After winning back-to-back games against the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, the Bucs were able to get out to a 14-3 lead at halftime, but couldn’t do anything in the second half to put the game away.
But don’t worry, the grades will continue even though the writing is officially on the wall for 2018.
As previously mentioned, the offense was the catalyst to the defeat against the Saints. As with most games this season, it was a tale of two different halves.
Despite scoring 14 points in the first half, there wasn’t much production yardage-wise for the Tampa Bay offense. They came in at 198 net yards, but they were extremely efficient on third down (5/8) and in the red zone and goal-to-go (100% in both categories).
Tampa Bay averaged 4.8 yards per carry on the ground, but Jameis Winston led the team with 37 yards on three carries in the first half. The Bucs ran for 76 yards as a team.
It all fell apart in the second half. The offense could only muster up 81 total yards in the second half. I don’t even need to explain how that translated into zero points.
They went (1/6) on third down, yards per play went from (5.21) to (4.3), and Winston completed just 6/17 passes.
A lot of the credit goes to the Saints’ defense. They made life pretty miserable for the Bucs all day long, especially the Saints’ secondary. Every time Winston attempted a pass, there was a defender near - if not completely covering - the targeted receiver.
The offensive line was pretty bad as well. Donovan Smith has regressed in the latter stages of this season and Demar Dotson’s age looks to have caught up with him.
I won’t even mention right guard. Or center. Ryan Jensen is arguably the year’s biggest disappointment.
Hell, Ali Marpet may be the only starter to come back in 2019.
And to put it into full context, here are the final six possessions - they all came in the second half - of the game:
- Missed FG
- Blocked Punt
I think it’s safe to say that’s not the formula for winning football games.
Final Grade: 1.5 (D)
Mark Duffner continues to do a very good job with very limited resources. Tampa Bay’s defense has played well over the course of the past three weeks.
They just couldn’t hold on against the Saints on Sunday. Can you really blame them? Outside of the Dallas Cowboys, no one has been able to hold the Saints down for a full four quarters this season.
With no offensive help, it was only a matter of time before the levee broke on defense. But 25 points in one half is still inexcusable, no matter what you’re up against.
Poor tackling and execution helped the Saints come back in the game and it was never more evident than on Mark Ingram’s touchdown run to take the lead. Just watch below. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
On top of that, they allowed close to 200 yards, a 71% third down conversion rate (5/7), and 97 rushing yards in the second half. The defense continued to battle injuries as well after losing Kevin Minter early to a season-ending injury.
The second half effort wiped out a dominant first half that saw the Bucs take the Saints to the woodshed defensively. Everything looked to be on track after Carl Nassib was able to get a strip-sack on Brees after halftime, but it all fell apart soon after.
At the end of the day, you have to find a way to get the job done if you want to call yourself a good team. Tampa Bay couldn’t find a way, therefore, they lost.
Final Grade: 2.0 (C)
There is only one word for this unit’s performance - YIKES.
After two weeks of pure bliss, Tampa Bay fans were reminded that they are still Tampa Bay fans as they watched Cairo Santos miss two very makeable kicks from inside the 40-50 yard range.
Then they watched as Taysom Hill bolted through the Bucs’ punt protection to block Bryan Anger’s punt in the third quarter. It was by far and away the biggest play of the game. The block gave the Saints the ball at the Bucs’ 30 and the Saints’ offense scored the first touchdown of the game because of the great field position.
Yes, you read that right. Hill is the backup quarterback for New Orleans.
It was absolutely atrocious. It really feels like the Football Gods wanted to remind us all that we are currently in special teams purgatory and that there is no chance of ever getting out.
Final Grade: 0.0 (F)
You never want to leave a game asking yourself “what the hell happened”. That scenario came up again on Sunday, with many fans and analysts scratching their heads in order to figure out what happened with Tampa Bay.
A lack of adjustments on both sides of the ball doomed the Bucs. On offense, they couldn’t come up with a plan to combat a Saints defense that was playing very well and on defense they couldn’t figure out how to stop the Saints offense in the fourth quarter.
While Duffner has done a very good job with what he has, I’m not sure if it’s enough to retain his position next year and the same goes with Todd Monken. Sure, Monken has had some great moments, but he’s also had some questionable ones as well.
We all know what is going to happen with Dirk Koetter. It’s just a matter of time.
Final Grade: 1.0 (D)
Overall Grade: 1.13 (D)
Like most games of the past half-decade, this was a very frustrating one to watch.
It looked like the Bucs would pull of their second straight upset of the season, but they ultimately fell short. Hopefully a new regime will be able to find ways to win these types of games.