The Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t stretch their three-game lead into four coming out of Thursday night’s match-up with the Chicago Bears 19-20 losers. The loss drops them to 3-2 on the season, but will come out of the week with - at worst - a tie atop the NFC South.
Of course, with the Green Bay Packers coming to town next weekend there are going to be plenty of positive and negatives to look at for why the team could be 4-2 or 3-3 just over 33% of the way through the season.
RONALD JONES II
If you could look at one player and definitely say they did everything they could to win the game on Thursday night, it was Rojo.
Coming into the season, Jones had only carried the ball fifteen times or more twice in two years. Each time, he averaged over 3.5 yards.
Now, five games into 2020, he has three such games and continues to produce at a solid clip. In fact, Jones has reached a 4.0 yards per carry average in each of the Buccaneers’ last three games and currently sits 11th among NFL running backs heading into the weekend.
Then there’s the little nugget Buccaneers Communications dropped during the game.
Ronald Jones II goes over 100 yards rushing for the second-straight game. He is the first Buccaneers player to post consecutive games with 100-or-more yards rushing since 2016.— Buccaneers Communications (@BuccaneersComms) October 9, 2020
Without cheating, can you remember who the running back was that ran for back-to-back 100+ yard games?
Looking back to those two games, Rodgers had 255-yards on the ground but had to carry the ball 56 times to do it. That’s an average of 4.55 yards per carry, which is good, don’t get me wrong.
However, in his last two games Jones has 217-yards - fewer than Rodgers did - and has earned his on the backs of 37 total carries. The average here works out to 5.86 yards per carry.
Doing the math, the pace Rojo is running in the past two weeks - if given the same carries Rodgers had in 2016 - equates to 328 yards.
Now, there’s no way to know definitively if Jones would have actually gained that many yards had he been given such a high carry rate, but it’s interesting enough to see just how well he’s running the ball these past two weeks.
Another interesting antidote for Bucs fans looking for as many signs of hope they can, the last season this team had back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances came in the last season this franchise finished with a winning record.
With Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Justin Watson all out for Thursday night we all figured Tyler Johnson would get more work than usual, and we were correct.
The fifth-round rookie was in on 56 (79%) offensive snaps and turned those into four catches for 61-yards with a long of 35-yards.
If there’s a downside to Johnson’s night, it’s the fact all four of those catches came in the first half and he was targeted just one more time in the second.
Given the fact Brady had used five of his 23 pass attempts (22%), it was surprising for the quarterback to look his rookies was just one more time in the next 18 (.06%).
It was quite the dramatic drop in targets, and the fact Johnson still lead the team in receiving yards might help tell the tale as to why the Bucs put up just six points after halftime.
Still, for a young receiver who struggled all training camp with injuries to be able to come in and have an impact just five games into the season, is impressive.
When you talk about the Buccaneers’ defensive front-seven, the last name you’ll likely mention is Will Gholston. Perhaps this is an unfair result of playing with a star-studded lineup, but Gholston himself is proving to be an extra valuable member of the unit in 2020.
Seven players on the Bucs’ defense have sacks this season, and all of those have at least two. Jason Pierre-Paul is leading the way with four while Shaquil Barrett has tallied three thus far. The three-man base of the defense consisting of Gholston, Ndamukong Suh, and up to this point, Vita Vea all have two a piece.
Talk about steady production from a defensive front also anchoring the league’s best rushing defense, and it’s about time Gholston gets some well-deserved recognition alongside his more talked about teammates.
On Thursday, with the Bucs leading by two-points over the Bears and less than five minutes remaining in the game, Gholston came up with a big-time sack on 2nd-and-10 on Nick Foles. The sack pushed Chicago back to their own 19-yard line and forced them to face a 3rd-and-19.
Of course, as was the theme of the night Tampa Bay (Barrett) was flagged for roughing Foles, a penalty of 15-yards and an automatic first-dwon.
The Bears took the opportunity for new life down to the Bucs’ 20-yard line where former Tampa Bay kicker Cairo Santos put up the three points which ultimately decided the game.
Puts a damper on Gholston’s big sack, but his performance thus far is one reason to believe the defensive front could still hold their own without Vea.
