Behind Fitz and the blitz, Bucs snap losing streak

by Gary Shelton on November 13, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Ryan Fitzpatrick won his first game for the Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Ryan Fitzpatrick won his first game for the Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 3 a.m.

Canton will not call to ask for the game ball.

Historians will not preserve the game film.

Men will not cheer and women will not buy jerseys and children will not throw confetti.

He won, okay. Just that. In the Grumpier Old Men Bowl, Ryan Fitzpatrick outlasted Josh McCown, 15-10, by hobbling just a little bit faster Sunday afternoon. Fitzpatrick, playing for his seventh team over 13 years, beat McCown, who is playing for his eighth team over 15 years. Whee! It was 15-10, and even uglier than it sounds.

There was nothing in this one that was artistic. There was no beauty show, no display of sleek new automobiles. It was one old journeyman out-struggling another.

And yet, on Sunday, it was enough. It helped the Bucs break a five-

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Gerald McMoy sacks McCown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Gerald McCoy sacks McCown. The Bucs had six sacks./STEVEN MUNCIE

game losing streak. It allowed them to survive on a day when they were missing quarterback Jameis Winston and receiver Mike Evans. It allowed sunshine into a locker room that has been dark for more than a month.

Yeah, yeah. Fitzpatrick completed only 17 passes (of 34) for only 187 yards. He threw an interception. His rating was only 64.2. Some of his passes looked like he was mad at the turf. But when a team has lost for weeks

Adam Humpries is tackled by Maye./STEVEN MUNCIE

Adam Humphries is tackled by Maye./STEVEN MUNCIE

on end, a victory is the best present of all. Hey, if Fitz had thrown for 300 yards and the team had lost again, who would have cared?

In the NFL, you deal with different expectations when a team is playing a backup quarterback. That's why 15 points makes sense. That's why one touchdown figures. You would never be happy with those numbers from a starter; from a backup, in a win, they were enough.

“I played okay,” Fitzpatrick said. “I didn't play great by any stretch of the imagination. But we won the game. I'm getting too old to worry about that other stuff.”

That's the job for backups across the league. You steal a win when you can. You ride a good defensive day, and you limit the bad plays, and you grind it out. One of the criticisms of the Bucs is that they depend too much on Jameis Winston when he plays. Now that he is out, the backup's job is to avoid the crash.

Charles Sims III with the touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Charles Sims with the touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

For the most part, Fitzpatrick did that. Oh, he still threw too many balls straight to the ground. After an interception, he immediately threw one back to the Jets. But in the fourth period, he hit Charles Sims for a 6-yard touchdown and a 15-3 lead.

“It wasn't the most beautiful game I've been in,” said Dirk Koetter. “But I've been in a lot of beautiful games offensively where we came up short.”

Koetter had praise for Fitzpatrick, who won his first game for the Bucs.

"Gritty," Koetter said. "That's what Ryan is. He's a Get-it-Done kind of guy. He's going to make some plays you maybe don't expect him to and he might

Jameis Winston cheers teammates on./STEVEN MUNCIE

Jameis Winston cheers teammates on./STEVEN MUNCIE

miss a couple of plays you'd like him to make. But he's a tough guy and he's a competitor. You can't have enough of those guys on your team.

"Ryan just hung in there. Ryan is real even-keeled. He came off, whether it be after that one sack we gave up or the interception or a couple of three-and-outs, and he's the same guy. It's hard to win in the NFL with your No. 2 quarterback."

When he was a kid, perhaps Fitzpatrick would have been a harsher judge. Kid quarterbacks love numbers and replays and dazzle. They like making another athlete look silly. But a man grows, and he learns to appreciate winning.

“I love 300-yard games,” Fitzpatrick said. “But as I get older, I've learned just how hard it is to win in this league.That's the type of win that can kickstart a season. It was just a hard-fought game. Everyone made plays when they needed to.”

Dirk Koetter saw his team play better./STEVEN MUNCIE

Dirk Koetter saw his team play better./STEVEN MUNCIE

For the Bucs, the game also featured a defense that held the Jets without a touchdown until the final 1:25 of the game.Tampa Bay had six sacks (after having only eight on the season). The Jets averaged only 2.9 yards per rush.

But the Bucs struggled again on offense. For three quarters, all they could manage were three field goals by Patrick Murray – and where was he early in the season. But the Bucs' defense, for a change, made the opposing quarterback (ex-Buc Josh McCown) look as old and tired-armed as their quarterback.

“He did a good job,” said DeSean Jackson. “He's very familiar with the team we were playing today. So he was able to go out there confident and run his offense. We needed him to make some big plays. I needed him, the whole team needed him and we depended on him.”

Brent Grimes celebrates after getting an interception./STEVEN MUNCIE

Brent Grimes celebrates after getting an interception./STEVEN MUNCIE

Jackson has played well lately, too. In his last four games, he has 16 catches for 227 yards.

If there was a difference, however, it was in the defense. The six sacks changed the look of the Bucs. They got sacks from Robert Ayers Jr, from Gerald McCoy, from Kendell Beckwith, from Darryl Tapp, from Clinton McDonald and from Will Clark.

“We were playing like savages,” said linebacker Kwon Alexander. “You've got to take it. That's what we were trying to do.”

“It was just a mindset we had,” Beckwith said. “We knew that we had to get some better pressure on the quarterback.”

The Bucs have another opportunity on Sunday when they travel to Miami to play the Dolphins at 1 p.m. Once again, Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback.

Doug Martin pushes off the Jets defense./STEVEN MUNCIE

Doug Martin pushes off the Jets defense./STEVEN MUNCIE

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