TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The scoreboard had the proof. 36-10. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0 for 4 in home games, so far in 2016, got that elusive Raymond James Stadium win over the Chicago Bears. But after the Bucs dominating victory, the attention was not on quarterback Jameis Winston’s 312 yards, nor the defense’s 4 turnovers, nor the beating taken by Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler. It was about a protest. A silent protest, staged during a memorable rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, during the NFL’s “Salute to Service” weekend. Wide receiver Mike Evans sat on the bench, protesting the outcome of the Presidential election won by Donald Trump. The move continued the momentum started from athlete protests nationwide and was received with very mixed results in the bay area.
In Monday’s ‘Koetter’s Korner’ exclusive interview, Bucs head coach, Dirk Koetter, told News Channel 8’s Dan Lucas that he stands by the franchise’s stance on United States servicemen and women. The Bucs released a statement on Sunday saying that all members of the organization are encouraged to stand during the National Anthem. However, the statement and Koetter recognized an individual’s right to free speech and expression, even if it means negative attention for a team attempting to fill more seats at home games.
On the field, Evans has no differences with any teammate, especially Winston. The chemistry was never more evident than during the Bucs opening drive of the 3rd quarter. Facing a 3rd down on the Bucs 23 yard line, Winston scrambled, avoiding sacks, eventually retreating behind his own goalline before finding Evans downfield, pointing to the sky. The result was a miracle 39 yard completion on a ball thrown nearly 60 yards. That play was followed by Winston’s touchdown strike to wide receiver, Freddie Martino, essentially putting the game out of reach. Koetter noted the danger of the Winston scramble. He admits he had hoped to see Winston simply throw the ball away. But the “wow” factor that Koetter says always exists with Winston, showed itself at the most needed moment.
The real stars of the game were on the Bucs defense. A collective effort, the defense shut down Cutler and the Bears passing game, collecting 4 turnovers, one of them an interception returned for a touchdown by safety, Chris Conte. The play of the day, according to Koetter, actually belonged to defensive end Noah Spence, who sacked Cutler deep in Bucs territory, stripping the ball that was recovered by the Bucs. The defensive effort comes after it surrendered 73 points in span of 2 games in 5 days.
The win improves the Bucs record to 4-5 and comes on a day where each of the other 3 teams in the NFC South all lost.