There were a few things to be immediately taken away from the game yesterday, and the obvious ones are here. But let's dig a little further to uncover a couple more takeaways from the comeback that almost was.
-QB Jameis Winston led extremely efficient touchdown drives.
A game after the Bucs were 0-for-5 in red zone trips, they bounced back in a big way to find majority success on Sunday. Led by quarterback Jameis Winston, who came in relief of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs scored four touchdowns on four straight possessions, three of which came with the Bucs inside the red zone. Winston took his first drive of the game down to the six-yard line. On second-down, he scrambled toward the end zone after the play broke down to try and take it in himself. The ball was knocked out as he ran but took a very fortunate bounce into the end zone, where wide receiver Mike Evans pounced on it to make the recovery. It actually marked the first ever offensive fumble recovery for a touchdown in team history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
From there, Winston’s drives were extremely efficient. The next two touchdowns came on 70+ yard drives but took just 3:17 and 2:22, respectively. It pulled the Bucs within three points before the Giants were able to sneak in another score, putting them back up 10 with 3:52 to go in the game. That’s when Winston engineered a six-play, 66-yard drive that ended in a 41-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans that took just 1:30 off the clock, giving the Bucs time for another shot, even as their timeouts dwindled. Sure enough, the defense held New York to a big three-and-out and got the ball back to the offense. Unfortunately, it was with just 23 seconds left in the game. Rarely is a team that efficient. But overall, the collective effort of Winston, the offense, play calling and clock management gave the Bucs a shot down the stretch for an extremely unlikely comeback.
-The offense stuck with the run game.
Running back Peyton Barber saw his most productive game of the season behind a 106-yard performance, with a rushing touchdown to boot. Despite the fact that the Bucs were playing from behind, they never abandoned the run in favor of quicker shots through the air, and it paid off. Realizing they had an opportunity against the 25th-ranked rushing defense, they took advantage and Barber had a lot of success, including three ‘explosives’ (runs of 12 or more yards), by Head Coach Dirk Koetter’s count. More than that, Barber managed 5.9 yards a carry by the time it was all said and done.
“I thought Monk did a great job yesterday of staying with the running game even when we were down two scores,” Coach Koetter said of Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken’s play calling. “Peyton – with 18 carries and a couple of throws – I think Peyton had three explosives. Peyton’s ability to make yards after contact, to break tackles, to get some of those explosives. I think we only had two negative runs all day yesterday.”
Running the ball is essential piece of the play action puzzle, which opens up another dimension to the offense. If offenses can be a dual threat in both the running and passing game, it spreads the defense thin on what it needs to defend against. At the end of the day, the Bucs put up their second-highest point total of the season, largely because the Giants didn’t have an answer for the offense when it was on the field. The Bucs had their second 500+ yard game of total offense in a row. It was just the turnovers that ended up stalling the scoring and forcing them to play from behind.
-Another game with no takeaways and multiple turnovers does the Bucs in again.
Speaking of those turnovers, the Bucs had a total of four interceptions on Sunday. That, coupled with the fact that the defense couldn’t take the ball away either resulted in another increase in the Bucs’ turnover margin, which is already well into the minus column. There are no excuses on either side of the ball, this is something Coach Koetter is adamant about. However, the Bucs are about to face a team that has even less takeaways than they do in the San Francisco 49ers, who come to town this Sunday.
“It’s boggled on both ends that we have that few takeaways and that many giveaways,” Coach Koetter said, not mincing words. “It’s a ridiculous number to have the disparity be that much. What’s even crazier is we play a team coming up this week that has one fewer takeaway than we do which seems impossible, but it is a fact. Now, they don’t have as many turnovers as we do. This is working hand-and-hand. It’s a two-way-street. You’ve got to – the whole turnover margin thing those numbers are proven over time. If you win the turnover margin, if you’re at least even in the turnover margin, your winning percentage is going to go up. If you’re plus in the turnover margin, your winning percentage is going to go up. We’ve had a long, long streak of games here where we’re in the minus column in turnover ratio, and it’s not like it’s just minus one. It’s just a significant stat and it’s the number one things that’s hurting our team. Obviously, I’m not doing a good enough job of emphasizing it, coaching it or whatever, but that’s where we’re at.”
It's true that it’s a significant stat in determining wins and losses. Of course, it’s not perfect and you don’t need to look further than the Bucs’ past games for proof. Each game the Bucs have won has been different. Their Week One win against the Saints saw them win the turnover battle, forcing two fumbles from the Saints and not committing a turnover of their own. They tied the Eagles the next week with two apiece. Then they actually lost the turnover battle against the Browns by a 4:1 margin, which might clue you in as to why the game was won on a 59-yard field goal in overtime. The point is, it doesn’t necessarily count you out, but it does make things more difficult. And unfortunately, it’s not something that can be remedied with an extra drill here or emphasis there. With the 49ers not taking the ball away this year other, there is an opportunity for the Bucs to not commit costly turnovers and maximize their potency on offense come Sunday.
View Team Photographer Kyle Zedaker's top photos from the Buccaneers' Week 11 matchup against the New York Giants.