Gerald McCoy talked about how the Bucs weren’t respected and nobody knew who they were before the game. Well, everyone knows who Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliot are...and they know who the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is.
And now we all know what Gosder Cherilus is.
The Buccaneers fought hard in front of a National television audience but the bottom line is, they were not up to measure on the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball, which led to Tampa Bay’s 26-20 gut wrenching defeat.
- If Gosder Cherilus is on this football team when the Bucs take the field at the Mercedes Benz Super Dome (or whatever the heck they’re calling it these days), then someone needs to have a talk with GM Jason Licht. Look, Gos is a good guy and was once a very solid starter in this league. Those days are gone.
It’s one think to have Cam Jordan throw you around like a rag doll. Is completely another to have it done by some dude named David Irvin. Irvin came into the game with 1 sack in his NFL career. He left with 3 and a forced turnover as he hit Jameis’ elbow on a throw that caused a pass to sail.
Cherilus would eventually be benched, but by then, momentum had flipped and the Cowboys had retaken the lead.
Cherlius certainly wasn’t alone - the entire offensive line found its struggles on Sunday Night, especially in the run game where the Bucs managed a downright awful 52 yards - only 2.6 yards a carry.
The Bucs got their butts handed to them on the o-line by a very unheralded Dallas defensive line.
2. Jameis Winston was awful on Sunday Night. It was a terrible flashback to September Jameis, a quarterback too amped up, out of control with his emotions and not ready for the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.
Winston was high on his throws, he was picked off three times and fumbled. He missed wide open receivers multiple times in the game and at times held the ball way too long. His idiotic personal foul penalty on 2nd-and-goal was an inexcusable loss of control and hurt his team’s chances badly.
Even with all of that, the Bucs still had their chances to win. Winston put together two outstanding drives, where it looked like he settled down and starting playing the way we knew he was capable of playing.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys discovered Gosder Cherlius can’t pass block and attacked him, basically ending any good momentum the offense established in the third quarter.
Winston would finish the game a horrible 3-for-12 for 19 yds and two ints. That’s not the way to bring your team back. The Cowboys came into the game with 5 ints on the season, Sunday night they got 3.
3. Dak Prescott and Ezekial Elliot are really great rookies, but life is pretty easy behind that unbelievable offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve never seen Gerald McCoy manhandled like that. Dak had all day to throw, Zeke had massive holes to run through. You hear about how great that offensive line is but until you see it against your team you just don’t know.
The Bucs defense had dominated nearly every offense they faced during their five game win streak. Most of it was thanks to the defensive line. The Defensive line couldn’t do anything against the Cowboys. The only success the Bucs found was blitzing, a very uncomfortable position for Bucs defensive coordinator (and future Jags Head Coach?) Mike Smith.
The Bucs defense did a lot of bending-and-not-breaking but in the end, the Cowboys won the turnover battle and the game.
4. The Bucs, I think, lost this game midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing 23-20, the Bucs defense forced a rare Jason Witten fumble, setting up the Bucs in point blank range at the Cowboys’ 45 yard line. The Bucs offense would need to go just half the field to take the lead or at the very least, about 20 yards for a field goal.
Instead, the Bucs went -1 yards and 3-and-out. Bryan Anger pinned the Cowboys deep, but the Cowboys’ amazing rookie Ezekial Elliot ran them out of trouble and into field goal range that would force Tampa Bay to go the distance to win.
While it didn’t end the ballgame, that sequence may have sealed the Bucs’ fate.
5. One of the major issues for Tampa Bay in the first half was they couldn’t stay on the field on offense or get off on defense. As the Cowboys built a 17-6 halftime advantage, they dominated time of possesion, 20:20 to 9:40 and outgained the Bucs 257 to 105. One of the big problems was the Bucs’ 3rd down defense in the first half. A strength for Tampa Bay and a weakness for the Cowboys coming into the game, Dallas was 5-of-8 on third downs in the first half.
To the Bucs’ credit, they settled down in the second half, holding Dallas 0-for-5 on third down the rest of the way. The Cowboys would still end the game with a 13 minute advantage in time of possession.
