The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got blown out by the Arizona Cardinals, 40-7. The Bucs looked outmatched, despite coming off an impressive win against the Atlanta Falcons in week one. Five turnovers by Jameis Winston and several breakdowns on defense put the game out of reach, and a litany of injuries didn't exactly help matters.
People talk about game speed all the time when referencing young players getting their feet wet in the NFL. Even first round talents need time to adjust to the speed of professional football compared to college. What isn't talk about as much is the game speed within the league, and how the best teams in the NFL seem to have their players all over the field no matter what side of the ball they're on.
That's exactly how I would explain the difference between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory over the Atlanta Falcons last week, and their loss to the Arizona Cardinals this week.
To start the game, the Bucs actually looked good; they stood their ground against the Cardinals pass rush, and Winston and Evans were connecting early. But, just as their opening drive was starting to get into Arizona territory, the Bucs gave away their first turnover.
Love the decision to take a shot at this location of the field. Don't love targeting Patrick Peterson. Cards INT. pic.twitter.com/pY73FugwPW— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 18, 2016
As I said in the description, I liked the idea to take the shot downfield, but I didn't love them targeting Patrick Peterson, one of the best deep ball corners in the game. However, if Evans would've timed his steps, it might have been a touchdown had he been able to fully jump. That turnover wasn't so bad -- it was the ones to follow that really killed them.
The next turnover wasn't pretty. I don't know if it was a mistimed route by Vincent Jackson or a missed pass by Winston, but whatever it was, it resulted in an INT, and worse than that, relinquished full control and all confident to the Cardinals defense for the rest of the half.
The Cardinals have one of those teams -- and one of those coaches -- that feed off momentum. If you thought they were fast to start the game, they were even faster as the turnovers kept coming. The Cardinals went into halftime with a 24-0 lead, 17 of those points came off turnovers.
Overall, the Bucs just looked flustered for most of that first half. Winston was over throwing some of his easier targets (when they came, Cardinals defense was pretty lockdown all half), the running game couldn't find much space, and the chemistry of things just seemed off. The only big positive I had after the first half was the offensive line was protecting the pocket very well for how much extra pressure Arizona was sending their way. I was impressed by them early on. In a half that was pretty chaotic, they were solid.
The second half opened up much like the first half did -- good play calling, good tempo and solid execution for the first drive. Despite some heavy pressure again, Winston stepped up big and ended the shutout with a great outside throw to Evans who was one-on-one.
Bucs end the shut out. Jameis and Evans made that look waaaay too easy on Patrick Peterson. pic.twitter.com/HJJ2BbaMud— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 18, 2016
I liked this touchdown because it showed that Winston and Evans didn't care who was in coverage (Peterson again). It's good to be aware of the talent of the player that are guarding your receiver, but you never want your quarterback to be scared. Winston will never be scared, and that's what you want from your quarterback. Throwing a pass with a lot of air under it at Peterson is a no-no most of the time, but this line drive right to the outside was a great way to challenge.
But that glimpse of good was quickly undone, by, you guessed it, another turnover.
This was the nail in the coffin of Winston's off day. A high throw, a bobbled catch and some really poor effort from Vincent Jackson. That play actually sums up the offense's day pretty well; a frustrating afternoon.
Adding insult to injury (literally), Doug Martin, Robert Ayers and Luke Stocker all left the game with injuries and did not return. Martin (hamstring) appeared to be OK on the sidelines, but didn't want to push it. Ayers (ankle) and Stocker (ankle) I did not see after they went off. Their injuries may be more serious.
On a small positive note, rookie Noah Spence was able to record his first sack on a third down in the red zone which forced a field goal.
Rookie Noah Spence gets his first NFL sack. pic.twitter.com/i3ktGJfUmG— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 18, 2016
It's hard to stay level headed when fans were on such a high after a great win last week, but let's not get carried away with the negatives, either. What we learned last week was that this team isn't afraid to do the things they need to offensively to win, and having that philosophy will go a long way in the next year or two. What we learned this week is that the Bucs are not ready to take on one of the league's elites -- remember, the Cardinals were the No. 1 offense in 2015 and were also a top 5 defense.
The loss brings Tampa to a tie at 1-1 for the division lead. They get a nice little buffer game against the LA Rams next week, but then have to play against the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Denver Broncos, followed by the Super Bowl runner up Carolina Panthers on the road.
Don't let the negatives weight too heavy. This team doesn't have the exact personnel they want, and until they get it, playing the league's top 5 teams will be uphill battles -- and yes, that might mean they start the year under .500 when they reach their week 6 Bye Week.