February 2, 2023

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly : Week 14 – Bucs @ Niners

14 min read

“MR. IRRELEVANT”, HUH?

The only thing that’s “irrelevant” is the Bucs making the playoffs. After an emotional last second win over their NFC South nemesis the New Orleans Saints, the Buccaneers decided to follow it up with a lackluster showing on the west coast proving to everyone in the football world that they have no business being in the playoffs. They flew all the way to San Francisco to get outcoached, outschemed, outplayed and outclassed in every way possible to the tune of 35-7 by a 49ers team with a rookie quarterback making his first career start. That my friends is what happens when a well prepared, well coached team plays a team that’s not well prepared or well coached.

AN ABSOLUTE ASS-WHOOPIN!

This game wasn’t even as close as the 35-7 score on the board. It could’ve been much worse. T he Niners pulled some of their starters by the 4th quarter. They lost Deebo Samuel to an ankle injury during the game. In fact, they had a number of players leave the game with injuries. They were able to play through them. You know why? Because they are well prepared and well coached. Yes, I’m blaming the coaching staff. Sure, the players have to share some of the blame for not playing hard enough and not caring enough. But ultimately, this falls on the coaching staff. How else do you explain this epic collapse? Bruce Arians stepped down and handed the reigns over to Todd Bowles because he knew he was giving him a Super Bowl winning roster and he thought he couldn’t possibly screw it up.

Think again, Bruce.

Todd Bowles is not an NFL head coach. He’s proved that. Not just this season, but in New York with the Jets. His first season there he went 10-6, but proceeded to go 14-34 over the next three seasons before he was fired. Fast forward to Tampa Bay and now he’s well on his way to a fourth straight losing record as a head coach. He’s a brilliant defensive mind no doubt. But he is NOT a head coach. That much is apparent at this point. There’s no other explanation for it. Injuries aren’t to blame. It’s not for lack of talent. It’s not for lack of experience. It’s the lack of preparation. It’s the poor attitude. It’s the wrong mindset. It’s the gutless “playing not to lose” mentality. It’s the player personnel decisions. It’s the offensive playcalling. It’s the game management. And all of that falls right into the head coach’s lap. There are plenty of far less talented teams in the NFL with better records than the Buccaneers. That comes down to coaching. There are plenty of teams with far less talented offenses averaging more points per game than the Buccaneers. That comes down to coaching. There are plenty of far less talented defenses creating more turnovers than the Buccaneers. That comes down to coaching. This is almost the same exact coaching staff from top to bottom that won the Super Bowl two years ago. The ONLY difference is that Bruce Arians is no longer the head coach.

So what’s that tell you?

It tells me that the head coach is the problem. If Bowles has any intergrity at all, then he would step down as head coach as soon as this massively disappointing season is over. Don’t wait for Jason Licht to call you into his office. Don’t let Bruce Arians talk you into giving it another year. Don’t let your pride continue to drag this franchise back into obscurity. Just put your ego aside, march into the Glazier’s office, apologize emphatically and ask for your defensive coordinator job back. That’s it. Maybe Arians can come back for one more run. Maybe it’s someone from the outside. It’s surely not Byron Leftwich. I’m sure that he’s bumbled his way onto the unemployment line next year at this point. I don’t know who it would be, but it’s nobody on this current Bucs staff.

Anyway, I’ll jump down off of my soapbox for a minute to finish talking about this week’s disaster so that we can put it behind us and move on to next week’s disaster. So here’s my GOOD, BAD & UGLY from the Bucs game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

THE GOOD

Nothing

That’s right. Nothing. The preparation sucked. The game plan sucked. The offense sucked. The defense sucked. The special teams sucked. The coaching sucked. The playcalling sucked. The officiating sucked. The outcome sucked. Everything sucked. No urgency. No fire. No attitude. No swagger. No confidence. No guts. No heart. No fight. No winning mindset. No chance. This game was over before the Buccaneers boarded their plane at TIA. It was over by Tuesday morning when the thrill of sweeping the Saints had come and gone. It was over as soon as Todd Bowles was named head coach, just like this season.

 

THE BAD

The Offense

I mean, what’s new right? The offense has been boring and ineffective all season, so what would we expect them to do against the #1 defense in the league? They ran 74 plays in 11 drives where they totaled 322 total yards and just 18 first downs going 4 for 16 on third down. They averaged an abysmal 4.4 yards per play for the game. During their 27:20 time of possession, they managed just 7 points and turned the ball over three times. Here’s the results of all eleven of the Buccaneers offensive drives:

9 plays/40 yards/4:17/Missed FG

3 plays/10 yards/1:43/Punt

3 plays/7 yards/1:45/Punt

3 plays/4 yards/1:04/Punt

6 plays/51 yards/2:36/Turnover on downs

1 plays/-1 yard/:15/End of half

3 plays/5 yards/:47/Interception

12 plays/46 yards/4:17/Interception

14 plays/79 yards/4:26/Touchdown

15 plays/72 yards/4:51/Turnover on downs

3 plays/9 yards/1:19/Fumble

As you can see, after the Bucs missed field goal on their first drive, they proceeded to go three and out three straight times. Then they got the ball at midfield, after the forced fumble by Anthony Nelson and recovery by Lavonte David, only to turn the ball over on downs at the Niners 9-yard line. They ended the game turning the ball over on four of their five possessions of the second half. The inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Tom Brady and this offense is alarming. Some people are quick to blame injuries for their problems this season. I don’t buy into it. Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet may be gone, but the o-line hasn’t been that bad this year. Four of the five were ranked in the top 15 at their positions by ProFootballFocus.com going into this game. Donovan Smith being that one ranked 70th out of 77 tackles and playing arguably the worst football of his career. They can’t sustain drives. They can’t convert third and short. They can’t score touchdowns in the redzone. And it’s been like that all year. They keep saying they need to fix it and be better. But when? When is that going to happen? There’s only four games left in the regular season. If they don’t figure their shit out, they’re going to screw around and lose the NFC South title to the Carolina Panthers.

The Defense

At least the offense has been consistently shitty. The defense has had streaks of great play over a couple of games and they they suddenly implode. Look at the first few weeks of the season holding the Cowboys to just 3 points, the Saints to 10 points and the Packers to 14 points. Then, out of nowhere, they give up 41 points to the Chiefs. Then they hold the Falcons to 15 points in Week 5, only to give up 20 points to a bad Steelers team the next week, 21 points to a bad Panthers team the week after that and 27 points to the Ravens the next. Week 9, it was just 13 points to the Rams. Week 10, it was just 16 points to the Seahawks in Germany. Then they give up 23 points to the Browns in a loss coming off a bye week, but they come home and play solid defense against the Saints holding them to 16 points. Now here they collapse and give up 35 points to a rookie QB led Niners team. The inconsistency is just so frustrating.

In this game, they gave up 404 total yards and 24 first downs on just 59 plays. Nearly half of all the 49ers plays went for first downs. San Francisco averaged a whopping 6.8 yards per play. That’s insane. Christian McCaffrey averaged 8.5 yards per carry, while Jordan Mason and Deebo Samuel both averaged more than 5 yards per carry. They allowed five receivers to average more than 10 yards per catch and one of those wasn’t even George Kittle. And rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft aka “Mr. Irrelevant“, finished 16 of 21 for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns. He averaged 8.8 yards per pass, which is nearly double Tom Brady’s average of 4.6 yards per pass. They did FINALLY force a turnover in this game, but nothing came of it as the Bucs offense turned it right back over on downs. They still have just 12 turnovers through 13 games, which is historically bad. This is the second time the Bucs defense has given up 35+ points this season and just the fourth time since Brady arrived in Tampa.

The UN-GOAT-LIKE Behavior

He may be the “greatest of all-time“, but he’s not getting a pass. He’s been a big part of the problem all season. His play has been everything but “GOAT-like” and this game is no exception. He finished this game 34 of 55 for 253 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions and a 36.0 QB rating. This was his first game with multiple interceptions this season and it comes after throwing just three in 524 pass attempts. After 13 games in 2020, he had 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. After 13 games in 2021, he had 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. After 13 games this season, he has just 17 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He is now ranked 33rd in yards per attempt (6.2) and 19th in passer rating (88.9). What’s going on with him? Before, I thought it was just his off-the-field crap he was going through with the divorce. But that’s over! So what’s the excuse now? Why does he look so uncomfortable and anxious in the pocket? Why is he overthrowing guys? Why is he underthrowing guys? Why is he missing wide open players? Why is he misreading defenses pre-snap? Why is he not on the same page with Mike Evans anymore? Why does it feel like he’s lost this team and the locker room? Where is “The GOAT“? I know there’s only four more regular season games, but he needs to find the answers to all these questions quick or the Buccaneers won’t even make it into the playoffs let alone make any noise it they do make it in.

The Momentum Killers

Momentum is a real thing in sports. Like Todd Bowles said, they can’t beat two teams at the same time. It’s hard enough to beat a good team on the road, but when you’re beating yourself too you end up with an ass whoopin’ like this. There were a number of momentum killing plays throughout this game, some were penalties and some were turnovers. Running back Rachaad White had his third lost fumble of his rookie season. Only Alvin Kamara (4) has more this year. The sack by Keanu Neal on a blitz on the first play of the game was negated by a penalty for roughing the passer. The missed field goal on the Bucs first possession of the game. The 66-yard touchdown from Brady to Evans in the 1st quarter that could have tied the game 7-7 that was negated by a holding call on Donovan Smith. They ended up punting instead. The interception by Anthony Nelson towards the end of the 2nd quarter that was negated by a bad holding call on cornerback Carlton Davis. At the time, the Niners were up 21-0 with :28 seconds left in the first half. Had the interception counted, the Bucs might have been able to put some points on the board before halftime, then would’ve had the ball first in the second half. Instead, the Niners went on to score another touchdown on the very next play to go up 28-0 at the half. Then there was the two interceptions by Brady. All of these killed any momentum the Bucs had at any point throughout this game.

The Injuries

Besides all of the injuries Tampa Bay came into this game with in the secondary, they sustained even more throughout the afternoon. Vita Vea went down with a calf injury. Jamel Dean went down with a toe injury. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka went down with a hip injury. For most of this season, it was the offense battling the injury bug. Now the defense is getting hit hard. And that’s just how this season has gone for the Bucs.

THE UGLY

The State of the Franchise

Yikes! That’s all I have to say about it. This was supposed to be Brady’s “last run“. This was supposed to be a Super Bowl or bust type season. This was supposed to be a 14-3 or maybe 13-4 season. Winning the NFC South wasn’t even a question. All of that talent. All of that hype. All of those expectations. All of that has dwindled away into nothingness. Now there’s coaching controversies. Now there’s rumors swirling. Now there’s doubt lingering. Now there’s uncertainty about the future. It’s slowly been building week-by-week this season, but it seems like it all came to a boil after this game. Bucs fans are arguing amongst each other. Tom Brady is all of the sudden going to the 49ers next season. It’s chaos. Does this team still believe in Brady? Does this team ever believe in Bowles? Does this team believe in each other? It surely doesn’t feel like it. And it doesn’t look like it when they take the field on Sundays either. I think this team has passed that point of no return for this season. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them lose these last four games, finish 6-11 and watch the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South with no real playmakers on their roster. What a gut punch that would be for Bucs fans. This season has been such a slap in the face of Tampa Bay fans. Not because of the losing. We’re used to that. It’s the way we’re losing. It’s how we’re losing. It’s why we’re losing. Despite the devastating injuries, this team was still talented enough to compete for a Super Bowl. There’s no excuse why this 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team should be 6-7 and in danger of missing the playoffs. It’s absurd.