6. While a lot of the blame can go to the offensive line playing some really horrible football, I think we need to call this for what it is. Doug Martin isn’t getting the job done right now as the Buccaneers’ primary ball carrier. I don’t know if he’s still hurt or just tentative or what it is, but he’s not the same running back who earned a major contract in the off-season.
It begs to wonder, is Doug Martin only good in his contract years? He was sensational his rookie season and last year, but in between there’s been a lot of this type of play from Martin.
As I said, a lot of Martin’s struggles can be a result of the offensive line’s struggles, but here’s the facts: Jacquizz Rodgers was more effective as a runner when he was the lead dog.
I’m not saying that Martin shouldn’t start. However, I think he needs to share the load with Rodgers and Sims a lot more than he is right now.
7. Part of Winston’s struggles last night included his inability to get the football to Mike Evans. Evans, for the third straight game, had a quiet night with just 4 receptions for 59 yds. It wasn’t his fault, Evans was open all night against the Cowboys, Jameis simply couldn’t deliver an accurate ball. It couldn’t have been more obvious than late in the 4th quarter, with the Bucs trailing 26-20, Evans inexplicably got behind the Cowboys’ secondary and was wide open deep down the sideline. Winston, who, for once, had plenty of time, sailed the pass too long and over Evans (and everyone else). It was that kind of night for #13 and #3.
8. By losing in Dallas, the Bucs set in motion some very bad mojo for their playoff hopes. They no longer control their playoff fate. Green Bay and Washington are the Bucs’ greatest threats right now. By beating the Bears, the Packers moved into a tie with the Bucs in common games (3-2) and conference record (6-4), which sends it to the next tie-breaker, strength of victory. Assuming both teams win out, the Packers have the edge there and likely will maintain that edge with the Packers taking on a 7 win Vikings team and a 9 win Detroit team while the Bucs would finish with a 6 win New Orleans team and a 5/6 win Carolina team. However, if the Packers win out, they would also be the NFC North Champions, which means the Lions could be the team the Bucs are battling with. If both the Bucs and Packers finish 9-7, this is where the Bucs need to worry about this tie-breaker.
Of course, none of this means a hill of beans if Washington doesn’t lose.
Now, the Carolina Panthers could help out the Bucs a lot in the next two weeks. First, tonight, by beating Washington, it hangs that all important sixth loss on the Redskins (and improves the Bucs’ SOV). If Washington wins out, they will get the sixth seed. Carolina will then host the Falcons the next week. A win there by Carolina opens the door for Tampa Bay in the NFC South. Of course the Panthers could giveth, then taketh away as they face the Bucs in the season finale.
Bottom line, the Bucs must win their last two games and have one of the following scenarios happen
-Atlanta loses one of their last two – Bucs win the NFC South
- Lions lose out and Redskins drop one of their last three.
- Packers lose one of their last two and Redskins drop one of their last three.
Detroit at Dallas becomes a major game for the Bucs. If the Lions fall in Big D, it basically sets up a play-in game for Detroit and Green Bay. Assuming Washington stumbles somewhere along the line, it would give the Bucs control of their own fate again. The Bucs and Lions would be tied in conference record and common games, pushing the tie-breaker to Strength of Victory, where the Bucs have a distinct advantage. That is, as long as the Bucs beat the Saints on Saturday. Lose to the Saints and the Lions will own the common games tie-breaker. The Bucs game against the Saints is A MUST WIN.
If the Bucs stub their toe in one of their last two, they’ll need a lot of help to make the playoffs. Bottom line, if you want to make the playoffs - win.
I’ll have more on this in our DLT’s Wild and Crazy NFC Playoff scenarios article later this week.
9. The Bucs face the Saints for the second time in three weeks. The Bucs’ defense did a number on Drew Brees and the Saints last week, but it will be very difficult to duplicate that effort again, especially without Will Gholston (who was injured late against Dallas). Tampa Bay’s offense will need to get on track. A return of Demar Dotson would help greatly. While Dotson hasn’t been great this year, he’s certainly better than Gosder Cherilus or the practice squad kid who came in late.
Bottom line, if the Bucs want to be in the playoffs, these are the games they must win. Note: Due to the holiday, they’re won’t be a DLT’s Diatribes following this one. I’ll be back on the 26th with a the final DLT’s Wild and Crazy Wildcard Scenarios.
10. DLT’s Game Tweet of the Week