The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued to prepare for the last road trip of a five-game stretch where they haven't seen the inside of their stadium since September 22. They have one more stadium to visit before they return home and it will be the loudest they encounter all season, according to those who have been there. Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich knows that firsthand as he spoke on that, along with other topics, during Thursday's media availability.
1. Bucs are Improving as a Whole
While the Bucs are sitting at a 2-5 record and 'angry' as Coach Arians said in his press conference yesterday, it may be important to zoom out a little bit. Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich, when told of specific statistics the Bucs seem to have regressed in, said that as coaches, they aren't necessarily looking at statistics. They look for more intangible elements to show improvement. And make no mistake, he's seen improvement overall as the season has progressed.
"As a whole, from the time we got here, from what we see right now – I see it as a whole," Leftwich said. "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."
Arians spoke of 'growing pains' the team has been going through, and while there may be more than anticipated, learned a new offense and really grasping it can take time. Arians, Leftwich and even Bowles, who spoke after Leftwich, all conveyed the same sentiment: the team is close – they just need to learn how to finish games. And once they do that, winning is contagious.
2. Miscommunication Between Winston and Receivers can be Attributed to 'Newness' of System
Those aforementioned growing pains are rearing their ugly heads in the form of some miscommunication between quarterback Jameis Winston and his receivers. Getting used to the routes, the timing and the options available to them is no small feat and there have been some drops and untimely turnovers that have come as a result.
The good news is that Leftwich doesn't believe these mistakes are here to say. He went so far as to call the mistakes made as 'uncharacteristic' of the guys who are making them, and as a result, should be easily correctable.
"The newness of everything," Leftwich explained. "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."
3. CenturyLink is Leftwich's Favorite Place to Play Because of Football Atmosphere
Seattle is notorious for the '12s' or their fans that pack CenturyLink Field, making it one of the loudest atmospheres in football. Though it's an outdoor stadium, every player or coach that has been inside the building calls it an exciting place to play – and if you're Arians or Leftwich, you like that sort of thing.
The love Arians has for playing in Seattle may have something to do with his record there. While head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, also in the NFC West, Arians went 4-1 in the Pacific Northwest. He said he likes playing in those loud and boisterous environments, and his offensive coordinator was quick to agree.
"They've always been a very good defense every time I've had an opportunity to go up there – actually every year I've coached," Leftwich said. "It's a very fun place to play. It's a very loud place to play. The guys won't need a lot to get juiced up. It's an exciting place – one of my favorite places to play. I love the atmosphere there. It smells, it looks like, everything about is says 'Football.' It's just a good place to play. It's always a good atmosphere. It's always tough for the opponent that comes in there because of how loud it really is. You can't simulate it until you actually get there, so we're going to prepare for it, make sure our communication is right, and we're going to try to go up there and see if we can play well."