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The Buccaneers season opener slipped away

by Luke Ramundo

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their season at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, with a 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Tampa Bay came into the season as a team that is in rebuilding mode. Many questions still had to be answered about starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, who has had a pretty rough couple of last years in the NFL. 

Sunday’s game was not an encouraging sign for the Bucs as Winston  threw for 194 yards, a touchdown, and a troubling three interceptions. The Bucs started off the game fairly solid with good red-zone defense and a second-quarterback pick six by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves which put the Bucs up 7-3.

San Francisco  was able to answer with only a field goal thanks to some offensive penalties. However, San Francisco’s quarterback, Jimmy Garappolo, was able to give his team the lead at the start of the second half with a touchdown pass to wide receiver, Richie James Jr. Trying to respond to the Niners’ 13-7 lead, Jameis Winston ended throwing an interception to former all-pro cornerback, Richard Sherman, who returned the interception for a touchdown which gave the 49ers a comfortable 20-7 lead. Winston, however, was able to cut the lead to 20-14 after throwing a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin. 

After a failed 57 yard field goal attempt by the 49ers, the Bucs got the ball back late in the third quarter with an opportunity  to take the lead with a touchdown and an extra point. Tampa Bay running back, Ronald Jones, was key in getting the Bucs down the field deep into San Francisco territory. The Bucs found themselves within the five yard line, but were stopped when trying to score on a fourth and goal which kept the score at 20-14. 

Tampa’s defense stood strong and was able to force the 49ers to punt. Once again, Ronald Jones was fed the ball and was able to carve up the 49ers defensive front which lead to the Buccaneers finding themselves in the red zone. The Bucs offense once again stalled and could not convert on a third down which forced them to kick a field goal which made the score 20-17. 

San Francisco’s offense, in need of a score, was able to get down the field and kick a field goal which made increased the Niners’ lead to six. The Bucs offense had to score, but on first down,  Winston threw his third interception which was returned for a touchdown by cornerback, Ahkello Witherspoon. The touchdown was scored with less than two minutes left in the 4th quarter, ending all hopes for Tampa Bay. 

This loss left a bad taste in the Bucs mouth. 

Bruce Arians, the head coach for the Bucs, said after the game, “We talked all week about winning the turnover battle, and when it’s four to two, it’s always going to be tough. But there were some really bright spots and areas that we can build off of and also learn why we’re losing instead of winning” (ESPN.com). 

Jameis Winston was the main source of turnovers for the game with three interceptions. This game does not bode well for the struggling quarterback, who has been given a last chance by the Bucs organization to prove why he should be the franchise quarterback. Since 2015, Winston leads the NFL with turnovers (79), interceptions (61), and is tied for the lead with 18 fumbles lost. Winston and the Buccaneers will look to rebound on Thursday night against the 0-1 Carolina Panthers.

Luke Ramundo can be reached at lucas.ramundo@spartans.ut.edu

 

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