As week three came to a close on Monday Night Football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers endured their first loss of the season. The game had many ups and downs and reeked of the team as many have come to know it over the last few seasons. Penalties, no-calls, ghost-calls, turnovers and a late rally that fell short best summarizes the game void of detail. Now it’s time for some post game reactions.
The offense lost some of it’s early season mojo.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for another 400 yards and as Gil Arcia wrote here, entered the record books as the first quarterback to toss for 400 yards in three consecutive games. Three was number of the game for Fitzpatrick as he threw 3 interceptions (2 of which can be pinned on him) along with 3 touchdown passes. Yards aside, this was the version Fitzpatrick that most of the football world envisioned the Buccaneers getting while Jameis Winston served his suspension. The high risk-high reward gunslinger mentality finally cost the team a bit in this one though it was far from being solely on the shoulders of the teams signal caller.
Following a Justin Evans interception, Peyton Barber got the offense going with a couple good runs to set up a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Cameron Brate to give the Buccaneers and early lead. Barber would have little to no success after this drive, finishing the game with a total of 33 yards on 8 carries. Rodgers added 2 carries for -1 yards, Humphries carried one time for 4 yards and Fitzpatrick scrambled his way to 27 yards on 5 carries. Barber had the biggest carry of the night, going for 18 yards. Without the 18 yard scamper, Barber carried 7 times for 15 yards.
The receiving core including tight ends worked hard in this one led by Mike Evans and O.J. Howard. Evans had 137 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions including two amazing grabs shown below. Howard pulled in 6 passes for 72 yards and Chris Godwin had 4 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Godwin had his struggles including a ill timed fumble and several key drops, one of which was in the end-zone. The team was unable to get DeSean Jackson involved much, finishing with 3 catches for 37 yards. Brate got his first bit of real action of the season catching 3 of 4 targets for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Mike Evans with the slick grab!#GoBucs | #PITvsTB pic.twitter.com/MEMXBwOMfS— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 25, 2018
Mike with the HUGE TD catch! We're fighting back!#GoBucs | #PITvsTB pic.twitter.com/nLTaH9Yse5— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 25, 2018
The offensive line again did an overall solid job protecting Fitzpatrick but a missed assignment directly led to a Fitzpatrick interception. Run blocking was below average yet again, struggling to consistently open holes albeit they did succeed in allowing Barber to spring for a good gain on the second drive.
As a whole, the offense did enough to win the football game. The turnovers, all four of them, are inexcusable and need to get under control. The pick six from Fitzpatrick (shown below) just can’t happen. The play calling was questionable in a few key moments but ultimately in this game the offense as a whole didn’t execute to the level that they are capable of.
Speaking of firsts...@Bud_Dupree with the first touchdown of his career‼️ pic.twitter.com/QGp9uLZ0TX— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 25, 2018
Defensive backfield got gashed and gap discipline late was an issue.
The defensive line had a solid game led by veteran free-agent acquisition Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP did receive a personal foul for a hit to the head of Big Ben that was quite the acting job the by quarterback to sell the force of contact, but he also contributed 2 sacks to give him 3 on the season, one off the league lead in sacks. Pierre-Paul’s 3 sacks are more than any Buccaneer defensive end had a season ago. Vinny Curry and Gerald McCoy combined to split a sack which you won’t hear much about due to the sack that didn’t happen late in the 4th quarter by Gerald McCoy. On the play in question, McCoy nearly gets to Big Ben but was held on the play and in turn, the Steelers ended up extending the drive and went on to win the ballgame.
The linebackers were swarming but a few miscues including a poor angle and a vacated zone by Kwon and David let to a few big Steeler plays across the middle. Lavonte David did have an otherwise stellar game including a huge stop early in the ballgame that was followed by a Pierre-Paul sack to close out a Steeler drive in the first half. David led the team with 9 total tackles.
The defensive backs would best be served split into two groups, veterans and young guns. The young guns, including Justin Evans, Carl Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead played well. The veteran tandem of Brent Grimes and Chris “Highlight” Conte however did not. In Conte’s defense, he had little to do with the overall game as he was injured shortly after being demolished by Vance McDonald in this clip here.
Chris Conte has to retire after this. Easily the most violent stiff arm of the year so far pic.twitter.com/Rz5mePQRh7— Barstool Sports (@barstooltweetss) September 25, 2018
Justin Evans had himself a solid ball game against the Steelers that included this early interception of Big Ben on the Steelers second drive. Evans did play a big role in the Steelers scoring on a pass to Antonio Brown that first saw Brent Grimes playing off coverage and whiff on the tackle attempt.
Justin Evans picks off Big Ben to give us the ball on the 47 following great pressure from the D-Line!#GoBucs | #PITvsTB pic.twitter.com/L0wBgr012P— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 25, 2018
The biggest story of this game for the defensive backs was Carl Davis and how well he played, in particular when guarding Antonio Brown, versus how rusty a game it was for Brent Grimes who struggled in coverage early and seemed to be debating on whether or not to tackle the Steelers running back late in this ballgame. Also of note corner wise, Ryan Smith was noticeably absent from the defense just a week removed from the game of his life. I wrote a bit on that here.
Special Teams play.
Catanzaro made all 5 of his kicks which included 2 field goals in this game. Punter Brian Anger worked in three punts totaling 126 yards that included a 62 yarder and one punt inside the 20. Kicking game wise, the special teams units did their job.
Kick return wise the Buccaneers struggled aside from an electric punt return touchdown from DeSean Jackson that was brought back due to a bad holding call against Isaiah Johnson. Shaun Wilson struggled returning kicks on his 5 attempts, netting a big gain of only 17 yards and finishing with 68 yards returning in total. It may be time to question if Wilson is cut out for the job after a few questionable decisions and his spot potentially hindering the availability of Ronald Jones suiting up as one of the final 46 going forward.
The Buccaneers nearly went 3-0 to start the season and that in and of itself is incredible given the early on expectations. With the team now 2-1 and gearing up to take on Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears, it’s time for this front office and the coaches to not let one loss roll into another. This team desperately needs to turn things around this season and the start they are off to is just what they needed. Fitzpatrick saw the magic wear off a good bit on Monday night and how he starts this next ballgame will very easily dictate his immediate future along with Jameis Winston’s. The offense is in prime position to continue putting up big plays and points. The defense needs to step it up in all phases. The loss was tough but it was not a back breaker. Fans should be proud of how this team battled back and the players should look to build upon their efforts. As always, Go Bucs!