HELLO NASHVILLE POLICE, I’D LIKE TO REPORT SOME BUC ON BUC CRIME IN YOUR AREA!
The Bucs are beating the shit out of the Bucs. It seems to be a recurring theme this season, well for the last few years, I suppose. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again found ways to give away a game that they should’ve won losing to the Mariota-less, Ryan Tannehill-lead Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday in Nashville.
Statistically speaking, the Bucs won this game with the exception of one category; turnovers. They were better in every other statistical column by a mile. Here is a rundown of the numbers:
Total Plays: TB – 76 Tenn – 57
Total Yards: TB – 389 Tenn – 246
3rd Downs: TB – 7 of 15 Tenn – 5 of 13
Passing Yards: TB – 283 Tenn – 174
Rushing Yards: TB – 106 Tenn – 72
T.O.P.: TB – 31:33 Tenn – 28:27
1st Downs: TB – 23 Tenn – 16
***Turnovers: TB- 4 Tenn- 1***
That last one turned out to be the difference-maker. Four turnovers (2 interceptions and 2 fumbles) all by Jameis Winston, but not all his fault, led directly to 14 points and put the Bucs in a hole early. But that’s been their M.O. all season. They just can’t seem to get out of their own way.
In Week 8 of the season, coming off of a bye week and a heartbreaking “home” loss to the Panthers, you’d think this Bruce Arians team would come out better prepared and ready to redeem themselves. But not this team. Instead, they lose to a lesser team YET AGAIN and fall to 2-5 on the season. Now they get to take a long flight out to the west coast to take another “L” on the chin in Seattle next week. All of a sudden, that “gimme game” in Week 10 against the Cardinals, who are now 3-3, doesn’t look like such a “gimme” anymore. I’m not even sure there is such a thing for this team. Even the Falcons, who are now 1-6, and who the Bucs still have to play twice this season are a threat at this point. Until the Bucs can prove to me that they can’t and won’t beat themselves, I won’t expect them to beat anyone else from here on out.
There was plenty of “GOOD” in this game. As I said before, the Bucs played well enough to win had it not been for those turnovers. Unfortunately for them and us fans, there was plenty of “BAD” and “UGLY” too, and it was enough to overcome that “GOOD” stuff. So here’s what I saw in the LIVE version of this game.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The Beast – Bucs’ wide receiver Mike Evans played out of his mind in this game, finishing with 11 catches for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did all of that without a catch in the fourth quarter. It’s the second time this season that he’s had a game of 8+ catches, 190+ yards, and 2+ touchdowns. However, the Bucs lost both games.
The D-line – Once again, this group was dominant at the line of scrimmage sacking Tannehill three times and holding Titans’ running back Derrick Henry to just 75 yards on 16 carries. Even that stat is deceiving because one of those carries was for 34 yards, which means they actually held him to 41 yards on 15 carries. Shaq Barrett got his first sack since Week 4. Carl Nassib got a sack for the second game in a row. Jason Pierre-Paul got a sack on his first play, back from breaking his neck. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh also did their thing plugging up the middle of the defense as usual.
The Underrated – Bucs’ inside linebacker Lavonte David led the team with 12 tackles against the Titans. He was all over the field making plays, proving once again that he’s one of the most underrated and overlooked linebackers in the league.
The Secondary – I’ve been pounding these guys for about a month now and for good reason. They’re terrible. They’re literally the worst. However, I can also give them credit when they deserve it, and they deserved it for Sunday’s performance. They held Ryan Tannehill (I know that sounds funny to hear, but that’s how bad this group has been) to just 193 yards on 33 attempts for a 5.8 yards per attempt average. They also held everyone, but tight end Jonnu Smith to less than 43 yards receiving. Smith had 6 catches for 78 yards but got loose one time for 26 yards, which helped his average.
