair, Don Buford, Al Bumbry, Ken Singleton, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan, Rick Dempsey, …

The organization was run strategically, not tactically. Contrast that to the Rays – once a very good or great player gets ‘too expensive’, he is gone – Carl Crawford, James Shields, BJ Upton, David Price, etc… The Rays are completing their 17th season in the major leagues this year and have one World Series appearance to show for it, with little apparent hope of getting to another anytime soon. By the end of the Orioles 17th season (1970) they had 3 World Series appearances and 2 World Series Wins, with a very bright near term future.

It’s hard to tell if you have cash flow problems since you are less than transparent regarding all of your team’s revenues (local TV, network TV, revenue sharing, etc.). If you do have a cash flow problem, then you should sell the team for a HUGE profit – there are still 450 US billionaires that do NOT own a major league sports franchise (only about 41 or 42 currently do). If you find just one interested in buying the Rays, you will make an enormous amount of money; if you find 2 or more, you will makes an obscene amount of money because of the bidding process. And you can be greatly heartened by the near future probable sales of the LA Clippers for about $2 billion and the Buffalo Bills (have not been to postseason since 1999 – longest playoff drought in the NFL) for about $1.3 billion.

For the Rays to be successful under any owner, as long as they are in Tampa Bay, they need to win and there has to be a strong economy. Without both of those conditions, the Rays will never draw well no matter where the stadium is. Hopefully the economy will cooperate going forward.

You and your organization have proved that you can do quite a bit with less, but you will never build a strong franchise here in Tampa Bay without doing more, and without giving up your tactical approach to expenditures.

If you can’t become strategic with your ownership of the Rays, it is time to take your considerable profit and move on.

Thanks for listening.


Scott Myers


Bill MYERS December 21, 2017 at 9:05 am

If the Bucs win then they win ! If ten more players go down and we win where is the real victory? I know….. pride and momentum is all that is left to play for! On the bright side , lose another game or two (but not on purpose) and the draft spot may improve. So sad to see this team in this position! There was so much promise for a winning season too! Can we blame it on the Hard Knocks?


Gary Shelton December 21, 2017 at 1:24 pm

I think you blame it on a defense that we thought would be better off, with an offense that didn’t mesh, with kickers that were not ready for prime time.


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