Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (and their kickers) not ready for prime time

There was a time it seemed like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a playoff team this season.

There’s no shame in losing to the New England Patriots, even at home, but most of the optimism about the Buccaneers this season should be gone by now.

The offense looked terrible most of Thursday night.

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The Buccaneers played poorly in prime time in a 19-14 loss. Part of the reason they scored just 14 points was because Folk missed three field goals, including an incomprehensible 31-yard miss in the fourth quarter when the Bucs trailed 16-7. Folk likely won’t be on the Buccaneers the next time they take the field. The Buccaneers cut Roberto Aguayo in preseason because of his struggles, and Folk has been even worse. There will almost surely be another kicker signed soon.

There are, however, other issues that need to be fixed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston struggled in a loss to the Patriots on Thursday night. (AP)

Winston’s play was concerning. He missed so many passes he needs to make, or tried forcing too many attempts into coverage. The Patriots’ defense was on pace, after four games, to allow the most yards in NFL history. Winston didn’t break the 200-yard mark until the final five minutes. His final numbers looked OK, but most of that came at the end when the Patriot were protecting a lead and not pressing the issue.

Winston was inaccurate on some throws to Mike Evans, and still hasn’t connected consistently with deep threat DeSean Jackson. Winston has a lot of talent and has shown promise, but he was not good enough in a winnable game on Thursday night. Drops by receivers didn’t help, including a bad one from tight end Cameron Brate in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

The Buccaneers defense played a strong game, but the offense couldn’t do enough to get the win. Brate scored with 2:09 left to pull the Buccaneers closer, but the Patriots kicked a field goal shortly after Tampa’s unsuccessful onside kick and the Buccaneers couldn’t pull off a miracle. Winston’s final pass was a misfire to rookie tight end O.J. Howard in the end zone.

All offseason, the Buccaneers were a popular pick as a breakout team. They still could get there. Being 2-2 isn’t bad at this point. It’s a little concerning, however, when their last three games were a blowout loss to the Vikings, a last-second win at home against the 0-4 Giants and Thursday night’s clunker.

The Buccaneers had their close-up on CBS on Thursday night, and it was not pretty, even though it got exciting at the end. If the Bucs are going to have a breakout this season, they need to play much, much better than that.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!