Vernon Hargreaves stepped up and played better. Carlton Davis played more physical than he has been and actually had 2 interceptions negated by pass interference calls. Sean Murphy-Bunting made a couple of plays from the nickel spot. Andrew Adams filled in nicely at safety for the injured rookie Mike Edwards. If these young guys can “get their heads out of their asses”, as Bruce Arians said in his postgame presser, then this defense should be much better with JPP back in the lineup.
The Kicker – Rookie kicker Matt Gay has been the one consistent bright spot for this team since the Week 3 loss to the Giants. He was 3 for 3 on field goals against the Titans with a long of 48 yards and has now made 14 straight since missing that potential game-winner versus New York.
The New Guy – Recently signed TJ Logan was brought in a few weeks ago to be the Bucs’ designated return guy, and he has not disappointed so far. He had 2 kick returns for 47 yards and returned one punt 40 yards nearly breaking free for a touchdown. That’s by far the longest return of the year for the Bucs. He was brought in to replace Bobo Wilson who’s longest return was 11 yards in his 15 returns this season.
The “Franchise”- This game looks a lot worse on paper than it was for Jameis Winston. He finished 21 of 43 for 301 yards with 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 2 fumbles. Bruce Arians insisted in his postgame presser that Jameis played his butt off, and none of the turnovers were his fault. However, they happened as they often seem to with him. He’s led the league in turnovers; since he came into the league in 2015, with 93 of them (70 interceptions, 23 fumbles). He did make better decisions with the football in this game, throwing it away or tucking it and running when nobody was open. In fact, he led the Bucs in rushing with 53 yards. He may not have played “BAD”, according to his head coach, but he still completed less than 50% of his passes and couldn’t get the offense going late in the game. Their last five possessions in the second half ended with a punt, punt, fumble, loss on downs, and an interception.
The Other WR’s – So every receiver NOT NAMED Mike Evans sucked in this game. According to Bruce Arians, the 2 interceptions that Winston threw were on them. Them meaning Chris Godwin and Breshad Perriman, who were his intended targets on those two passes. They allegedly ran the wrong routes, which explains why the throws were nowhere even close to them. Besides Evans, the only other receiver to have more than 35 yards was Godwin (43).
Perriman dropped a perfectly thrown corner fade in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and once again finished without a catch. Don’t be surprised if he gets released this week. If the Bucs let him go by November 5, they should get a fourth or fifth-round compensatory pick in return. For a guy that has 3 catches for 16 yards FOR THE SEASON, that’s a no-brainer. Look for them to make that move and give either Justin Watson or Scotty Miller more opportunities in his place.
The O-line- This group struggled against a stout Titans’ defensive front. They gave up 3 sacks to three different players and the Bucs’ two main running backs only rushed for 55 yards COMBINED. Peyton Barber only averaged 2 yards per carry while Ronald Jones averaged 3.2 yards per carry. In fact, Jameis Winston almost outrushed BOTH of them himself while running for his life from Titans’ defenders.
One of Winston’s fumbles was caused by an early snap from center Ryan Jensen. The other was due to a strip-sack by the guy left tackle Donovan Smith was supposed to be blocking. Left guard Ali Marpet uncharacteristically got beat on a couple of occasions. Right guard fill-in Earl Watford played like one. Right tackle Demar Dotson played like a 34-year-old vet who’s 6’9″/315lb body is failing him. Other than all that, they played great (said sarcastically).
The Inconsistency – The ONLY thing that this Buccaneers’ team is consistent at is being inconsistent. They can’t seem to get all three phases clicking in the same game. If the offense is rolling, then the defense sucks. If the defense is holding, then the offense sucks. If both of them are playing decent, the special teams shits the bed. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. If the defense from the first Panthers’ game, the offense from the Rams’ game, and the special teams from this Titans game could ever play together, then this team would be tough to beat. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
The Turnovers – The turnovers in this game have been mentioned numerous times and for good reason.
IT’S THE REASON THEY LOST!
