Following a confidence building victory the week prior, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed it up with a highly disappointing loss. No, it’s not Week 3, and we’re not talking about losing to the New York Giants after defeating the Carolina Panthers on the road.
Instead, we’re talking about another two week roller coaster of Bucs related emotion, and here are the moments that brought us to this week’s low.
LETTING THEM OFF THE HOOK
Leading 7-3, the Tampa Bay defense had given up 78-yards passing to Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in less than one quarter in New Orleans, yet still held a lead thanks to an Alvin Kamara bobble leading to Sean Murphy-Bunting’s first career interception.
So, despite the fact Bridgewater had gotten off to a pretty good start to begin the game, the Bucs had a golden opportunity to build a two score lead on the road and put a lot of early pressure on an offense which hadn’t produced much since losing Drew Brees.
All they needed to do was get the Saints offense off the field, quickly. And they were set up to do it. Four plays into their next possession after throwing the interception, the Saints were facing a 3rd and 7 on their own 40-yard line.
A passing situation custom made for Tampa Bay’s pass rush and aggressive secondary.
18-yards later, Michael Thomas gave his offense a new set of downs into Buccaneers territory and near field goal range. The Bucs defense’s best chance to get the opposing offense off the field after that came on 3rd and 2, but a Kamara run converted that attempt as well, and Thomas hit the end zone on the next play to give New Orleans the lead they would never relinquish.
NOT QUITE ANSWERING THE BELL
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have demonstrated an increased resiliency as the year has gotten going. Specifically, against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, the team was able to withstand a pretty consistent barrage of offensive effort from Jared Goff and company while counterpunching with their own offense resulting in a win.
In Week 5, it was evident pretty early the team would have to do the same if they wanted to leave this home engagement with another victory.
Following New Orleans’ touchdown drive to regain the lead, Jameis Winston orchestrated an effective series of plays resulting in a 1st and 10 from the Saints’ 30-yard line just four plays into their subsequent possession.
Looking to answer back, Ronald Jones’ one-yard run on that first down resulted in Byron Leftwich calling a passing play on 2nd and 9 looking for a chance to enter the red zone. Instead, Saints defender Marcus Davenport took his chance to get to Winston and brought down the Bucs’ quarterback for a 6-yard strip sack recovered by Ryan Jensen at the Saints 35-yard line.
3rd and 15 is never a good down and distance to be faced with, and despite a an eleven yard gain by Jones on the play, Tampa Bay was forced to answer New Orleans’ go ahead score with a game tying field goal.
Whether we agree with the existence of the penalty itself or not, a would be tackler is not allowed to lower his head and strike a receiver or ball carrier with the crown of his helmet. Carlton Davis III did just that when he tried to make a play on Saints tight end Jared Cook on what would have been a minimal gain, if a gain at all.
Because of the penalty, the Buccaneers’ best cover guy was tossed from a tied divisional game in the second quarter. This left a combination of Vernon Hargreaves III - who had already had his own struggles with Thomas - and rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting to try and stop one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Of course, these penalties also carry a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul, but making matters worse is the fact the play happened on a 1st and 20 with New Orleans backed up to their own 15-yard line following a holding penalty called on Cook the snap prior.
So, from 1st and 20 on their own 15-yard line, the Saints tried to complete a one-yard pass or less which would have forced a 2nd and 19 or so. Instead, New Orleans got 15-yards and a first down, and Tampa Bay lost the best chance they had at containing Michael Thomas with more than a half of football left to play.
If the Saints are anything, they’re opportunistic, and Bridgewater led his team to a touchdown nine plays later while taking just over five minutes off the first half clock, taking the lead again and leaving the Bucs with barely over 30 seconds remaining before halftime. Oh, and the home team got the ball first to start the second half. There’s a cartoon fire gif that fits here pretty well.
NOT REBOUNDING, BUT REFLOUNDERING
I tweeted at the half that the best thing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the moment was an opportunity to hit the locker room and regroup, so they could rebound in the second half. I was wrong.
Instead of rebounding to open the third quarter, it was the Saints who took their inch of rope they gained over the Bucs and turned it into feet. Three plays, 75-yards and a touchdown pass to Tedd Ginn Jr. gave the Saints a two score lead, two touchdowns in less than seven minutes of game time and fourteen unanswered points at home.
It’s the second time this season we’ve witnessed the Buccaneers defense open the second half with absolutely porous defensive effort, and it’s a pattern the team has to get resolved quickly.
LETTING THEM OFF THE HOOK, PT. 2
Where the Saints took advantage of the opportunities given to them by the Bucs, the Bucs failed to do the same.
After answering the Saints’ opening drive touchdown in the second half with an impressive 17-play drive, capped off by a Peyton Barber touchdown run, the game was back within one score. Eyes were back on the defense to come up with a big stop and give Winston another shot at drawing even with New Orleans.
One of the few times the defense did so, they responded by forcing the Saints off the field after just two yards gained and four plays from scrimmage. It was a huge win, but short lived.
Winston and the Buccaneers offense hit the field at their own 35-yard line and quickly went three and out, punting the ball back to New Orleans. The Saints weren’t about to give the Bucs another shot, and took their subsequent drive thirteen plays ending with a pass to No. 13 to take a two score lead into the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay never got close again, drawing to within one score late in the game on a ‘garbage time’ score by Chris Godwin who had a stellar game of his own.
Bruce Arians likes to say teams learn more from almost losing than they do from losing. Well, that may be true, but this team has many lessons to learn following this loss and need to do so quickly as another crucial divisional match-up looms in London against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6.