Top Takeaways from Bucs' 23-20 Loss to Texans
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended their four-game winning streak with a very preventable loss to the Houston Texans. The chief culprit behind the Bucs' 23-20 defeat was Jameis Winston and his four interceptions, including a pick-six.
Despite heroics from the defense, the Bucs could not overcome their five total turnovers. After the game, Bruce Arians disputed reports that the Bucs are committed to keeping Jameis Winston next year. Games like this are the reason why that decision is still up in the air.
Here are the key takeaways from the Bucs' loss to the Texans:
Jameis Winston still can't be trusted
The Bucs have been on this rollercoaster before. Really, they've been on it since 2015. Jameis Winston is prolific in every sense of the word, which may be why the Bucs are stuck outside the playoffs for yet another season.
Winston played about has bad as he could have. Four picks aside, he completed just 25 of 48 passes for 335 yards. He had his customary long plays, but he missed several throws to open receivers, including two to Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson in the endzone during the first quarter.
Winston's thumb might be the underlying cause to his bad day, but if that's the case, he should have been benched. However, given his ability to make some of his typical throws, the game was yet another reason why the Bucs should not reward him with a long-term contract.
The defense is Tampa Bay's saving grace
The Bucs defense used to be the reason fans would cite for losses rather than Winston. That is no longer the case. The Bucs defense was suffocating despite the numerous short fields gifted by Winston's turnovers. Other than the pick-six in which they didn't even take the field, the Bucs limited Houston to 10 points off four turnovers.
Overall, the defense held Houston to just 229 total yards, the Texans' lowest of the season. The defensive line dominated most of the day, limiting running back Carlos Hyde to just 1.6 yards per carry and sacking Deshaun Watson five times.
They also generated turnovers of their own, including a gorgeous Jamel Dean interception:
The pick led to a Bucs touchdown. Tampa's corners had a fantastic game, questionable holding calls notwithstanding. Dean and Carlton Davis held DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills to just 80 combined yards and no scores.
The defense is leading the way for the Bucs as the season draws to a close. Were it not for Winston's terrible performance, the defense likely would have led the team to a five-win streak against Houston.
NFL officiating is a disaster
The NFL has a serious officiating problem, and the Bucs were victims of it on Saturday. There were several key calls (and non-calls) that kept the game out of Tampa's reach.
The refs missed a facemask call for Cameron Brate then blew dead a fumble due to "forward progress" (via Dov Kleiman):
Also, this is apparently not pass interference as Bruce Arians challenged it and lost (via Pewter Report):
While the Bucs have no one to blame but themselves for their five turnovers, the refs' blunders did potentially affect the outcome of the game. The NFL needs to take a serious look at their officiating crews if they have any hope of salvaging the league's integrity.
Ronald Jones should be the Bucs' starting running back
If Saturday's loss proved anything, it's that Ronald Jones needs to be the Tampa's primary ball carrier moving forward. Jones was fantastic against Houston, scoring a touchdown and tallying 109 total yards on 17 touches including a tremendous 49-yard run.
Conversely, RB Peyton Barber gained 13 yards on five carries and lost a fumble that led to a Texans touchdown. He simply does not look as explosive as Jones with the ball in his hands.
With just one game left in the season, the Bucs have to discard their unsuccessful running back rotation and let Jones carry the rock for the team. Barber will be a free agent next season, and Jones could prove that there isn't much need for another running back in Tampa Bay.