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Bucs’ Mike Evans sits over Donald Trump’s election despite not voting

Tampa Bay Bucs’ wide receiver Mike Evans will not stand for Donald Trump‘s presidency.

Evans, the Bucs’ starting receiver, sat during the national anthem on Sunday. He said later the reason was Trump’s election.

“I’m not a big fan of politics or anything like that,” Evans said. “But I told myself, ‘If this happens, America is not right, right now. When he ran, I thought it was a joke. The joke continues.”

Evans admitted he did not vote.

Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter was concerned about how Evans’ decision might affect the team.

“I hope it doesn’t affect our team and that’s something that I’ll take whatever measures necessary that I think are necessary to try to minimize what effect it has on our team,” Koetter said. “I’m really not sure. This is uncharted water for me and I’m not sure about any of that.”

Earlier in the season, Koetter had this to say about protests:

“We, believe it or not, have practiced how to line up for the national anthem, we’ve worked on it,” Koetter said at the time. “I don’t know if our organization has the right to tell a guy that he needs to do that. I would be disappointed if any of our players didn’t stand up for the national anthem, personally. I look at that as a salute to the people who have paved the way for us, but at the same time this is a free country and I think freedom of speech is something that we all believe in, and freedom of expression. That’s an individual’s choice, that’s a fine line there. I would personally be disappointed, but I think it would be hard to enforce that rule.’

Evans said his protest differs from that of Colin Kaepernick, who is against the treatment of racial minorities.

Sunday, the Bucs had a “Salute to Service” day, which honors members of the military.

“I don’t want to disrespect the veterans or anything,” Evans said. “The men and women who served this country — I’m forever indebted to them. But the things that have been going on in America lately, I’m not going to stand for that.

“It’s not about the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or anything like that,” Evans said. “It’s just who he is. It’s well documented what he’s done. I’m not going to stand for something I don’t believe in.”

Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston leads huge victory over Chicago

You may debate where you think Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is among NFL quarterbacks.

It’s pretty clear, however, that he’s better than Chicago’s Jay Cutler.

Winston had one of his better games Sunday in a 36-10 victory over Chicago, and Cutler had one of his worst. Winston threw for 312 yards, completing 19 passes to players other than Mike Evans. Cutler, on the other hand, threw two interceptions, had two fumbles and took four sacks, including a safety.

The Bucs improved to 4-5, winning at home for the first time all season. It was only their fourth home win in their last 24 games.

Want to know the play that defines Cutler? The Bears had third-and-goal from the Bucs four. Cutler tried to scramble and was sacked from behind and fumbled. Or how about the pick-six he threw to Bucs’ safety Chris Conti.

Want to know the play that defines Winston? He faced a third-and-10 at the 38 when he found no one downfield. So he scrambled to his left, reversed his field, ran threw his own end zone, turned upfield and launched a deep pass from his own 8-yard line. Evans caught it 39 yards past the line of scrimmage.

“Throw it away!” coach Dirk Koetter said he was thinking. “Throw it away! Get down! Do anything. Don’t take a safety. The thing about James, Jameis is going to do some things to make some plays because that’s who he is. You can’t coach that out of him. He’s a special player that I respect.”

It was the first time in his career that Winston had a rating of more than 100 and threw for more 300 yards in the same game.

Tampa Bay will try to get an upset win against Kansas City next week to get back to .500.

Tampa Bay Bucs’ defense riddled in lopsided loss to Atlanta

Last year, it was Lovie.

This year, it is Mike.

And for the Tampa Bay Bucs, the result has been the same old Smith. Once again, the Bucs’ defense let them down Thursday night in a 43-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons that really wasn’t that close.

In a matter of days, the Bucs have given up 1,087 yards, 58 first downs and 73 points in back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Falcons. Tampa Bay beat Atlanta, 31-24, in the season opener. But Sunday’s result suggests how well the Falcons are playing and how poorly the Bucs are.

In two weeks, for instance, the Bucs have allowed 63 completions in 93 attempts with no interceptions.

“We’re 3-5,” Koetter said. “That’s where we’re at. We’re 3-5 at the halfway point and that’s what we’ve earned. That’s what we talked about in the locker room. We’ve got half the season left. I’ve got to figure out a way to make this team play up to their potential. Because I don’t like we are right now. That’s 100 percent on me.”

The Bucs were close for a half, trailing only 20-14 at the break. But the Falcons pulled ahead 33-14 going into the final quarter.

Quarterback Jameis Winston left the game limping with a knee injury. He swore he was healthy, and as he left the interview room, broke into an impromptu dance to prove that his leg was fine.

There wasn’t much else for the Bucs to take pride in. Winston threw for 261 yards, and Mike Evans caught 11 passes for 150 yards and two scores. The Bucs, however, rushed for only 73 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry.

