Biggest Takeaways from Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week 2 Win
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got destroyed in Week 1 but bounced back in a big way with a Week 2 road win over the New Orleans Saints, beating their division rivals 26-19 and calming a sea of doubters for at least a week.
Despite going into a hostile environment to play a team that had beaten them in seven straight meetings, the Bucs fired on nearly every cylinder on Sunday, giving head coach Lovie Smith his first win over an NFC South opponent since taking charge of the team.
The Bucs made significant improvements in all three phases of the game, minimizing costly mistakes on offense, rattling Drew Brees and the normally potent Saints offense and winning the special teams battle with field position and a strong kicking game.
What did we learn about the Bucs in Week 2? Let's take a look.
Jameis Winston Should Be Just Fine
Throwing a pick-six on his first regular-season pass attempt isn't exactly how Jameis Winston wanted to start his NFL career, nor was getting blown out 42-14 at home and being outplayed by fellow rookie Marcus Mariota.
But despite his rough outing in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, Winston bounced back with a strong performance on the road in Week 2, minimizing his mistakes and making big plays when he needed to. He took care of the ball for the most part and engineered back-to-back touchdown drives to end the first half and start the second half, giving the Bucs a two-score lead and plenty of momentum.
After looking rattled at times last week, Winston showed poise and composure despite playing in a tough road environment. He looked much more comfortable in the pocket and made some quality throws with great placement.
Winston is sure to keep making rookie mistakes as the season wears on, but Sunday's win was full of positive signs regarding his potential, and Bucs fans should be excited about what the future holds for their new franchise quarterback.
Defense Isn't as Bad as Feared
Heading into Year 2 in Lovie Smith's scheme, Bucs fans expected the team's defense to show some improvement over last year's struggles. Instead, they watched the unit get torched by a rookie quarterback for four touchdown passes in the first half.
Likely expecting more of the same on the road against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, those Tampa Bay fans were instead treated to an impressive outing from the entire defense. Four sacks, three takeaways and a completely rattled and frustrated Brees added up to a huge victory on the road against a Saints team the Bucs hadn't beaten in the last seven tries.
Some fans were already calling for Smith's head after the Week 1 debacle, but Sunday's performance proved that patience is a virtue and things aren't nearly as bad as they seemed for the Tampa Bay defense. It's still just one game, but the jump between the first two games has to have fans feeling much better about that side of the ball moving forward.
Jacquies Smith Can Be the Impact Edge-Rusher the Bucs Need
The Bucs knew they had strength along the interior defensive line coming into this season, but what they lacked was a proven pass-rusher who could make big plays off the edge.
After Sunday's big win, it looks like they may have found their man in Jacquies Smith.
A waiver-wire pickup from the Buffalo Bills, Smith finished the 2014 season on a tear, racking up 6.5 sacks over the final eight games of the year. He bagged another one last week in a losing effort against the Tennessee Titans, but he took it to an entirely different level against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in Week 2.
Smith was dominant on Sunday, accounting for three of Tampa Bay's four sacks and forcing fumbles on two of them. He created problems for Brees all game long, and he looks to be the missing piece the Bucs have been looking for on the defensive line.
Doug Martin Really Is Back
Another week, another impressive performance from Doug Martin, who looks to be fully healthy and playing like his rookie-season self.
Martin gained 98 total yards on 23 touches against the Saints, picking up plenty of those yards after contact. Martin slimmed down this offseason, and it shows, as the former first-round pick looks quicker and more explosive than he has over the previous two seasons.
Even without a strong offensive line, Martin is churning out yardage and helping the Bucs balance their offensive attack, which will be huge for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston as the season wears on. He may not rack up 2,000 total yards like he did when he made the Pro Bowl in 2012, but it's clear Martin is much closer to that level of play than the disappointing, injury-riddled efforts he's put forth over the past two years.
Kyle Brindza's Big Leg a Huge Asset on Special Teams
After returning kicker Patrick Murray struggled in the preseason, the Bucs brought back veteran Connor Barth to compete with him once again. But Barth didn't fare much better in the next game, prompting the Bucs to trade tight end Tim Wright to the Detroit Lions for a new challenger in Kyle Brindza, and the Notre Dame product stole the job.
With his performance Sunday, it looks like the Bucs have made the right choice in going with Brindza, who converted four of his five field-goal attempts on Sunday. His only miss was from 52 yards, but he nailed a 55-yarder that would have been good from at least another five yards. He also forced touchbacks on six of his seven kickoffs, helping the Bucs win the field-position battle for most of the afternoon.
It's still just two games and a kicker's confidence can be pretty fragile, but Brindza is off to a strong start and looks to be a valuable weapon for the Bucs.