Bucs are sliding, but Leftwich says they’re better

by Gary Shelton on November 1, 2019 · 2 comments

in general

Vea has clogged the middle for Tampa Bay./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

They have lost three in a row. They are giving up points like a pinball machine. Their quarterback is a mess.

And yet, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich says the Bucs are getting better.


“We’re getting better,” Leftwich said Thursday. “Our record may not say that, but we’re getting better. We’ve just got to make sure we keep coaching. We’re not out of this thing – that’s our approach to it. We’re going to keep coaching these guys (and) they’re going to keep continuing getting better. We had a hell of a practice today. Guys are still into it and we’re just going to keep coaching them and keep trying to get better.”

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Um, where exactly?

“As a whole, from the time we got here, from what we see right now,” Leftwich said. “I see it as a whole. Maybe the numbers don’t say that right now. We’ll add the numbers up at the end of the year and we’ll count them up and we’ll see, but it’s way too early for that. But, I see this crew getting better every day.

“I see the improvements. Maybe you guys don’t – I see the improvements. I see the work that these guys are putting in to win football games, because ultimately, we’re trying to win football games. We’re not trying to really be better statistically at this just so the world can say this – we’re trying to leave a stadium with a win, and whatever that is that we’ve got to do, we’ve got to find ways to do that. That’s our only mindset.”

The Bucs, who play the Seahawks Sunday afternoon, have been generally listed among the league's bottom six or seven teams in most of the power rankings.

“They feel close,” Leftwich said. “It’s tough winning and losing in this league week in and week out. It’s hard to explain – if you don’t give it all during the week and give everything you’ve got on Sunday, and you lose the game, that’s tough on everybody. People have no understanding of what that’s really like to give it your all every week – and you win the game, the joy that comes from winning that game, regardless of how you win it. You lose the game – the defeat that stays on you when you lose that game. I don’t think a lot of people have an understanding of what guys put themselves through from a mental and physical standpoint week in and week out, so that’s what makes it difficult. So, you try to do the things throughout the week to make sure (that) when the game’s over – at least for 24 hours – you can have that good feeling of winning a football game.”

But how about Winston? How about the miscommunication between him and his receivers.

“The newness of everything,” Leftwich said. “It was uncharacteristic of the two guys. The situations that (it) was in, it was very unusual for that to happen. It happened in a game. Usually, those things tend to happen in a practice [and] you get it corrected, but it didn’t. It happened in a game, we’ll learn from it, we’ll move on (and) we’ll go on to the Seattle Seahawks.”

Can Winston still be this team’s quarterback of the future?

“I feel that way,” Leftwich said. “We’re just not doing enough to win football games. This league is so – it’s four or five plays here and there that you’ve just got to really change and really get out of our system just as a team. That comes down to winning the football games. If you win some of those games that you lost, it’s all different – the narrative is all different. But we didn’t, so we’ve got to understand that, try to fix those plays and try to hopefully, when we have those opportunities in the future, that we make those plays to win football games.”

So far, the simple plays are beating the Bucs.

“Yeah, and that’s what we’ve got to be aware of,” Leftwich said. “We’ve got to be aware of those things and unfortunately, they’ve showed up in games where they haven’t shown up in practice. We’ve just got to correct it. We’ve just got to stay on it and have an understanding that those plays can’t happen on a Sunday, because those type of plays that I’m talking about throughout a game – you’re wasting plays, let alone the turnovers that may come from those type of plays or the negative plays that may come from those type of plays. You’ve got to find a way to get those plays out of our game – we will. I really believe that we’ll get those type of plays out of our system and we’ll start trying to find ways to win these football games.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said he was glad to see Jason Pierre-Paul back on the field against the Titans.

“He’s great in the locker room,” Bowles said. “He’s a great leader. He understands the game and he can bring guys along with him, and we have quite a few young guys over there that he can bring with him. He’s still working out some kinks, having only practiced for about two weeks now. The energy he brings – when he gets to full tilt, you can see he is going to be a force. Right now, the energy he brings, the experience he brings and the way he approaches the game and attacks the game I think is energetic enough for a lot of guys in the locker room.”

Bowles also had praise for defensive tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh.

“Like I said, (Vea) understands what is coming at him. Physically he is a specimen – he can get off the ball and do a lot of things, but if you don’t know how they’re trying to block you, and you don’t use fundamentals and technique, you are going to have a problem. I think his hands are a lot better this year. His knowledge of the game is growing every day.

“I think (Suh) has played great. I think we’ve got more than what I thought coming in because I didn’t know how intelligent he was from a mental standpoint. Physically he keeps himself in great shape, obviously taking on double-teams, understanding blocks and getting off the ball. Helping the outside guys make plays is one thing, but his intelligence of the game, how he approaches the game and the way he prepares professionally – that I didn’t know about – has been a pleasant surprise for me. I’m happy to have him.”

Bowles said there was no playing it safe for the Bucs.

“The foot is on the gas,” Bowles said. “It’s not a matter of taking the foot off the gas – we’ve just got to make sure we are doing the right things all the time.”

Bowles said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson will be a challenge.

“He’s tough. He’s one of the best in the game – he’s right up there. [He is] extremely smart. His arm is just as good as his legs. He understands what they do very well. He is a winner – he has proven that time and time again and he constantly comes at you creating pressure for you on defense. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

The Bucs-Seahawks game begins at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday.

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