The Bucs are home against Chicago a week from Sunday.

Raiders’ penalties don’t help hapless Bucs in overtime

For a moment, the Tampa Bay Bucs had hope. For a moment, they had opportunity.

Neither of them lasted.

It was overtime, and the Bucs had just taken over on a missed field goal. They were at their own 42, a couple of first downs from a field goal try that would potentially win the game.

And they went nowhere.

On first down, Jameis Winston threw long, as he tried throughout the game. Incomplete. On second down, he threw for five yards to Mike Evans. On third down he threw incomplete. And punt.

It was the best opportunity the Bucs had of stealing one against Oakland all afternoon. If someone had made a play, then perhaps the Bucs could have avoided the 30-24 overtime loss they suffered against the Raiders. It would have allowed the team to forget the 626 yards they surrendered. It would have made Derek Carr’s 513-yard passing day a footnote.

But when it counted, the Bucs could not make a play. They lost to a Raiders’ team that had an NFL record 23 penalties for 200 yards.

“They were trying to give us the game, man,” tackle Demar Dotson said. “They were handing us the game with those missed field goals and all of those penalties, and we didn’t take it, man. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. That’s a good football team, and to have so many penalties, they were trying to say, ‘Hey, Bucs … here’s the football game.’ We didn’t capitalize on that. When we needed to the most we didn’t capitalize.”

The Bucs led 10-3 early, then fell behind 17-10. They took a 24-17 lead in the fourth, but a lack of a pass rush led the Raiders to win. Oakland had 84 plays and kept the ball more than 40 minutes.

Winston had 180 yards and two touchdowns for the Bucs.

“I’ve got to help him,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “I’ve got to call it better. I’ve got to find a way to get us in. I’ve got to do better.”

The Bucs play Atlanta in a home game on Thursday night.

Raiders’ receivers present huge challenge to Bucs’ cornerbacks

Think of it as a game within a game.

When the Oakland Raiders visit the Bucs on Sunday, there will be a lot of factors that determine the winner. One of them, however, will be the play of Raiders’ receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree against Tampa Bay corners Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes.

Cooper is tied for sixth in the NFL in receiving with 40 catches. Crabtree is tied for 11th with 39.

“Those two receivers, Cooper and Crabtree, are going to be a handful,” said Bucs’ defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “They’ve done a very good job. (Quarterback Derek) Carr is a quarterback that gets the ball out of his hands, he’s got a quick release. I think he does a very good job with his eyes moving the defender. It’s going to be a big challenge.”

In all, the Raiders are 13th in the NFL in passing.

The Bucs’ duo has played better lately as the team has won two games in a row.

“Both of those guys are starting to play with swagger,” Smith said. “I think Brent always has had it. He’s a little more soft spoken, but I know Brent knows what he’s capable of doing. And I think Vernon is finding his way, in terms of where he needs to line up, when he needs to line up there and I thought he did a really good job last week. Not only in the pass game, but he really did some nice things showing up in the run game as well.”

Smith thinks the Bucs are improving in their secondary.

“I think we’re improving,” Smith said. “I think we still have a long way to go. I like the learning curve that we’ve gone through, in terms of from Week One, in terms of giving up explosive passes and being where we’re supposed to be. I think that’s a sign of them having a better understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing and I think that’s also a sign  that they understand what they’re capable of doing. Again, I really think this is a process that we go through. Would I have liked to see it being accelerated? Yes, but I do feel like that these guys are starting to understand what we’re trying to accomplish on the defensive side of the ball, based on what offenses are presenting to us.”

Head coach Dirk Koetter said he thinks Hargreaves, the team’s No. 1 draft pick, especially is playing well.

“He’s gone against some pretty good guys so far this year, so there’s more to come,” Koetter said. “And he’s getting better every week, I think his confidence is growing. I think you’re going to see him play tighter and tighter.”

Russell Shepard latest Buc to become an essential player for team

One of the highlights of the two-game winning streak of the Tampa Bay Bucs has been the emergence of unheralded players.

Over the past two games, the Bucs have had major impacts from Jacquizz Rodgers, from Davonte Lambert and from John Hughes.

And now, there is Russell Shepard.

Shepard, normally a special teams standout for the Bucs, found himself thrust into the playing rotation after the injury to Vincent Jackson. Shepard, who had only seven catches in his first three seasons, ended up with five receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

“That’s real important and every week when I’m talking to the guys in one meeting or another, we’re talking about playing your role and then that your role is always changing,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “Roles change all the time, Russell Shepard’s role changed last week. He went from a six-play a game guy on offense to a 30 play a game guy on offense. I don’t think people appreciate role players.”