The Bucs are now tied with the Browns for the second-most giveaways (17) in the league this season. The only team with more are the Giants (19). There are 6 teams with 15 or more turnovers this season. Those are the Giants (19), Bucs (17), Browns (17), Jets (16), Falcons (15), and the Bengals (15). What do they all have in common besides turning the ball over a lot?
The Bengals are 0-8. The Jets are 1-6. The Browns are 2-5. The Falcons are 1-7. The Giants are 2-6. And the Bucs are 2-5. If the Bucs take better care of the football, then they’re likely sitting at 5-2 instead. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to do that, and I’m not sure they’ll learn anytime soon.
The Officiating – I’m not one to blame a loss on officiating; however, these refs blew a big call, Sunday, on the forced fumble by Devin White during the Titans’ fake punt attempt. They blew the ball dead due to the runner being down by contact (which he wasn’t), and the fumble that was picked up and returned for a touchdown by safety Andrew Adams did not count (which it should’ve). They made a couple of questionable late pass interference calls on Carlton Davis that kept a fourth-quarter Titans’ drive alive. They also allowed Jameis Winston to get smacked in the head and get pushed late out of bounds without throwing a flag. The officiating all throughout the league has been criticized all season long for bad calls, no calls, and missed calls. I’m sure the Bucs will get an “I’m sorry we screwed up” letter from the league office in New York after that fumble call, and they sure enough they did, but it’s too little too late at this point. The best thing teams can do these days is not give the refs a chance to influence the outcome of a game. It’s like the old boxing saying goes, “Don’t leave it up to the judges”.
The Playcalling – For the most part, Bucs’ offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has been doing a decent job of calling plays, in my opinion; however, I didn’t quite understand the decision to run Peyton Barber up the middle on this Titans’ defensive front on 4th & 1. Not when the run game hadn’t been producing the entire time. I didn’t understand why Dare Ogunbowale was in with the goal line offense instead of Barber or Ronald Jones. I don’t understand why they’re not using Scotty Miller more on screens and crossing routes. I don’t understand why so many plays are made up of deep, slow-developing routes that cause Jameis to hold the ball longer behind an o-line that can’t hold out for that long. Why can’t they get the ball out of his hands faster with, oh I don’t know, maybe some screens or crossing routes to Scotty Miller? Then again, what do I know?
The Standings – The Bucs now sit at 2-5 for the season. Since 1970, there have been 212 teams start the season 2-5 with just seven of them making the playoffs. That means the Bucs have a 3% of making the playoffs. Only 7 teams have a worse record than the Bucs right now, and they only play one of them going forward, which is the Falcons twice.
I’m not sure what to think about this team anymore. I thought that the “QB Whisperer” Bruce Arians and his rather large staff of “teaching coaches” would’ve straightened this team out by now. Yet here we are in Week 8, and this team is still playing undisciplined, unprepared, and inconsistent football. This team is still finding ways to lose instead of learning how to win. I thought that London game would be a wake-up call for these guys and that they would come out of the bye week rip roarin’ ready to take on the world.
I was wrong.
I’m not convinced that this team has the ability to do that anymore. It doesn’t matter who gets brought into this organization they never seem to make much of a difference at all.
It’s not a lack of coaching. Bruce Arians is the most decorated head coach this franchise has ever had and he’s put together a very experienced staff that’s had successes of their own.
It’s not a lack of resources. Bruce Arians has given these guys everything they could ever need to be successful. They have the offensive guru Tom Moore to look to for advice. They have a retired NFL official on staff to help them with understanding the new rules and advise on penalties. They have a former Olympic sprinter on staff to help with speed and conditioning. They have a sports science team on staff to help with sleep schedules and nutritional plans. They have every tool they need readily available to them.
It’s not a lack of facilities. They have a state-of-the-art headquarters. They have a fully equipped weight room. They have hydrotherapy. They have cryotherapy. They have a brand new indoor training facility. They have all the new technology they could ever ask for in their meeting rooms. They have a brand new locker room in the stadium. What else could they possibly want?
