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Bucs narrowly avoid disaster in win against Cardinals

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Well, that was interesting.

Arizona Cardinals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans and the Bucs should know they got away with one on Sunday.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last year, the Bucs pulled a win out of their ass against the Cleveland Browns.

It was a game filled with mistakes, turnovers, penalties, bad coaching decisions, and missed field goals. It took a 59-yard shot from Chandler Catanzaro to win the game.

It was also the most recent 4th quarter-comeback in Jameis Winston’s career.

The Bucs were in the midst of a three-game losing streak when they hosted the Browns that week. They were in the midst of a four-game losing streak when they hosted the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10 of 2019.

Baker Mayfield was a rookie. Kyler Murray is a rookie.

Sound familiar?

The Bucs may have beaten the Cardinals, but it was more like they oversaw a narrow disaster. It certainly wasn’t anything that amounted to a firm or convincing win, by any means.

As always, it starts with Winston. He was inaccurate and had yet another turnover-filled day His decision-making and accuracy was questionable most of the time and it was a big reason why the Bucs had to fight until the final minutes to win the game. He finished the game 30/48 for 358 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Mike Evans, Breshad Perriman, and T.J. Logan were all open deep and Winston overthrew them in every single instance, which left points on the board. He did make several plays with his legs, though, which kept a couple of drives alive and even helped put points on the board.

But it’s not like he had any help from the offensive line. Chandler Jones, Terrell Suggs, and the rest of the Arizona pass rush constantly found themselves in Winston’s face. The offensive line gave up five sacks and allowed Winston to get hit nine times on the day. The aforementioned sacks, false starts, and an illegal hands to the face call on Donovan Smith had the Bucs fighting uphill during most of the game. Overall, it was a really disappointing performance after a decent showing in Seattle a week ago.

The secondary sucked, again, but we expect that by now. Still it was rough watching Murray tie a career-best three passing touchdown performance and throw for the third-highest total amount of yards (324) on the season. Murray found plenty of holes in the defensive backfield and if it weren’t for a great play by Jamel Dean, then the Cardinals would’ve likely won the game.

RoJo’s butterfingers, the miss on the fake punt, the hold on Perrmian that negated Chris Godwin’s 29-yard catch-and-run

However, it was the coaching mistakes that really put the icing on the cake for this game. Bruce Arians has to give up his affixation with challenging defensive pass interference calls and/or no-calls. It’s literally costing his team chances to win games. Even though he’s had zero success this season, he continues to do this just about every single game. He did it in the Titans game and it cost the Bucs a timeout in a one-score game. He tried it against the Cardinals and not only did it cost the Bucs a timeout, but it also cost them their second challenge of the game because they had to use the other one to overturn a down by contact ruling that became a fumble recovery for the Bucs.

Then, it cost them another timeout when Arians completely forgot he was out of challenges and tried to challenge a call on Kyler Murray. I’ll cut him a bit of slack since he had to waste the first challenge, but these mindfarts have been more of a trend than an anomaly.

The “double timeout” in Carolina. The delay of game against New York.

Now, the “triple-challenge” against the Cardinals.

And we haven’t started about the favors the Cards did for the Bucs, either.

For starters, Maxx Williams inexcusably drops a for-sure touchdown on a 4th-and-1 play that had the entire defense confused. Murray missed several open receivers throughout the game. Matt Gay missed a 46-yard attempt to break a 20-20 tie, but the Cardinals were called for an offside penalty and Gay made the subsequent 41-yard attempt to give the Bucs a 23-20 lead. The back-to-back false starts that killed a dive early in the second quarter.

All those mistakes, like the Bucs’, came at crucial times that helped their opponent.

It’s simple: this was a game between two teams still trying to figure out how to win.

I don’t know if they figured it out in this game. The 2018 Buccaneers went 2-8 over its next 10 games after it beat Cleveland. So, if the 2019 Buccaneers win 20% of its remaining seven games, then it appears another 5-11 season is on the horizon.

I’m not trying to be negative, either. There were some good moments during this game (hello Jamel Dean!) and I can’t wait to focus on those as the week progresses, but this is definitely not a win you should celebrate.

Avoiding wins like the 2018 Cleveland debacle are exactly why Bruce Arians was hired.

Avoiding that gut-wrenching feeling we felt before the clock hit zero is why they were hired.

Yet, here we are.

So, I’ll ask the same question I asked after last year - did the Bucs really beat the Cardinals?