Let me start off by apologizing for getting these in late. A stomach bug got the best of me and put me down for a couple of days.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, they couldn’t take a couple of days off after a bad defeat on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A short week has them on to Chicago to face off against one of the league’s best defenses.
As for their performance against Pittsburgh, well, it was a tale of two different halves. This week’s grades were tough to give out since there was a lot of good as well as a lot of bad.
Things looked ugly in the first half. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, one of them costing Tampa Bay six points. The running game couldn’t get going for the second straight week. Chris Godwin dropped a touchdown and fumbled the ball on another possession.
After the first touchdown, Tampa Bay’s next five drives went punt, fumble, INT, INT, INT before they made a field goal going into halftime.
I mean, it was rough. Red zone woes contributed to the mess as well. The Bucs looked more like the 5-11 team from 2017 than the 2-0 team from 2018 that upset the defending world champions just the week before.
They struggled throughout the entire game in pass protection and as mentioned earlier, there was no running room to be found anywhere.
Man, I don't know if it was him being back in Florida or what. But Anthony Chickillo played really well Monday. Finally playing with physicality and violence. Destroys LT Donovan Smith on this rep. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/C4P5c4nLFp— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 26, 2018
The Steelers’ defensive line ate the Bucs’ offensive line up. It will be interesting to see how the Bucs adjust this week.
But the offense finally stopped making mistakes in the second half and strung together a couple of long drives that ended in touchdowns. They scored on their one trip inside the red zone and almost made a comeback to win or tie the game.
They did some great things, but they also did some really bad things. It won’t get any easier this week in Chicago so they better hope they can fix their issues.
Final Grade: 2.0 (C)
There are going to be some issues with this grade.
I feel like the Bucs’ defense played pretty damn well Monday night considering what they were up against in the Steelers’ offense.
I mean, I get it. You can just watch the Chris Conte (R.I.P) debacle and automatically give the team a failing grade just on optics alone.
But when you really watch the defense and how they played, you have to feel encouraged.
First off, the 30 points allowed in the first half are a bit of a misnomer. Seven of them came off of the Fitzpatrick INT and the other seven came on the drive after Godwin’s fumble - when the Steelers started on the Tampa Bay 33.
The defense recorded three sacks, eight tackles for loss, nine hurries, and an interception. They held the Steelers to zero points in the second half.
Carlton Davis played a very good game against Antonio Brown. It was Brent Grimes who missed the tackle on the screen pass that Brown took for six. Lavonte David, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Gerald McCoy were stellar as usual.
The biggest issue for the defense was the touchdown they gave up right before halftime. Sure, Big Ben was on a different level that night, but you can’t give another team momentum like that heading into the half.
As a whole, the defense played better than the offense even though it doesn’t look like it on the surface.
Final Grade: 3.0 (B)
Chandler Catanzaro made all of his kicks. That alone should warrant an A grade.
But alas, it’s not the only determining factor.
Shaun Wilson was pretty miserable on kick returns. I distinctly remember one that he took out of the endzone just to wind up at his own 17-yard line. Wilson averaged a pathetic 13.6 yards on five returns for the night.
Bryan Anger had a good night, booting a 64-yarder and allowing just one return on three punts for a net of around 37 yards.
Other than for Wilson, it was a good night for the unit.
Final Grade: 3.5 (B+)
The coaches called a good game plan. A lot of the issues the Bucs had during the game occurred on the field, not on the sidelines. The turnovers and lack of execution at times are what led to the defeat.
Now that doesn’t mean the coaches were perfect. Koetter’s decision to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down before halftime was questionable and has sparked a bit of debate and people are still trying to figure out exactly what the hell Mike Smith had the defense doing on the Conte burial.
Here's the All-22 of the Conte play.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) September 26, 2018
I do not understand this defense. It's close-man for Stewart and Davis, but off-man for Grimes, and since they dialed the blitz, Conte had man on the TE. So how was he that far off? No way he AND Evans didn't know. That was the design? No way pic.twitter.com/KordJ7KJz9
The team also lost the game.
It was still a valiant effort and showed some grit in a team that didn’t had yet to face a fourth quarter deficit this season. The coaching staff is starting to become a consistent factor on this team.
Final Grade: 2.5 (C+)
Overall Grade: 2.75 (C+)
The Bucs weren’t really THAT bad on Monday Night, they just made a bunch of dumb mistakes. They didn’t do that in the first two games and it was big reason why they started the season 2-0.
As long as they can learn from these mistakes, they will be just fine.