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Final Grades: Browns vs Buccaneers

There may be a few surprises this week

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dirk Koetter and co. got away with one on Sunday
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a Cleveland Browns or Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, odds are you don’t have as much as hair now as you did before one o’clock eastern time last Sunday. You’re voice is probably a bit raspy today as well.

And it was for good cause. Despite the Bucs pulling out the victory, both teams did enough to both lose and win this game. Penalties, turnovers, and inconsistent kickers laid the groundwork for an exciting finish.

Just because Tampa Bay won, however, doesn’t mean that they’ll escape the wrath on their report card.


It was a tale of two halves for the offense. This has been a reoccurring theme for both sides of the ball in 2018.

Outside of the Saints game, the offense hasn’t put together a full four quarters yet this year.

Against the Browns, Tampa Bay got out to a quick 16-2 lead in the first half. The Bucs finished the half with 17 first downs, 243 net yards, a 75% conversion rate (3/4) on third down and a 100% conversion rate (2/2) in the red zone.

They also had the two costly turnovers on consecutive possessions right before halftime.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston has to cut down on the turnovers.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The second half and overtime saw similar stats production-wise, except that Tampa Bay went 3/9 on third down and committed two more turnovers. The fumble on the first drive on the third quarter was just a bad play that led to Cleveland’s first touchdown.

O.J. Howard had a really bad drop and Caleb Benenoch was giving free passes to interior lineman like he has all season long. Donovan Smith was called on a crucial hold that required Jameis Winston and Mike Evans to bail out the offense with a 21-yard completion.

The Bucs had 114 yards on the ground, but that came off of 32 carries, good for a 3.6 average. Keep in mind that the Browns were ranked 29th against the run coming into this game.

Don’t get me wrong, the offense did some good things. They also did some bad things and the good didn’t come consistently enough.

Final Grade: 2.0 (C)


Just like the offense, the defense was great and then not-so-great throughout the course of the game.

It was obvious that Mark Duffner’s presence as DC gave them energy in the first half. Tampa Bay’s defense pitched a first-half shutout that saw the Browns gain an insanely low 74 total yards of offense. They held Cleveland to 1/8 on third down, sacked Baker Mayfield once, forced four three-and-outs, and kept them from scoring entirely on their one trip inside the red zone.

But when halftime passed, something had changed.

It still remains to be seen, but Kwon Alexander’s injury most likely had to do with the letdown in the second half. Regardless, injuries happen in football and good teams find ways to overcome them on a regular basis.

Tampa Bay allowed over 230 yards off offense in the second half and overtime. 170 of those yards came in the fourth quarter.

The average yards per play rose from 2.55 in the first half to a whopping 4.9 in the second half. The Bucs gave up three touchdowns in the process as well.

But the bread and butter this week was the pass rush and third down defense. The defensive line got to Mayfield four times - two sacks came from former Brown Carl Nassib - and Adarius Taylor joined in on the fun to make it five takedowns.

If Duffner can figure out a way to make the first half results happen for an entire game, then there is plenty of hope left in the season.

Final Grade: 2.5 (C+)

Special Teams

I’m going to make this short and sweet. Well, not so sweet.

I don’t care if Chandler Catanzaro hit a 59-yard kick to win the game. One of the reasons the Bucs had to rely on that kick was because of him in the first place.

He missed another PAT attempt and a 40-yard field goal to clinch the game in overtime.

Hey, Chandler:

You. Are. Getting. Paid. $3.5 million. Do. Your. Damned. Job.

Anthony Auclair’s perfect punch-out on the Jabril Peppers fumble is the only reason this unit doesn’t get a big, fat F. That play was enough to raise the grade a couple of points.

Final Grade: 2.0 (C)


Dirk Koetter isn’t responsible for the dumb mistakes that his players make on the field.

You can’t blame him for Cameron Brate’s fumble nor the fact that a receiver ran the wrong route on Winston’s second interception.

But you can blame him for foolishly relying on Catanzaro to make a 40-yard game winning kick when he (Cat) has struggled hitting 33-yard extra points. You can blame him even more due to the fact that the Bucs were at the Cleveland 25 with :45 seconds left and two timeouts when he decided to do so.

That decision right there just about cost them the game.

When it comes to Duffner, I’ll back off a bit because of the Alexander injury. This defense produced and had some great moments despite their shortcomings in the big picture.

Final Grade: 2.0 (C)

Overall Grade: 2.13 (C)

A “C” grade for a win is not good, obviously. I don’t mean to be a downer, but it’s hard to come away from this win satisfied. For two weeks in a row, the Bucs have not only battled opponents, but they’ve had to battle themselves as well.

This can’t continue to happen. Not if this team wants to win or make the playoffs.

They have another big test this weekend in Cincinnati.

Overall Grade For The 2018 Season: 2.23 (C)