Leading up to this week the day after post game reactions pieces have followed a pretty specific guideline of offense by position, defense by position and so on; that changes this week. The Buccaneers set sail to Carolina and forgot to pack the defense on the ship yet again. The final score was 42-28 but it really never felt like the game was truly within reach. An ugly start on offense coupled with another team setting an offensive record, this time Carolina and their 35 first half points on offense, against the Buccaneers defense and before you know it, the game was over.
Don’t be fooled by end of game stats, the offense struggled when it mattered yet again.
The Buccaneers began the game about as bad as it gets on offense. A quick 3 and out to start the football game was followed by the teams defense actually picking up the slack and getting Carolina to punt. The problem? Ryan Fitzpatrick apparently wasn’t ready to go out that quick and subsequently sailed a pass over Mike Evans head, a reoccurring theme of missing Evans was all over this ball game, goes right into the hands of Eric Reid for an interception.
The next offensive possession was nearly ended early yet again by a turnover on an errant pass to Mike Evans, who was covered by James Bradberry all game long, fell to the ground. The drive did show a slight bit of life as Jacquizz Rodgers scampered on a 3rd and 10 for a first down. This drive capped with the prior two ended what was an awful start for Ryan Fitzpatrick who soon began to find a bit of rhythm, albeit to late.
The fourth drive had a bit of that early season Fitzmagic to it as the Buccaneers started with three straight first downs where Adam Humphries came up with a key third down grab to set up the teams first touchdown. On 2nd and 3 from 4 yards out Ryan Fitzpatrick found O.J. Howard in the flat for a touchdown. The tight end would be the teams brightest player on the afternoon by far.
The worst moment on offense in this game was soon to come, Following another touchdown given up by the defense, the Tampa Bay offense went 3 and out again. Desperation was about to hit the ceiling finally and sure enough, it was time. From their own 25 yard line after going 3 and out, Dirk Koetter called in the secret weapon. Bryan Anger lined up for the punt, received the snap and there it was, fake punt time. Anger lofted an ugly pass that was deflected and in turn, failed to find it’s target. Here comes Carolina on their own 25 yard line. I think most of us can guess what happened next. The defense did put up a fight and thanks to some penalties on Carolina moved them from the 1 yard line back to about the 20, the defense remembered who they were and gave up a touchdown on a nice catch by tight end and Buccaneer killer Greg Olsen.
The final drive before the half for Tampa did go well as they drove down the field 75 yards and capped it with another O.J. Howard receiving touchdown. The damage had already been done though, as Tampa trailed 35-14 at the half.
The second half showed a bit of smoke and mirrors statistically for the Buccaneers offense as they put up two more touchdowns and got within 7 points of the Panthers at 35-28 but it just never felt close. It’s as if the Panthers went into auto pilot for an extra 15 minutes after the half knowing they could score at will on offense and create a turnover on defense, both of which happened when it mattered most.
The Buccaneers offense, within 7 points of tying it up, had to rely on the defense to keep it that way and that’s when Carolina flexed their muscle and put away the Buccaneers for good. The Buccaneers would get the ball back down 14 and it was simply too much for Fitzpatrick and the offense to come back from at that point. The defense got a stop to give the offense the ball back, and Fitztragic made his second appearance in the game. On the first play of the last offensive drive for the Buccaneers, Fitzpatrick sailed a pass to DeSean Jackson down the sideline and it ended up with Panthers defensive back Donte Jackson instead.
The Defense was obliterated, non-existent at times and mocked by the Carolina offense.
Following an Eric Reid interception on the second Buccaneer offensive possession of the game, the defense destroyed a Cam Newton run-option and in typical Buccaneer fashion, a unnecessary roughness penalty via Bond set Carolina up inside the 5 yard line. A couple plays later and the fullback takes it in for the score. No worries though, this was far from as bad as it got.
The next Panther possession began with back to back 30+ yard plays to offset their poor field position to start the drive. Carlton Davis was taken advantage on by McCaffrey who went full airborne to avoid a Davis tackle and then by D.J. Moore on an end around. This wouldn’t be the last time you hear Davis’ name attached to something negative in this ball game. McCaffrey finished the drive off with a touchdown run of his own this time. Still yet, this was not the worst defensive series of the game.
Following a Buccaneer touchdown to O.J. Howard, the defense should have felt some form of momentum in their favor right? Wrong. What may be this defenses signature moment (in an incredibly awful way) was about to happen. Curtis Samuel takes a double reverse, where he is basically 15 yards behind the LOS at the time he gets the ball, to the house on an embarrassing display of how to play defense by the Tampa Bay Buccaneer football team.
The instant reaction nearly every game is how can this team possibly make the playoffs giving up 30+ points a game. After that play there, how can this team even win another game with such poor defense? How does one player make an entire defense, because he literally went from one side of the field to the other ensuring they all got a look, appear to be so over matched?
Coming out of the half, the team had given up 35 points on defense, including two scores off of a turnover (1) and a botched fake punt attempt (2), and basically allowed Carolina to take off the 3rd quarter all together. The Buccaneers held the Panthers scoreless in the 3rd quarter but when they needed a big stop after the offense got the game to within a touchdown of tying it, they failed.
The second to last defensive possession was a good one, stopping Carolina and giving the ball back to the offense, now down 14, was a moot point as Fitzpatrick delivered the ball back to Carolina. The Buccaneers defense crumbled again as Newton sealed the deal and sent Tampa Bay home with another loss, and even more questions about the future of this franchise.
The Buccaneers have two quarterbacks that they can’t trust to protect the football right now. Dirk Koetter appeared to make it clear coming out at the half that he had no desire to see Jameis Winston in that ball game and as the season goes on and losses mount up, it will be interested to see how they handle the situation all together. There’s a strong chance that neither quarterback will be the future signal caller of this team, one due to age and the other due to immaturity and ball security question marks. On the other hand, only one of the two is young enough to prove otherwise on their future and that is Jameis Winston. At some point, he should go back under center once this season is a complete loss, whether Dirk Koetter likes it or not.
Personnel groupings and play calling seemed strange seeing as how often DeSean Jackson, the best deep threat in the game, was absent in lieu of packages that called for Adam Humphries. Humphries had a good game but I can’t help but question what the though process is of keeping one of the best weapons you have on offense, off the field. Around the league, other teams are consistently finding ways to keep all weapons on the field as often as possible meanwhile here in Tampa, it still seems to be a problem from time to time.
Defensively outside of Carl Nassib and Jason Pierre-Paul, the defensive line is getting a D grade from me this season. There’s no consistency week to week from any players on than those two and it’s sickening to watch. Carlton Davis had a rough start and capped off his best play of the game, stopping Devin Funchess from getting a first down, by capturing himself a 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, the least of what this team needs given the results.
Overall, a lot of people should be worried about their future with the franchise from general manager on down to the players and coaches. Looking this bad on defense is a group effort and losing the way this team loses week in and week out is a disease. At some point, the disease needs to be taken care of and it’s time they get the right doctor in house to fix it.