It’s not a lack of talent. They have talent all over this roster. They have a ton of early-round draft picks. They have a #1 overall pick at quarterback. They have some experienced veterans who have had success with other teams. They have some undrafted guys who have turned out to be real contributors. They have a ton of talent.
So what is it? Are the Bucs a cursed franchise? Are they just destined to be losers? I mean, if Bruce Arians and his staff can’t get this team right with all of these resources and facilities available to them, then nobody can. Am I wrong?
I’ve said this before in previous articles, but there still MIGHT be hope. In his first year with the Cardinals, he took over a 5-11 team from the 2012 season and started the 2013 season 3-5 before finishing strong with a 10-6 record. In 2014, they went 11-5, and in 2015, they went 13-3. Was that Cardinals team THAT much better than this Bucs’ team? Were they THAT much more talented? I don’t think so. Not even close. They had a lot of the same coaching staff in Arizona, so it’s not that either. Maybe it’s just the culture here in Tampa Bay. With the exception of a few years here and there, this team has been a perennial loser for most of its existence with just 10 playoff appearances in almost 45 seasons. Are we just used to losing? Are the players and fans just numb to it at this point? For the first time in a long time, it seemed like the players on this team were actually upset about a loss. So maybe this game will light a fire under their ass for the next week.
Every other team makes the game look so easy. It annoys me to watch other teams’ offenses. The quarterbacks have plenty of time to throw from a nice pocket. The running backs have nice big holes to run through and break tackles. The wide receivers are always open and get yards after the catch. They have so much “talent” on that side of the ball, yet they struggle at times to even get a first down or score a touchdown in the Red Zone. So is it the players or the system? Is it the playcalling? Is it the quarterback? What is it?
It’s the same with the defense. They’re one of the best that I can recall against the run. They should be with Vea, Suh, Allen, and Gholston in the middle. With Pierre-Paul back in the lineup, they should be even better at pressuring the quarterback than they were earlier this season. They have a Pro Bowler in Lavonte David and the “next Ray Lewis” Devin White at linebacker. It’s the secondary that’s the problem here. They’re talented no doubt, but they’re also young, dumb, and inexperienced. Too much miscommunication on the back end. Too many missed assignments. Too much bad technique. Too many blown coverages. Too many penalties. With this coaching staff, you wouldn’t think that these would still be issues midway through the season, but they are, and it needs to be fixed. SOON!
Now this team will be heading across the country to play a Seahawks’ team that is 6-2 after beating the Falcons 27-20 on Sunday. I don’t think they have a chance. Sorry guys and gals just being realistic. Like I said before until they stop beating themselves, I refuse to assume that they’ll beat anyone else for the rest of the season. I’m done with the talking. I want action. I want proof. I don’t want to hear “We had a great week of practice”. I’m tired of hearing “We just need to get better”. I don’t want to hear “We gotta watch the film, see what went wrong and learn from our mistakes”.
MAKE IT HAPPEN!
I want to see them learn from those same mistakes they’re making every week. I want to see them get better. I want to see them be better. I want to see results. I don’t want to hear them talk about it anymore. At 2-5, it’s time to shit or get off the pot. It seems like I’ve been saying this every week since New Orleans, but this IS a must-win game against Seattle. A loss virtually guarantees that this team will miss the playoffs yet again. A win gives them a chance. It’s Not a very big chance, but at least it’s a chance. It would also give this team a little more credibility. At this point, the win in Carolina was pure luck, and the win against the Rams was a fluke. If they can go on the road and beat a solid Seahawks team, then it helps legitimize those two wins a little bit. A win in Seattle could also be a springboard into the second half of the season, where the Bucs have five of their last eight games at home. Although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing for this team since they’re now technically 0-3 at home this season, for MOST teams that would be a positive. We’ll see if this Bucs’ team can gather themselves and come back strong after this devastating loss to a lesser team on Sunday.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!