Last week, Tampa Bay lost O.J. Howard for the year to an achilles injury. I didn’t put it in the ‘worst’ section of this very column, and was rightly corrected by one of Bucs Nation’s readers.
I’m not making the same mistake this week though, as Vea’s season-ending ankle injury is easily the worst part of the Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Just like I had to point out some of the negatives which went with the positives listed above, I’m going to return the favor here.
All is not lost.
Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network wrote a story following Vea’s injury, and offers some thoughts on the team’s option moving forward, writing,
“Tampa Bay won’t be completely high and dry. Rakeem Nunez-Roches has been with the team for multiple seasons and has experience playing in Vea’s role. Nunez-Roches won’t have the space-eating capabilities Vea does—Vea out-weighs him by about 30 pounds—but he and his fellow interior defensive lineman Will Gholston can provide a decent rotation with Suh to keep the interior strong.”
Trevor’s sentiment is one I’ll echo. Gholston was listed in the section above this one for a reason, and he along with Rakeem Nunez-Roches will be big reasons this defensive front holds steady without Vea for the rest of 2020.
MIKE SMITH’S REVENGE
I don’t get it anymore than you guys at this point, to be perfectly honest. A Todd Bowles defense is predicated on aggressive play, and we saw the exact opposite for just about four quarters on Thursday. Hell, we’ve seen soft coverage for the better part of the last two weeks going back to the near collapse against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Now, the title to this segment is a joke, but it’s also a sign of frustration. The Buccaneers defense was used and abused - including once by the Chicago Bears conveniently enough - because of soft (read: scared) coverage, week in and week out while Mike Smith was running the unit.
They have one extra game under their belt, granted, but the Buccaneers secondary is giving up a 70.9% completion percentage against them (8th-Highest) and allowing 7.4 yards per pass attempt.
Now, the final part of the stat line there is actually 13th among the fewest yards per completion, but when you’re allowing those completions to happen at a 70% clip, it’s still bad.
I get it, the team is being thrown on more because of the top-shelf run defense, but if this unit wants to firmly shake their 32nd-Place ranking, they’ve got to do it by force. Something that’s been missing - outside of Jamel Dean in the second-half against the Bears - in the past two games.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I can basically write this one in before each week and save about 1/6th of my work, right?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were flagged four times in the first half against the Chicago Bears. Then, on their second-possession of the second-half, they were flagged four times. In the one drive. Oh, and those were just the accepted penalties folks.
Even before that drive, on their first possession of the half Rob Gronkowski was flagged for an illegal block on what would have been Tyler Johnson’s only catch of the second-half. Granted, it would have turned 2nd-and-17 into 3rd-and-16, but the penalty made it 2nd-and-27 from midfield instead.
Thanks to a 14-yard completion to Mike Evans the Buccaneers were able to salvage a field goal, but hey on 2nd-and-16 maybe Evans runs that route to the marker and the Bucs get a new set of downs. Of course, maybe they run a different play and Brady throws a pick-six too, but anyway.
Back to the second-drive of the third quarter. After the defense holds Chicago to two-straight three-and-outs, Brady and the offense get the ball at midfield. Should be guaranteed points.
However, after one sack of Brady and penalties on Tristan Wirfs, Mike Evans, Donovan Smith, Ryan Jensen, and Alex Cappa the Buccaneers finish the drive with a net loss of two yards and punt.
Starting from the 50-yard line, the Buccaneers gained 49-yards of offense, even with the sacks! But, because of penalties which negated or erased those gains, the Bucs offense cost themselves a total of 52-yards and gave the ball back with just the three-point lead they came into the possession with.
I suppose it could be worse, but not by much.
There’s plenty of blame to pass around including some - or a lot, maybe - onto the officials themselves. But bottom line is, you can’t have that kind of performance - even on just one drive - and expect to be successful.
Alright Bucs Nation, you know the drill. Let us know what the best and worst of the best and worst was. Of course, hit those comment sections to add to the list as you wish. We’ll see you again next week, hopefully with a better themed group of Best and Worst from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6!
Which of these was the BEST part of Week 5?
This poll is closed
Ronald Jones II
Which of these was the WORST part of Week 5?
This poll is closed
Vita Vea Injury