The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came up short against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, 37-34. After trailing 29-7 at halftime and 34-16 in the fourth quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bucs all the way back.
Fitzpatrick, in relief of Jameis Winston, was able to put together three scoring drives in the final frame to give Tampa Bay a shot. Unfortunately, after tying the game with 1:05 to play, the Buccaneers defense fell apart on the final drive.
Andy Dalton nickle and dimed his way downfield before finding A.J. Green twice to put the Bengals into field goal range. The rest is history.
1. Mike Evans
Mike Evans recorded his most receiving yards since the season-opener in the game against Cincinnati. The former Texas A&M star hauled in six catches for 179 yards and one touchdown.
His 72-yard score in the fourth quarter helped Tampa Bay get back in the game. Evans is currently on pace to have his best season ever.
2. Jason Pierre-Paul
Through seven games a year ago, the Buccaneers defense had recorded a total of seven sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul already has eight sacks of his own in seven games this season and as a whole, Tampa Bay has notched 16 sacks.
After failing to get a sack in the season-opener, Pierre-Paul has gotten to the quarterback at least once in the last six weeks. The former New York Giant is looking to be the first Buc to record double-digits sacks in a season since Simeon Rice (14) in 2005.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Though he played just over a quarter, Fitzpatrick was arguably the MVP of the Tampa Bay offense. He finished 11/15 for 194 yards and two touchdowns to try and lead the Buccaneers to a come from behind win.
After coming in following Winston’s four interceptions, Tampa Bay’s offense found a rhythm under Fitzpatrick. The Bucs scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to give themselves a shot before the defense collapsed on the final drive.
Going forward, it’s viable that Fitzpatrick could take over at quarterback, especially with Winston’s turnover issues. This coaching staff has a heck of a decision to make.
1. Dirk Koetter
Just like the coaching staff has a decision to make on its quarterback, the organization has a decision to make on its head coach. Is the Dirk Koetter era in Tampa Bay on its final few wheels?
After going 9-7 and barely missing the playoffs in 2016, the Buccaneers slid back to 5-11 a year ago. With Winston suspended for the first two games to start 2018, many figured this team would struggle without him.
Instead, they had one of the top offenses in the NFL and got out to a 2-0 start. However, the defense has struggled all season and Koetter was forced to part ways with defensive coordinator Mike Smith just two weeks ago.
When Winston returned, the offense found itself with a turnover problem and that has ultimately led us here, to a crossroads. Koetter’s vertical passing scheme doesn’t fit Winston’s strength’s well. He’s more suited for a west coast offense that is less complex and makes things easier on the quarterback.
This organization is going to have to choose, Koetter or Winston?
2. Jameis Winston
Winston has thrown 10 interceptions, culminating with four against Cincinnati, in his three and a half games back. He’s made plenty of plays but the mistakes have overshadowed the success.
All four of his interceptions on Sunday were easily throws the fourth-year quarterback shouldn’t have made. Winston just seems unable to throw passes away, opting instead to look for big plays every down.
It’d be exciting if it was working, but it isn’t.
Tampa Bay picked up Winston’s fifth-year contract back in April, which will pay him $20.9 million in 2016. Like I said above, a decision has to be made about which way will the organization will move going forward.
Though Winston didn’t give them much help, Tampa Bay’s defense didn’t do itself any favors against the Bengals. The Buccaneers failed to force a turnover for the third time in four games. Ironically, the only turnover they’ve gotten in that time is a fumble recovery on a kickoff.
Whether it was through the air or on the ground, Cincinnati moved the ball however it wanted to in the first half. In the second half, Tampa Bay did tighten up and force four three and outs and five punts overall.
But when it counted most, the Buccaneers reverted back to form, allowing Dalton to drive down the field and set up the game-winning kick for the Bengals.
Cincinnati's top play makers picked Tampa Bay apart. Joe Mixon rushed 21 times for a career-high 123 yards and two touchdowns. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd combined for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches.