The Buccaneers’ defense came to play on Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, you couldn’t say the same for the offense, as the 49ers get out of town with a 31-17 win.
The new and improved Bucs defense allowed just 256 total yards and one touchdown in the losing effort. Vernon Hargreaves had a pick-six in the first half to put the Bucs up 7-3, the first pick-six since Ronald McLain took one to the house in 2017.
The defense was able to stop the Niners numerous times, holding them to three field goals and a touchdown. This was a stark improvement from what we saw last year under the Dirk Koetter- and Mike Smith-led defense.
Jordan Whitehead and Lavonte David led the Bucs’ defense with eight and seven tackles, respectively. Shaq Barrett had the lone sack.
The offense was, well, disappointing. One offensive highlight was the play of running back Ronald Jones, who carried the ball 13 times for 75 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Last year, Jones had 44 yards all season. If Jones keeps running like this, he could take the starting job away from Peyton Barber, who had eight carries for 33 yards.
The Niners’ defensive backs kept Mike Evans in check all afternoon as the Pro Bowl receiver had just two catches for 28 yards. Richard Sherman, now 100 percent healthy after being injured much of 2018, had a pick-six for the 49ers.
Penalties continued to haunt the Bucs. DeMar Dotson was called for two penalties in the first half, stalling two Buccaneer drives. On the day, the Bucs had eight penalties for 87 yards. The 49ers also totaled 87 yards in penalties.
$20 million quarterback Jameis Winston threw three interceptions, including two pick-sixes, as he had one of his worst outings since the four four-interception against Cincinnati last season. Winston was 20-for-36 on the afternoon with 194 yards passing, one touchdown and three picks. Add in the fumble by OJ Howard, and the Bucs had four turnovers on the day.
Tampa Bay fans were expecting a lot more than what we saw and what we got from Winston. The offense took a step back from last year’s record-setting performance and could muster only 295 yards of total offense with 38 yards coming on the last drive after Winston threw his third pick of the game.
Bruce Arians in his post game conference said that he told the team the Bucs beat the Bucs. “We talked about it at half and even before the game. That was the message: when we stop beating ourselves, we will be pretty good.”
Arians also said that Winston’s decision making is a work in progress and he will get better.
The Bucs have a lot to learn and a lot to digest from this Week 1 loss. They will have to put this behind them quickly, as they travel to Carolina on Thursday night to take on the Panthers and another ex-Buccaneer in Gerald McCoy.