The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a close, frustrating and at times hilarious game to the Oakland Raiders in overtime, 30-24, as the Raiders set a penalty record and both teams kept giving away opportunities for easy wins that their opponents refused to take.
Going into their game versus the Oakland Raiders, all anybody could talk about was how bad the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' home field advantage has been, losing 15 of their last 18 in their house. Head coach Dirk Koetter called out both his team and the fans of Tampa a bit saying that it really is an "all in" thing; the fans have to show pride just as the players need to when it comes to games in Ray Jay.
Tim Kawakami, a Raiders reporter, tweeted earlier this morning that the drive to the stadium was the easiest drive he's ever had, saying there weren't many people on the road or near the stadium going to the game -- I responded to him by saying that seven years of Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith will do that to any fans base.
Koetter's message must've gotten through to the players early on as the Bucs seemed to be focused and full of energy out of the gate against a high-powered Oakland roster.
Coming Into Their Own
Noah Spence with the sack fumble. Look how violent his hands were on that right tackle. No chance. pic.twitter.com/Im07SD3pzh— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) October 30, 2016
For starters, the defensive line was nasty in the first half. Robert Ayers being back seemed to rejuvenate the entire group and allowed defensive coordinator Mike Smith to switch things up when it came to gaps and blitzes.
The play above was the most memorable one in the first half. Rookie Noah Spence got his third sack and first forced fumble of the season, but more importantly, made his assignment look silly with how violent his hands were when going around the edge. The Bucs are still a young group who is getting better. These are the signs that you've picked the right guys.
Bucs rookies ballin' out this afternoon. This time it's Hargreaves with a great PBU in the end zone. pic.twitter.com/kjqQMBiqgd— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) October 30, 2016
But Spence wasn't the only rookie making big plays in the first half. After a few penalties, Oakland found themselves in a third and long with goal to go. At the bottom of the video above, we saw Vernon Hargreaves lined up one-on-one with Michael Crabtree with no help over the top or to the outside. Carr tired to get Crabtree the fade over the smaller Hargreaves, but VH3's athleticism showed in a big was as he was all over that pass with a great PBU (Pass Break Up).
Hargreaves's height was something that limited his draft stock all of last year, and a league-wide concern of why scouts thought he would strictly be a slot guy. But, Mike Smith trusts VH3's talent, and that time it really paid off.
And He is Our Shepard
What a throw.— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) October 30, 2016
What a catch. pic.twitter.com/aV0z2mJxAv
What it takes to have success at home is for those underdog and under-the-radar players to make big plays when feeling comfortable in the familiar stadium with some motivational help from the energy of the fans. Today, that man was receiver Russell Shepard.
There were a lot of articles about Shepard this week following his breakout performance against the 49ers, and the only player on the roster who could fill in for the now injured Vincent Jackson. Shepard has been a special teams captain and a vocal leader for a long time, and watching him make plays like the one above has to put a smile on the face of those who got to know him over the years, and especially this year during training camp.
When I attended camp to cover it this summer, there wasn't a more fun-loving, fan-caring, hard-working player on the entire team than him. His hard work is finally pay off, not only with the opportunity to play receiver, but also in big moments like the one above. I don't think he'll be the long-term answer at receiver, but rooting for a player like him makes having success all the more enjoyable.
The Raiders came out for the second half one fire. Carr completely nearly all of his passes in a 75-yard drive that ended in touchdown to a familiar face.
Raiders with an easy touchdown toss to... Donald Penn, former Buccaneers OLineman who was cut by Tampa after the 2013 season. pic.twitter.com/MU4w1CxtTf— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) October 30, 2016
Yes, that's former Bucs left tackle Donald Penn catching that touchdown pass. The touchdown was Penn's fourth receiving touchdown of his career -- he had two as a Buccaneer. During the week, Penn told reporters that this wasn't just another game. He said he had a little extra motivation for this one since it was against the team that cut him back in 2013.
Following that touchdown, the Raiders marched down the field on their next series to take the lead, mostly due to the play of Amari Cooper who ended the game with 12 catches 173 yards and a touchdown. Cooper's touchdown was over the top on safety Chris Conte, whose time in Tampa may not last beyond this season.
The Bucs Battle Back
Following going down 17-10, instead of panicking and becoming stagnate offensively, the Bucs went 47 yards down the field with big passes to Adam Humphries and the touchdown toss to cameron Brate. However the should-have-been tie was spoiled by a Robert Aguyao miss.
Thankfully, Tampa forced a Raiders punt which resulted in another touchdown to Tampa Bay thanks to a few of Oakland's 17 penalties for the game. Jacquizz Rodgers was the man who capped off the touchdown drive, and the score was his first time hitting pay dirt since Week 1 of the 2014 season when he was with the Atlanta Falcons. Following the score, the Bucs went for two, and with a jump pass and a jump catch, Winston and Evans made it a seven-point game.
All Out Oakland
Down seven with 3:48 left to go, Derek Carr led his team in dramatic fashion all the way down the field for a game-tying score. The most impactful play on that drive was certainly this catch by Amari Cooper over Vernon Hargreaves, which put Oakland within striking distance.
Yo, Amari Cooper just Moss'd Vernon Hargreaves pic.twitter.com/sma2YOL43n— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) October 30, 2016
Carr was pretty cold-blooded. He ended the game with a franchise-record 513 passing yards on 59 passes. His offensive line and receivers hurt his momentum all game long with penalties and miscommunications, but time and time again he stepped up big and didn't let previous plays or mistakes cloud his next throw. He was big in this one. Without the penalties, Oakland may have run away with it.
On Tampa's following possession, they did become stagnate -- a theme that continued in overtime. They failed to gain a first down and were forced to put with 40 seconds left. After a nice return on the punt, a first down pass from Carr put them in field goal position. But that good position couldn't translate to a win in regulation as Sebatian Janikowski missed the 50-yard kick as time expired.
I'm not going to analyze this part play by play. Here's what happened: Oakland's offense had dynamic players and simply wore down Tampa's exhausted defense. The fact that it took Oakland that long to win is kind of a testament to the defense -- though it also had something to do with all of the Raiders penalties. I have a had time asking defensive players to hold an offense that talented when they're that tired. However, I do think Mike Smith's aggression totally regressed in overtime. I don't know if it was because his guys were tired or he got scared to get beat deep, but the extra space and soft coverage burned them in the end.
The offense was awful during the extra period. Jacquizz Rodgers left the game with an injury, and the limited explosiveness of the receiving group was evident. Mike Evans was double covered the whole way, and when he wasn't, Winston missed him. Winston's inconsistencies are a problem and it's time for people to talk about it. Yes, everything revolves around him and he makes a lot of the big plays, but if you're being honest with what you're watching, you have to realize he's crippling the offense at times by not hitting the easy throws.
As exhausting as that overtime game was, Tampa now has just four days before the play against Atlanta on Thursday Night Football. With their backs against the wall, this is where you find out how good your coaching staff is.