Koetter said that Shepard might be the most versatile player on the Bucs.

“That’s a strong case,” Koetter said. “He does a lot for us, he wears a lot of hats and if he had his way, he’s be wearing more hats. He’s asking for everything. He’d like to throw it, catch it, run with it, tackle it, kick it. But no, he’s a versatile guy. High school quarterback went to LSU there and Shep brings a certain presence to our locker room. He’s very vocal and guys that are vocal and can back it up with good play are always welcome in your locker room.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken praised Shepard, but he stopped short of calling him underrated.

“I don’t know about underrated,” Monken said. “This week I know he had a tremendous game for us and I’m happy for him, he’s worked awfully hard, he’s earned everything in this league. So for him to come up big with a number of plays, I’m happy for him – what that meant to him, what it meant to our team.

Quarterback Jameis Winston echoed Monken in stressing Shepard’s importance.

“He does so much for this team that people don’t see, like he’s our top special teams guy,” Winston said. “He even gets catches with the wide receiver all the time. He’s one of our main guys, period. He’s a hard worker, he has tremendous heart, he has tremendous passion and that’s one thing that you can say about Shep. He’s different and when you’re different, that makes you successful. He’s just a great player for us, he’s one of our main guys.”

Shepard said his willingness to do anything has helped him with the Bucs.

“I take pride in doing the dirty work,” Shepard said. “I take pride in doing the things that most receivers don’t usually do, or have to do. When you can do things like that and help the team…I’ve had a few different teammates throughout the years, a few different staffs, and they really like receivers that can get in there and do a little bit of the dirty work. You start adding in passes and things like that, that’s when you kind of get the ‘blowing-up’ thing.

The Bucs try to bring their record to above .500 when they host the Oakland Raiders Sunday.

Patchwork defensive line playing well for Tampa Bay Bucs

They are not exactly the Fearsome Foursome, but the Tampa Bay Bucs are getting production from an under-appreciated defensive line.

The Bucs have had to patch and spackle lately, but they’ve still won two games in a row. During that time, defensive ends William Gholston and Noah Spence and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy have played well.

“I think Gerald gets a bad rap sometimes,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “People don’t appreciate what he brings to the table. Having coached against him, you’ve got to double team him or your guards are going to struggle to block him. Your center definitely can’t block him single. He can beat a double-team and when he does get singled he’s going to get penetration. He had a sack, caused a fumble – we didn’t get that fumble.

“I said Gerald was going to be on a pitch count, he played 64 plays, I think he took himself out one time. A lot of the players that come back after a three-week absence, they look a little rusty out there and we had a couple guys that were in that category. Gerald did not look rusty, he looked like he was right back in Pro Bowl form. Gerald is one of those unique players that makes the other guys around him better and we were very happy to have him back.”

Gholston had a sack Sunday against the 49ers, continuing his solid play all season.

“I think we said in one of these meetings that Will all of a sudden when Gerald and (defensive end Robert) Ayers were out, he said, ‘Hey, I’m the elder statesman here.’” Koetter said. “He’s put together three really good games in a row. He’s playing so hard. Will’s big, he’s strong, he’s long and he’s playing really hard right now. Those are his best assets, he’s relentless in his effort, he’s got really good stamina, he’s versatile, he moved around, he can play both sides, he can play inside. But the main thing is just how hard he’s playing.”

Spence, a No. 2 draft pick for the Bucs, started the season as a pass-rush specialist. Injuries have made him broaden his game.

“Noah played 47 snaps, got a sack there at the end. I would still say Noah – we’re happy with him,” Koetter said. “He entered the season as kind of a specialist, more of a pass rush specialist, but he’s having to play more [as an] every down defensive end because of our injuries. I think he’d still fit in the ‘learning’ category. He still makes some mistakes that a young player is apt to make, but he likes to play ball and he gives really good effort. And as long as he keeps learning and keeps improving, the future’s bright for him.”

The Bucs play the Raiders at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Bucs come from behind to beat 49ers as Jacquizz Rodgers shines

The Tampa Bay Bucs have ridden a new weapon all the way to a 3-3 record.

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers, claimed off waivers during the season, has made it so the Bucs don’t miss running back Doug Martin — second in the NFL in rushing a year — nearly as much.

Rodgers ran 26 times for 154 yards Sunday as the Bucs beat San Francisco, 34-17. In less than two weeks, Rodgers has rushed 56 times for 255 yards to lead the Bucs.

With the running threat, quarterback Jameis Winston was able to throw  at the right times, and he hit 21 of 30 for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Mike Evans caught eight passes for 96 yards and two scores.

“It was no secret,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “The 49ers have been giving up a lot of  yards rushing. We would have been foolish if we didn’t run the ball.

“Jacquizz is durable, nifty. He can break tackles. He’s a solid player and a solid guy. He’s never had a chance to be the featured back. He’s a good between-the-tackles runner.”

The Bucs fell behind 14-0 in the first period, but came back to win its second game in a row. The defense sacked Colin Kaepernick four times. Kwon Alexander had 10 tackles.

Tampa Bay is home next week against Oakland.

 

Bucs face challenges from Chip Kelley, Colin Kaepernick

Forget whether he kneels before the game. Just worry about whether Colin Kaepernick is upright during it.

Kaepernick, the controversial quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, is certain to continue his protest on Sunday when San Francisco is home against the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Bucs have a chance to get to 3-3 on the season with a victory.

But the 49ers can be a challenge with the offense of coach Chip Kelly.

“They run a whole bunch of different reads and they’re going to leave somebody unblocked,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “Sometimes it’s the end, sometimes it’s the tackle, sometimes it’s the linebacker. That’s the beauty of that system and I’m not an expert on that system. When you just sit back and watch it, like our scout team against our defense, it’s pretty cool and it’s the same thing Carolina was doing. That’s not in my wheelhouse, I don’t run that offense, but when you watch it and they have the right guy doing it, it’s definitely a dangerous offense.”

 The 49ers have been slow to adapt to Kelly’s blueprint, however. They’re 27th in yards allowed defensively and 32nd in yards gained on offense.

No wonder the team turned to Kaepernick, who has had success in the past with the 49ers. However, he has won only three of his last nine starts.

“I thought he was OK,” Kelly said after the game. “There are some positives that you can really build on with him that he did. I thought he extended some drives, keeping plays alive with his legs. He did a good job, so it was a pretty good situation in terms of him running the football.”

Game time is 4:05 p.m. Eastern.

The Predictions: USF to face a trap game against Temple

For USF, this is the kind of game you can trip over.

Temple (4-3) is a decent team. The game is in Philadelphia. And USF has won big, but in its first halves recently, it hasn’t been gangbusters. Temple’s defense (16th nationally) is good enough to keep the game close.

So, as they sit on the outskirts of the top 25, are the 6-1 Bulls ripe for the plucking?

Oh, USF is as explosive as ever with quarterback Quinton Flowers piling up 300 yards of total offense most games.

“He is two guys in one,” Temple coach Matt Rhule said. “He is probably one of the top tailbacks in the country and one of the top quarterbacks in the country.”

Throw in running back Marlon Mack, who gained 230 yards against Temple a year ago, and you can see the sizzle.

But Temple has some weapons, too, with quarterback Phillip Walker and running back Jahad Thomas. It’s enough to challenge the Bulls. Maybe even beat them.

Still, this USF team has had its moments where it has had to break out of a tight game to win. This one shouldn’t be any different.

Prediction: USF 24, Temple 21

UCF at UConn

One of the things the Knights have done this season is win most of the games against teams their size. That wasn’t true last week, when UCF let the Temple game get away at the end.

Now comes UConn, a pesky team with quarterback Bryant Shirreffs.

To win, the Knights have to establish their running game. Last week, it gained only 86 yards against Temple. That exposed freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton, who was sacked seven times.

Prediction: UCF 16, UConn 14

Louisiana Tech at FIU

FIU has won three straight games to right its season, but playing against Tech might be too much to ask.

The Bulldogs are No. 4 in offense in FBS, averaging 550 yards a game. Quarterback Ryan Higgins has four 400-yard passing days on the year , including last week’s win over UMass. Carlos Henderson caught 12 passes for 358 yards last week.

Things are going better for the Panthers. But not this week,

Louisiana Tech 38, FIU 13

The Pros

Oakland at Jacksonville

The Jags closed out their game with the Bears with perhaps their finest quarter of the year. If they can keep it up – and play more no-huddle – then Blake Bortles has a chance.

But Derek Carr isn’t bad for the Raiders, either. Which means that Jacksonville has to play the kind of winnable game that has gotten away in the past.

Not this time.

Prediction: Jaguars 20, Raiders 17

Buffalo at Miami

The Dolphins were surprising winners last week over Pittsburgh as running back Jay Ajayi broke loose. But Buffalo has a good defense, which could make it harder for Ajayi unless Ryan Tannehill hits a big pass or two.

Prediction: Buffalo 27, Miami 17

Tampa Bay at San Francisco

The Bucs have sputtered throughout their history against the 49ers, winning only four of 21 meetings. This time, it should be different. Colin Kaepernick struggled in his first start, and the Bucs should be able to get a running game going with Jacquizz Rodgers.

Again, Jameis Winston not throwing interceptions would help.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 16, San Francisco 10

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