Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 15, 2018 at 12:24 am.

Despite turnovers, Bucs stick with QB Fitzpatrick

It was somewhat shocking Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter decided to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback Sunday against the New York Giants rather than turn back to Jameis Winston.

Winston was benched several weeks ago for being a turnover machine. He threw 10 interceptions in three and half games following his return from a three-game suspension.

But Fitzpatrick is on the same torrid turnover pace – five in two games, including two interceptions and a lost fumble near the goal line in the Bucs 16-3 loss to Washington Sunday.

And yet, Koetter has his reasons.

“We’re going to go with Fitz this week, and that’s how it’s going to stay,” Koetter said. “I just think he gives us the best opportunity right now.”

The Bucs put up 501 total yards against the Redskins but managed only a field goal with Koetter calling the plays.

Yes, Fitzpatrick had three turnovers. But he also made a ton of plays. Had Mike Evans not dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone, maybe Fitzpatrick doesn’t lose a fumble on the next play and so on.

But here’s the biggest reason to stick with Fitz: Koetter trusts him more than Winston.

At 3-6, the Bucs probably have to win their remaining games to have a decent shot at a wild-card spot in the NFC. Their next two games are at the Giants (2-7) and home against the 49ers (2-8).

Fitzpatrick went 29 of 41 passing for 406 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions Sunday. His fumble, on second-and-goal at the Washington 4-yard line, came one play after Evans dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone.

“Turnovers are killing us right now,” Koetter said. “We’re minus-19. We’re last in the league, 13 in the last four games. Thirteen turnovers and no takeaways. That’s by far the No. 1 thing that’s hurting our team and you and I have talked about it many times, every turnover has its own story. If there was one thing to it, it would be easy to fix. As a team, we’re turning it over too much and not getting any takeaways on the other side.”

Koetter is sympathetic to those who believe it’s time to play Winston so the organization can make a decision what to do with him in 2019. The Bucs have picked up his fifth-year club option of nearly $21 million that is guaranteed only against injury.

“I understand that,” Koetter said. “I understand that, but we’re right in the, just barely past the halfway point in the season and there’s a lot of football to be played. And just as a follow-up to the question you just asked, I mean, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that we can turn this thing and get on a little bit of a win streak. We got to play better football. More consistently across the board. Our defense took a nice step in that direction yesterday. I still think if we can put it together on both sides of the ball, we’ll be all right.”

What it comes down to is that Koetter still has hope his team can get on a win streak and he trusts Fitzpatrick more than Winston to get it done.

The Bucs defense played one of their best games last week, holding the Redskins to six points in the first half and 16 overall. But they face a bigger challenge trying to stop the Giants offense with running back Saquon Barkley.

“Really, really impressive,” Koetter said of Barkley. “For a guy that’s 235 pounds, his combination of speed, elusiveness, ball skills, yards after contact – very impressive. You can see – we did a lot of work on him coming out and of course liked him, but he’s come right into the league and really shown what he can do.”

SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 13-7. The Giants are 4-2 in regular-season play against the Bucs since 2003 and have won their last two home meetings against them. The Giants are also 1-0 in postseason play, that being the NFC wild-card game played in January 2008.