IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Tampa Bay Looking for a Solid Mindset

Ken Cross

August 19, 2019 at 1:23 pm.

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9) kicks a field goal during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Photo Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay (9) kicks a field goal during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Photo Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t had a winning season since 2010 on the road to 11 consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. So, when you are new coach Bruce Arians, it might be the tiny things inside of building the culture of the team that can help start the rise.

In Saturday night’s 16-14 preseason win over the Miami Dolphins, Arians was able to see a solid mindset developing.

Third string quarterback Ryan Griffin had hit Tanner Hudson with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:35 remaining to give the Bucs a 13-6 lead.

On Miami’s subsequent drive, Tampa Bay had a key pass interference penalty and a couple of blown coverages which resulted in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock to Patrick Laird and a two-point conversion gave Miami a 14-13 lead with some 33 seconds remaining.

From there, the competition and enthusiasm of Arians’ first training camp took over as Griffin hit passes of 18 and 27 yards to Hudson which set up rookie Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal.

It was a fun ending to a preseason game which will long be forgotten by nearly everyone except those inside the Buccaneers’ locker room.

“Most teams, when you give up that touchdown and two-point conversion, go in the tank,” said Arians. “Offensive guys were ready to go. They had a plan. They were ready to go and went and won the game. Winning is fun in this league.”

Winning and then seeing the success of rookies and practice team players compete has a positive effect on veterans.

“I think the most excited guys on the sideline were Mike Evans and Jameis (Winston),” Arians said. “When they saw two completions and Matt make the kick, they were going crazy. It bleeds into next week’s practice. It really does.”

Kicking the habit: Tampa Bay has had a healthy competition with the kicking game in training camp between Gay and incumbent Cairo Santos. Gay nailed the game winner for 48 yards as time ran out before the Dolphins downed the game-ending kickoff to end the game.

Gay has a huge leg with excellent consistency as he made 26 of 31 field goals for Utah last season and was a perfect 45 of 45 on extra points.

“The ball is coming off my foot really well,” Gay said. “I had a few good days in practice, feel really calm, really confident and that goes to how well people kick. Kicking is a mind game as much as it is the leg, so being able to be confident and trust in yourself is huge.”

Santos came in last season after the Buccaneers cut inconsistent kicker Chandler Catanzaro. He made 9 of 12 with his longest at 45 yards. He also missed two between 40 and 49 yards.

“So far, so good; Cairo has been on, too, so it’s still a good battle,” Arians says.

Dean’s list: Auburn rookie corner Jamel Dean saved the day, so the Buccaneers could have a chance at a win.

Miami had driven down the field midway through the fourth quarter when Rudock and his wide receiver had a communication issue on a route in the end zone. Dean took advantage of the mistake and picked off Rudock in the end zone.

From there, the Buccaneers went on the 7-play, 80-yard drive that saw Griffin’s four-yard toss to Hunter and a 13-6 Tampa Bay lead.

“I feel like this is the game I needed to get my feet wet and get experience with what it’s like to play pro football,” Dean said. “So now I’ve got something to build off of, so I should try to get better.”

Dean had dropped a sure pick-six earlier in the game on another communication issue in the Miami passing game.

“It felt like a weight off my shoulders because I really beat myself up on the sideline knowing that I dropped something and then I kept looking at the score of the game like, ‘I could’ve had an impact on this,’” Dean said.