SAN DIEGO — Who are these guys?
In recent seasons, the Bucs have found ways to lose games. To turn sure wins into disappointing losses.
Not these days. These Bucs are finding ways to win games that look lost. They were being outplayed for a half Sunday against the Chargers, but they rallied and found a way. The 28-21 victory has Tampa Bay in pretty good shape heading into the final quarter of the season. With that, let's hand out some grades.
Oh no. Not more issues for rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo. He was a second-round draft pick, you know. He missed a 31-yarder in the first half that at least didn't come back to haunt the Bucs. Come on, 31-yarders have to be automatic, especially in pretty perfect conditions, like San Diego's were. He did come back with field goals of 27 and 35 yards in the second half. But you wonder how much confidence the Bucs have in Aguayo when the game — and a possible playoff spot — is on the line. GRADE: C
Old stomping grounds
The Murphy has seen better days. Sorry, Qualcomm Stadium. It was the site of Tampa Bay's 2003 Super Bowl victory, so it holds a special place in the hearts of Bucs fans. But it feels like a stadium that was built in 1967. Which it was. The video screen is like watching TV on one of those old Watchmans, and I swear the PA system is somebody's boom box. It used to be a cool place, but it's no wonder the Chargers just can't play here anymore. GRADE: D
It might be time to recognize just how good of a coach Mike Smith is. The Bucs' coordinator watched his defense get chewed up in the first half. But after some halftime adjustments, the Bucs came out in the second half and played lights out. Several players, including star of the day Lavonte David, credited Smith's adjustments as the reason the Bucs played so well when it mattered. GRADE: A
The Bucs lost key pieces when receivers Cecil Shorts and Adam Humphries went down with injuries. And how both were injured is part of the NFL's ever-increasing issues with player safety. Shorts suffered a knee injury when Chargers safety Jahleel Addae went low and took out his knees after a catch over the middle. If Addae had gone high, he might have been penalized for a head shot, and he might have given Shorts a concussion. I'm guessing Shorts would rather have been hit high than in the legs. Then again, Humphries went out with a concussion because he was hit high. It's a no-win situation for anybody. GRADE: F
You can never talk too much about what Jameis Winston means to his team. The quarterback was 20-of-30 for 280 yards and one touchdown pass. He was intercepted once, but it should've been twice. Overall, he was just decent. But he was special when he needed to be. He relied heavily on tight end Cameron Brate and receiver Mike Evans. And receiver Freddie Martino had a nice day being pressed into duty. But even on a bit of an off day, Winston made enough plays to show he's a star. It has been a long time since the Bucs had a quarterback they could rely on like this. GRADE: A