The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a very winnable Thursday night game against the New England Patriots, 19-14. Nick Folk missed another three field goals after doing the exact same thing last Sunday, while Jameis Winston struggled to produce anything until the fourth quarter.
The Bucs struggled to produce anything on offense for the first three-and-a-half quarters, while facing the worst defense in the NFL. Meanwhile, their defense kept one of the best offenses in the NFL mostly in check. It was a weird game.
Rookie Justin Evans was forced to start at safety for the Bucs, but arguably had the best game of all the team’s defenders. He was all over the field, picked off Tom Brady (his first in 264 pass attempts), and almost got him a second time. The Bucs gave up just one touchdown to Brady.
The defense wasn’t perfect—it kept giving up yards and allowing the Rob Gronkowski-less Patriots to get into the red zone—but no other NFL defense has done a better job against Brady this year. It was also nice to see the return of a pass-rush, with XXX sacks including a forced fumble.
Too bad the offense couldn’t keep up, though. A Pats defense that gave up over 30 points in three of its four games this year, the Bucs’ passing game looked completely incompetent. Jameis Winston was off for most of the night, and Dirk Koetter’s game plan looked terrible.
The Pats had really struggled with communication in the secondary, but the Bucs did almost nothing to take advantage of that. No complicated sets, no bunches, no routes to confuse the secondary. It was strange to see.
The one positive factor on offense: Doug Martin’s return. The Dougernaut looks like he’s having one of his awesome seasons, and single-handedly led the Bucs offense to its first touchdown drive. Inexplicably, the Bucs then mostly stopped giving him the ball. Still, he finished the game with 74 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
The Bucs offense did finally come alive in the final ten minutes. Two missed field goals drained them of necessary time, and when they finally got a touchdown there wasn’t much time left.
They finally did get the ball back with 1:10 remaining, down five points, but the lack of timeouts left them very few options. Somehow the Bucs got to the red zone with three seconds left—but that one shot they got wasn’t enough to get them the win.
Special teams ace Josh Robinson had to leave the game with a concussion, and did not return. Defensive end Ryan Russell left with a shoulder injury and did not return.