TAMPA — The last time the Bucs went to Arizona, it was, by most measures, the low point of their 2016 season, a humbling 40-7 loss to the Cardinals.
“Last year was unfortunate for us,” said quarterback Jameis Winston, who had a career-high five turnovers, including four interceptions, in what remains the lowest-rated game of his three-year NFL career. “The turnovers kind of put us out of it. … Turning the ball over was the biggest part.”
The final score obscures that late in the first half, the Bucs were at the Arizona 29-yard line, threatening to cut into a 10-0 deficit. But Winston was sacked and fumbled, and Arizona scored two more touchdowns in the final 90 seconds of the half, leading 24-0 at the break.
Arizona also returned a Winston interception 60 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. The 33-point loss is the Bucs’ most lopsided since Winston and coach Dirk Koetter joined the team in 2015.
“They beat us. They beat us good. We remember. It stings,” Koetter said. “I don’t think defensively we’re anywhere close to the same team we were last year. I think we’re a much more confident defense.”
Much of that improvement came in the second half of last season, with the defense fueling a five-game winning streak that had the Bucs in playoff contention in December. Players remember how poorly their last game in Arizona went, but go there hoping for a vastly different outcome when they return to face the Cardinals on Sunday.
“That’s the talk around the building, how we went up there and stunk it up,” defensive tackle Clinton McDonald said. “We want to perform well every game. We don’t want to be up and down, one week we win, one week we lose. We want to be consistent. That’s the truest measure …read more