Winston helps Bucs escape from his own mess

by Gary Shelton on December 9, 2019

in general

Evans pulls a muscle as he scores on a 61-yard touchdown./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 p.m.

In the end, good Jameis was just a little bit better than bad Jamies.

Good Jameis came back from 14 points down,with a bad hand, with his favorite reciever hurt. Bad Jameis threw for a career-high 458 yards and four touchdowns, the last one to Breshad Perriman. Good Jameis set a new career yardage record and overcame threw embarrassing interceptions and won his sixth game of the season, as many as he has won the last two seasons combined. Good Jamies completed his seventh fourth quarter comeback behind a battered offensive line.

Bad Jamies? He threw three more picks. Of course he did. He had another one returned for a touchdown. He helped dig his team a hole that it barely escaped from. Few quarterbacks would have escaped from the straight jacket he put his team in. Fortunately for the Bucs, Winston is one of them.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Winston threw for a career-high 456 yards and led his team to a comeback./JEFFREY S. KING

“It’s a damn good thing I’m a young, healthy man as coaching the nicest team in the league," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "We just love spotting fifteen, seventeen points to the other team and then coming back to beat them. It was a crazy game. I felt at halftime, once we got it back to a score, we were in good shape. You probably thought I was hollering a cussing. I didn’t have to because some veterans did that for me. It didn’t all go great in the second half. But, we were able to stick together, make a turnover, get good pressure on the field goal miss, and go down and score to win the game. The resiliency of this team is growing on me. Three [wins] in a row. That’s a good football team [that is] missing some guys. But, we made a couple of receivers look like [former Colts’ wide receivers] Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. It wasn’t our best, but we won – that’s nice.”

Arians said the second interception would have crushed most quarterbacks.

“I haven’t been around too many (that have) overcome it," Arians said. "That usually crushes a guy. The first one, we have 50 minutes – let’s go. But, the second one, after we created the turnover and give it back, to then go down to win the game just speaks a lot about the guy’s character.”

Perriman catches the winning touchdown./JEFFREY S. KING

The thumb injury could have shelved him, too.

“He was fine at halftime," Arians said. "Then when he went to go grip the ball, he couldn’t grip it. So, they X-rayed his thumb and he’s got a little, bitty fracture – nothing serious. He was able to get his strength back and come back in.”

"It was by the grace of God," Winston said. "He willed me through.

“Think about the day. Starting left tackle got banged up. One of the best receivers in the world is out and I hurt my thumb a little bit and we still pulled this game off. We had key guys – Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson. The running game was efficient today. Our offensive line, they pulled together and they led the charge and that’s why we won this game offensively. The defense did their part. We’ve got a bunch of great leaders on the defensive side of the ball that got some great stops for us."

Evans pulled a hamstring on his 61-yard touchdown pass and missed the rest of the game. Even without him, the Bucs gained 562 yards of offense. They need most of it so Quarterback Jeckell could overcome Quarterback Hyde.

It was Winston's third game when he has passed for more than 400 yards, but the first time the Bucs have won.

It's only the second three-game winning streak of Winston's career. The first was a five-game streak in his second season.

Watson catches his first touchdown catch./JEFFREY S. KING

Meanwhile,. the Bucs have won three in a row and four of their last five. They have a chance to get to .500 next week when they travel to Detroit.

Rookie Devin White reminds his teammates to play smarter.

“It was just we were playing dumb, that’s all we came in and talked about," White said. "The whole thing was just play one play at a time and when we went back out to play a smarter second half than we did first half. I think we did that, even on the defensive side of the ball. At the end of the half we were in Cover 2 and we give up the deep ball. [There is] nothing coach [Todd] Bowles can put us in that’s better than that. It’s just playing dumb football and being too relaxed. I think we didn’t respect them as a whole. I think we just felt like we could come out here and dominate, which we should. We’re supposed to have that approach week in and week out. At the end of the day we have to respect our opponent, but we’ve got to make them respect us as well by going out there and dominating them.”

Edwards recovers key fumble for Bucs' defense./JEFFREY KING

Lightning respond with 7-1 victory over Sharks

by Gary Shelton on December 8, 2019

in general

Vasilevskiy had 37 saves for the Lightning,/CHUCK MULLER

Sunday, 4 a.m

For two days, they were awful.

For two days, the defensemen of the Tampa Bay Lightning would look at each other and lower their eyes. They were not good enough. They were not sturdy enough. They were not dependable enough. They had the best goaltender in the league last season. They had the best defender. And still, they were surrendering goals at an alarming rate.

It had to stop.

And, for a night, it did.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Verhaeghe celebrates his first goal in Tampa Bay's 7-1 win./CHUCK MULLER

The Lightning came out strong Saturday night, stopping a dangerous San Jose team in a 7-1 win. They were called for three penalties in the first eight minutes of the game and killed off them all and coasted to one of their easiest wins of the year.

Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson each scored two goals for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevski stopped 37 of 38 goals. Also scoring for the Bolts were Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and rookie Carter Verhaegen.

"Wwe talked a lot about what matters to us," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We saw the scores: 2-1, 21 2-1, 2-0. We can’t be giving up those goals. It’s going to read that we gave up 38 shotss. Btt we saw them all. They weren’t heart-stopping shots. They wren’t huge danger-zone chances. It was our attention to detail in our end that led to our win today."

Cooper was pleased to see Verhaegen's first goal.

"The a kid gets his first," Cooper said. "He deserved it. He was really good tonight. That line was outstanding. It’s my seventh seven. iIve seen a  lot of guys score their first . The feeling never changes. He’s got something to built on now. "

Stamkos said the game was a huge one for the players.

