We get it. NFL preseason games are meaningless excursions into the world of nothingness.
Some teams don't show up to play and run schemes that are as vanilla as your local Pop Warner squad. But the Buccaneers are not just any team.
They're a team on the run, trying to escape NFL purgatory.
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They had lost 10 straight home games since Lovie Smith took over, and Raymond James Stadium on Monday night looked like a ghost town.
There was a bunch of sleepy Bengals who came all the way from Cincinnati to pass some time -- or so it seemed. But don't blame their disinterest on the Bucs earning a 25-11 victory.
This was big for Smith. This was big for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, and big for those empty seats looking for company.
There were three takeaways, including two
interceptions, which made us think Smith is finally getting his message across.
"We talk about it being our Tampa Bay DNA," Smith said about the turnovers. "We do practice it, but you need to see some results."
Except for an abundance of flags (14 total), the Bucs did everything asked of them. Winston showed marked improvement from last week's defeat at Minnesota, and we got to see why the Bucs hired Smith, the designer of defense.
So don't get too high, but feel good. These fans deserve a few moments to smile.
"It was just good to see everyone's face," Winston said. "Even though it's a preseason game, a win is a win. It was so important to us. Like Coach Smith said, any time we're playing we want to get a win, so it was amazing."
Winston took the Bucs on an opening possession drive for a touchdown, looking sharp with his check-downs and running for a touchdown. He finished the night 8-for-13 for 90 yards with no turnovers.
One of the best things Winston did was maintain his composure and keep his teammates' spirits up when his offensive line was stumbling all over itself -- mostly by racking up six penalties and putting his life in danger.
The scariest moment for the Bucs was when Winston rolled his right ankle. Smith did the right thing and pulled his franchise quarterback so he could live another day.
The offensive line had some good moments thanks to Doug Martin, the little engine that could who has traveled back to the past and is looking like the Doug Martin who reminded us of Barry Sanders a few years ago.
There was even laughter, though backup quarterback Mike Glennon might not see the humor of Garrett Gilkey getting time at center and botching yet another snap.
Starting center Evan Smith was out with a groin injury, but the Bucs got a nice game out of his replacement, USF product Jeremiah Warren.
For the first time since his arrival, we got to see what Smith was talking about when he told us how he wanted to play defense. Some of it might have to do with Smith now calling defensive plays -- though he doesn't want to talk about that out of respect to his defensive coordinator and friend Leslie Frazier.
"We really talk a lot about our lines, offensive and defensive lines, showing up, and both of them did, which made life a lot better," Smith said. "Defensively, of course the front led, but Gerald McCoy got pressure and kept pressure on them. The takeaways came. We had a lot of ball security on the other side of the ball. So we did a lot of good things."
The Bucs got pressure from their front four, which is the lifeblood of Smith's defense, and sacked Andy Dalton three times.
Only bad news was that receiver Mike Evans is out for the rest of the preseason with a hamstring injury, and defensive back Leonard Johnson might also miss some time. Winston is expected to start against Cleveland on Saturday night.
It was a Lovie-able night to remember.