The narrative all week was this was a game the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could win. The Washington Redskins sat atop the NFC East, but the separation between them and the last NFC South’s last place team was not big.
In fact, the Bucs came in as favorites. Aided surely by the fact the Redskins would be playing without three of their starting offensive linemen, and had a fourth banged up.
There was some concern though. Fans and media alike felt the team should get a better pass rush given the setback on the offensive front in Washington. But would the secondary hold up long enough for pass rushers to get it and impact Alex Smith?
As it turns out, we were asking the wrong questions. The pass rush wasn’t as effective as we’d hoped, but it wasn’t the reason Tampa Bay fell to 3-6 on the season. Here are five reasons they did.
THE PLAY: Subtraction by addition
This game was a must-win. Seems like every game these days is a must-win for the Bucs. But this game was really a must-win. Maybe a double must-win? Is that a thing?
Anyway, from the word go, you could almost feel the pressure riding on the shoulders of Ryan Fitzpatrick and his offense.
At one point this season, the commentary was about how peaceful the offense looked with him at the helm. Controlled. Deliberate. Etc. Etc.
Not this past weekend. And it became even more evident when Fitzpatrick did this.
Now let’s be clear. I got very excited when I saw it happen. But as soon as the ball left his hand I knew it went forward, not backwards. My brain began to scramble through my knowledge of the rule book trying to find the part where it says something like this isn’t allowed to be challenged.
No such luck. And the play was brought back and penalized. Here’s the problem. Look at the play again. Fitzpatrick has a clear line to somewhere between the 35 and 40-yard line.
As amazing as it might sound, I’m almost more confident in Chandler Catanzaro from that distance than I am from closer.
Trying to make things happen is one of the things which makes Fitzpatrick fun to watch - sound familiar? - but this was not smart football. It was backyard football, and it hurt his team as it removed any chances of getting out to an early lead.
THE PLAY: Make catches Brate again
Cameron Brate just hasn’t been as big a part of the offense as he has in the past. Following a great performance in Week 9 by O.J. Howard, the thought was Brate’s decline would probably continue.
Well, his targets didn’t continue to fall. In fact, Brate was targeted three times while Howard received two. Each came away with one catch with Howard getting one more yard than Brate who collected 14-yards on his one reception.
But it’s his drops I want to talk about. Early on, Brate had two big drops. Here they are.
The first one was a bit wide, granted. But it’s a catch he should make. By itself, it’s not worthy of making this list. The Buccaneers converted the subsequent third down, so the drop didn’t kill anything necessarily.
However, the second one was much bigger as we now know. Catching the ball on the two or three yard line gives Tampa Bay a chance at giving the ball to running back Peyton Barber upon many other options as they look to punch it in from up close.
Both drops stalled momentum. Either catch would have moved the ball even just a little bit, but would have impacted flow of the game more than anything. With the offense struggling to finish drives, getting the ‘easy’ catches are a must if the unit has any hopes of getting back on track.
THE PLAY: Clock dump
If you saw the game, you don’t even need to read the description. But here it is.
With eight seconds left in the first half, the Buccaneers had zero timeouts and were on the brink of getting into field goal range with a shot to tie the game.
Fitzpatrick motioned Jacquizz Rodgers to the right side of the formation, and given the option of two out routes, and one slant into the middle of the field he threw it to Rodgers cutting across the middle of the field.
Now, granted, both out routes were covered pretty well as DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries ended up just yards away from each other on their respective outs.
Still, the throw and catch killed the remainder of the clock and forced the Bucs to head to the locker room with no chance at points.
I’ve got some questions about the play call in general, but given the situation, it would have been better for the quarterback to sail the ball out of bounds and come back for a hail mary, if they decided to go for it.
THE PLAY: Challenges of the head coach
With 3:12 left in the fourth quarter, down thirteen points, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers called their final timeout of the game.
At the 2:23 mark, the following happened.
Let’s be clear here, Adrian Peterson didn’t fumble the ball. He was down well before the ball came out, so this isn’t a case where the Buccaneers got screwed by the referee’s or anything.
What happened is, grasping for any opportunity to try and get his team the ball back, Dirk Koetter threw a challenge flag. With no timeouts.
Let’s not make too much of this. It’s not something that cost them the game. It did give the Redskins a first down, but are we really going to claim the Bucs’ offense would have put up two touchdowns and extra points with less than two minutes left and no timeouts?
What it speaks about to me, is the mindset of a head coach trying to manage an entire side of the ball simultaneously.
The head coach needs to have his eye on the game. The whole game. Not just the offense or just the defense.
When a head coach is also his own play-caller he can’t possibly manage all of the details in the game.
We found out after the game he was also calling plays against the Redskins. Mistakes like this, are typically a result of someone simply not having his focus dedicated fully where it needed to be.
Isolated, this incident itself didn’t cause the team the game. But continued operations like this could certainly lead to a situation where it does.
THE PLAY: Cant-kick-anzaro
No gif needed. Chandler Catanzaro missed kicks. Two of them to be exact. With 8:35 left in the first quarter, he missed a 30-yard kick which would have tied the game at three.
Then, with 4:12 left in the third quarter, he missed a 48-yard kick which again would have tied the game. This time at six.
I don’t have a whole lot to write about here. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
Up to this point, Catanzaro has tried fifteen field goal kicks and he’s missed four of them. He’s also missed four extra points.
This puts his made kicks percentage at 81%. Also known as, not acceptable.
Only four teams have made extra points in the 80% range. And only seven - including Tampa Bay - have made field goals less than 74% of the time they try one.
So, could it get worse? Yes, I suppose. But not much.
Which play(s) had the biggest impact on the final outcome in Week 10?
This poll is closed
Fitzpatrick gambles out of field goal range
Brate drops the ball early on
Expiring clock in the first half
Head coach challenge snafu
Catanzaro misses kicks