"It  started with those penalty kills at the beginning of the game," Stamkos said. "You never want to put  yourself in those positions. It starts with Vasiy making some big saves. You could see that the crowd appreciated the  sacrifice the guys had. We could tell we were going to have a good effort. It’s been a tough couple of days reflecting on that performance (against Minnesota). We rebounded well."

The Lightning is home Monday night against the New York Islanders. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.

Prediction: Bucs should hold off Indianapolis

by Gary Shelton on December 7, 2019

in general

Evans leads the Bucs against the Colts/TIM WIRT

Saturday, 4 a.m.

If there really is a difference to the Tampa Bay Bucs, they win win this game.

They are playing well. They are at home. The Colts are on a losing streak. The secondary is growing up. The defensive line is strong. The quarterback is making (slightly) more good plays than bad ones. The wide receivers are game-breakers. The kicking game is solid.

So, yeah, if the Bucs are at least an average team, they win this game.


Do you trust team yet? Has three wins in their last four games convinced you that there is a difference to these Bucs? Have they convinced you that you can trust them to take it to the field?

The Colts, who won five of six earlier in the year, have lost four of their last five games (and scored less than 20 points in three of their last four). They threw for 309 yards last week, but before that, they had five straight games with less than 200 yards throwing.

If the Bucs can control the passing game, as they have the last two weeks in wins over the Falcons and Jaguars, they should be able to score enough to get within one game of .500.

When they were 3-7, would you have thought that was possible?

Predictio: Tampa Bay 27. Indianapolis 20.

Lightning loses to Wild as defense struggles

by Gary Shelton on December 6, 2019

in general

Hedman scored his 100th goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m

Defense? What defense?

The Tampa Bay Lightning offered barely any resistance to the Minnesota Wild Thursday night, losing an embarrassing 5-4 defeat at Amalie Arena that left their head coach fuming and their players red-faced.

The Lightning fell to 13-10-3 with the loss. Goaltender Andrei Vaselivskiy stopped only 16 of 21 shots on the night.

The Lightning suffered two quick go-ahead goals. After tying the game at 3-3 on a goal by Victor Hedman, the Wild scored the tie-breaker in only 36 seconds. Later, when the Lightning tied the game at 4-4 on a goal by Alex Killorn, the Wild took just eight second to break the tie.

"One too many?" said coach Jon Cooper/. "We’re giving up three too many. The pride we're taking in our d-zone is unacceptable right now. Here we've thrown some good games together lately where we've played pretty well. But you're giving up goals like that. In this league, you’ve got no chance. No chance.

"You’re going to come and say ‘hey, you’re going to score four goals tonight.” You're thinking you’re going to win the game, not play a game where you’re going to get no point. there’s going to have to be a little urgency and not score your way to wins."

For the second straight game, the Lightning gave up three goals in the first period. But the inability to protect its net after scoring was the crusher.

“We talk it eye to eye," Cooper said. "It’s the biggest shift of the game. One's within (36) seconds and a blown zone coverage. The other one should never happen  It’s unacceptable after you’ve worked so hard to get the tying goal. You can’t give those up."

ampa Bay, which is 1-3-1 over its last five games, got goals from Erik CernakMikhail SergachevVictor Hedman and Alex Killorn

The Lightning is home against the San Jose Sharks Saturday night at Amalie Arena. The puck is schedule to drop at 7 p.m.


Not even the Bucs saw Barrett coming

December 6, 2019 general

Friday, 3 a.m In the beginning, way back about 14 1/2 sacks ago, Todd Bowles wasn’t quite sure what he had in Shaq Barrett. Probably, he didn’t think he had the NFL’s leading sack master. “I mean we knew he was a solid player,” defensive coordinator Bowles said, looking back. “I didn’t know how much […]

Read the full article →

Bucs’ Jones remains the team’s starting runner

December 5, 2019 general

Wednesday, 4 a.m. He backslid a little bit, but Ronald Jones is no longer running in place. “He’s still my guy,” says Bucs’ coach Bruce Arians. Jones was benched against Jacksonville Sunday for missing a blitz pickup, finishing the day with only eight yards on six carries. To some, it might have been reminiscent of […]

Read the full article →

Lightning snaps losing skid with win over Preds

December 4, 2019 general

Wednesday, 4 a.m If the turnaround is to come perhaps it will start with the stars. Perhaps it will happen in an intense game, perhaps in overtime. Perhaps it will come on a perfect pass from Steven Stamkos to Nikita Kucherov, who will poke it past an Honored opponent such as Pekka Renne of the […]

Read the full article →

USF needs to be smart in naming its new coach

December 4, 2019 general

Wednesday, 3 a.m. Sometimes, when a program is lost, when it has no early idea where it is headed, the only thing to do is to remind itself of where it has been. For the USF Bulls, that would be a mistake. Hey, no would blame the Bulls for dumping head coach Charlie Strong. Strong […]

Read the full article →

Looking back at the Bucs’ win over Jacksonville

December 3, 2019 general

5 Thoughts You might think that James Winston has to be flawless for the Bucs to win. He doesn’t. In the Bucs’ five wins this season, he has five interceptions. In the Bucs’ five losses, he has 15. Even with Bruce Arians’ faulty math, that’s too many. 2. Do you think Donovan Smith saw the […]

Read the full article →

Bucs impressive in their second straight victory

December 2, 2019 general

Monday, 4 a.m. Are you ready for this? Are you braced? Are you prepared for a Tampa Bay Bucs team that is at least competitive? Certainly, you have waited long enough. Certainly, you have seen this team lost in the wilderness for enough seasons, wasting enough potential, squandering enough talent. Certainly, you have seen enough […]

Read the full article →