BIG BUCS OF THE DAY

OFFENSE: WR Devin Thompkins

The lone bright spot of the game for the offense didn’t even play an offensive snap. Recently re-signed rookie wide receiver Devin Thompkins came into this game as the Bucs new return man after they released Jaelon Darden late last week. All he did was have 5 kickoff returns for 123 yards, averaging 25 yards per return, with a long of 54 yards. That 54-yard return gave the Bucs starting field position across the 50-yard line for the first time since Week 4 and was the longest kick return for the Buccaneers in 10 years.

DEFENSE: OLB Anthony Nelson

He was the second leading tackler for the Bucs in this game behind Logan Ryan (9) with 7 tackles, plus he had a forced fumble that was recovered by Lavonte David for a turnover AND he should’ve had an interveption had it not been for that bogus holding call on Carlton Davis. Maybe he was worried about Carl Nassib coming for his job or something, but this performance should allow him to hold on to it for at least another week.

 

BAD BUCS OF THE DAY

OFFENSE: LT Donovan Smith

He’s made this list for the third week in a row because of his terrible play. He blames it on “personal problems“, but I don’t buy that. In this game, he didn’t give up any sacks. However, he was once again flagged for a holding call that negated a touchdown. He is now tied for the league lead in holding penalties (6) and has cost the Bucs 75-yards in penalties this season- worst among offensive linemen. In fact, three of those six holds nullified touchdowns. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he ranks 70th out of 77 offensive tackles in the NFL. He ranks 63rd out of 67 tackles in pass block win rate and he’s last among qualifying tackles in run block win rate. His nine flags are 7th most among ALL offensive lineman this season. He claims that he’s going through some “personal stuff” that’s effected his play. As a professional athlete who gets paid millions of dollars to play a sport, that should never happen. Whatever it is that he’s “going through“, he needs to suck it up and play better.

DEFENSE: LB Devin White

In a game where the 49ers ran the ball 36 times, Devin White ended with just 5 tackles. That’s inexcusable. He’s another guy who’s had an up and down season full of incosistent play and questionable efforts. Of all the different issues this team has had this year, I never thought heart and effort would come into question. But for some of these players, including White, it certainly has.

THE WRAP UP

I had a bad feeling coming into this game and my fears came to fruition quickly after kickoff. Keanu Neal’sroughing the passer” call on his sack on the first play from scrimmage started it off and it just snowballed from there. No doubt, the Niners are a good football team. And now, there’s no doubt that the Bucs are not. In fact, they’re a pretty bad one. This score was indicative of that. This game proved how unprepared and poorly coached this Tampa Bay Buccaneers team was this week. Their record proves how that has been the case each and every week this season. And I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. If they were going to correct their problems and “be better” or “execute better” as they all like to say, then they would have done it by now. This was Week 14 and time is running out on their season. If they don’t turn things around, then this season will end in four games for the Bucs. No NFC South title and no playoffs. That doesn’t sit well with the fan. Hopefully, the Bucs players will step up and show that it doesn’t sit well with them either. We’ll see.

THE PLAYOFF PICTURE

Believe it or not, even at 6-7 the Bucs still lead the NFC South by one game with four games left. Tampa Bay has never won back-to-back division titles in their 46-year history. The Bucs can still lose this Sunday against the Bengals and keep their division lead if the Panthers lose. It looks as though the winner of the division is going to be decided in the final two weeks of the season when the Panthers come to Tampa in Week 17 and the Bucs go to Atlanta in Week 18. Those two games will have major playoff implications. There could even be a three-way tie between the Bucs, Panthers and Falcons going into that final week if the chips fall the right way. In any case, the Bucs control their own destiny from this point on.

THE LOOK AHEAD

The Bucs head into Week 15 with a matchup against one of the NFL’s hottest teams. The Cincinnati Bengals are now 9-4 after winning five straight games. They will be coming to Tampa hell bent on extending that streak to six games. The Bucs are going to have to step up and play better at some point if they truly want to extend their season past Week 18. Who knows, maybe they don’t want to do that. Maybe they’re all ready for a nice long vacation after suffering through this shitty season. I hope not. I hope they prove that’s not the case on Sunday.

Until the, as always…GO BUCS!!!