This was suppose to be a chance for the Buccaneers to capture the NFC South lead at a time while the Saints were down a bit with Drew Brees but that just didn’t happen, did it? Nope. The NFL can be a funny place at times. Both the Saints and the Panthers are riding out of this weekend with wins while utilizing back up quarterbacks and meanwhile, here sit the Buccaneers struggling to find any consistency week to week.
This game was frustrating. It was frustrating because things we know to be true of this team held true. It’s frustrating because officiating has been total @$$ this season. It’s frustrating because a fourth-string RB was in the game late on a 3rd and short. It’s frustrating because the coaching staff had another timeout blunder. It’s frustrating because... well because this is life for Buccaneers fan.
Frustration aside, let’s react to each unit and get on with it.
Jameis Winston was on his back a lot in this game. Like a lot. Almost as much as poor Demar Dotson and Donovan Smith which we’ll get into in a second. Jameis Winston had an above average game. Winston got away with an interception thanks to a defensive penalty and hit another defender square in the face at another point. Other than that, Winston did what he could with little to no time in the pocket and continued to look great throwing to Chris Godwin. There were a few bright moments in this game where the offense looked damn good again but just as often (honestly far more often) it looked lost. That’s not on Jameis so we are perfectly clear, tho he did struggle early on in this game.
The backs split carries at 9 and 8 a piece for Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber respectively as they each averaged roughly 4 yards a carry. Jones had a couple of receptions totaling another 21 yards. The backs were arguably the most consistent part of the offense in this game. Peyton Barber managed to take a carry into the endzone to cap off a 17 play drive.
Want to know a good way to make winning a struggle? How about having a game where Mike Evans finishes with zero receptions and only 3 targets. Sure, Chris Godwin went out and had a great gamethat included 7 grabs for 120+ yards and 2 TD’s but essentially he was the only non-RB to get any action in the passing game. Dare Ogunbowale and Ronald Jones both had 2 receptions totaling 20+ yards a piece. When Bobo Wilson has the same amount of receptions and targets as O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Mike Evans... what more do you expect?
On offense, there’s one unit that can ruin ball games all on it’s own here in Tampa Bay. You guessed it, the offensive line. What happened to the two Tampa Bay Buccaneer offensive tackles on Sunday was an abomination and a kick to the sack of every respectful, hard working and deserving lineman that hasn’t gotten their shot in the league. Demar Dotson has had his share of injuries and is up there in age, it’s not his fault he was handed the right tackle job. No, that’s Jason Licht and this coaching staffs fault. Donovan Smith on the other hand was given a big fat contract of which many individuals would argue he didn’t deserve. What Smith has put on tape this season in several games would echo those individuals sentiment. Smith was embarrassed several times on Sunday and for a starting left tackle, it’s just unacceptable. While we’re at it, offensive tackle play cost the Buccaneers a touchdown (thankfully they converted the next play for a score) on a slant near the goal line earlier when Dotson failed to even make contact with a defender off the edge who nearly picked the pass.
What sucks the most about this game and the offensive line is that basically every single fan and pundit across the country saw this coming. Nearly everyone knew this unit was going to struggle more often than not this season. We all knew that the tackles were weak. We all knew that continuity means nothing if the unit isn’t talented. We all knew it, yet here we are still having to watch it week in and week out.
Shaquil Barrett was kept in check all game and basically that meant the entire pass rush was non existent. Save a few plays in the second half, there was nothing this defensive front did that forced Teddy Bridgewater into any uncomfortable positions. Rarely did Bridgewater have to rush and in turn, he carved the Buccaneers up for his best game by far of the season.
Devin White was active for the first time in weeks and he seemed non-existent to fans. Well duh. That’s because he didn’t play... like at all. Instead we got to see Kevin Minter struggle in coverage and Lavonte David was unable to make much of an impact either as the Saints passed the ball at will.
The secondary is the offensive line of the defense as far as ineptitude and inconsistency goes. It’s pathetic and it started early and kept on throughout the game. The Buccaneers had no answer for Michael Thomas who made this defense look like a high school unit and to make things better, Carlton Davis got ejected early on for targeting a defenseless receiver with his helmet. While one corner, Vernon Hargreaves, hurts the team with his inability to defend a pass the other constantly gets flagged and this time took himself out of the game. Bravo guys, bravo. At least we have Jordan Whitehead, right guys? Honestly tho, Whitehead continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise black eye of a unit on this team.
On a slight side note, congrats to Sean Murphy-Bunting on his first career interception. At least someone back there made a play against the Saints.
I had hoped to not have coaching as a reaction point again yet... here we are. If calling a timeout right as your running back proceeds to drive thru for a first down isn’t sad enough, bringing in a 4th string running back on a late third down play should be. What is going on with this staff? Veteran group full of rookie coaching mistakes. It just doesn’t make sense.
Speaking of coaching, let’s talk about the challenges. I have zero issue with either challenge, both seemed like obvious shoe-ins to get reversed right? SIKE! What the hell is going on in the league right now with challenges, replay and reviews? Everyone who watched the clear fumble on the punt also saw the Buccaneers CLEARLY recover that football and come up with it in the end. Everyone that is except the people that mattered. How is this possible? Let’s go a step further and revisit Hargreaves getting toasted by Thomas. In Vernon’s defense, he clearly was hindered by Thomas extending his arms and pushing off of VH3. Clear offensive pass interference that wasn’t called. Bruce Arians challenges (as he should) and in turn get’s screwed over again as the officials determined to let the play stand. What kind of horse spit league is this when the officiating can’t even get it right with clear replay?
I have a hard enough time watching NFL Football thanks to the Buccaneers and their inability to fix this losing culture that has lasted for the better part of my lifetime. It’s now become a complete insult to fans intelligence with the pathetic officiating that has taken place this season and the Buccaneers somehow seem like they are always on the wrong end getting screwed here. What gives? At what point will things change?
Will the officiating ever feel fair? Not just the replays, not just the no call of offensive pass interference. How about Jameis Winston getting rocked late? How about clear holding by the opponent? How about a well called game all around? Or how about this... how about the Buccaneers take matters into their own hands and just play better football all around? One day Buccaneer fans, one day. Here’s to hoping a trip overseas is just what the doctor ordered.