The Bucs have committed a total of 42 penalties after five games into the 2020 season. You can make all the arguments in the world about how bad the officiating was, but the calls where the referees got it right, those were the ones the hurt this Buccaneers football team.
Mike Evans shoving a defender. Ryan Jensen being unsportsmanlike. Donovan Smith’s holding call which offset a Khalil Mack roughing the passer call. Donovan Smith false starts. They’re all drive killers.
After the second false start call on Smith on one drive in the second quarter where the offense got deep into Chicago territory — which you can argue the first of the two penalties should have been called on Rob Gronkowski — Tom Brady was visibly frustrated as he came up from center when the refs blew their whistles before the snap.
“I think turnovers, penalties, field position, all those lead to points and it comes down to third down, red [zone] area,” Brady said after the game. “Ultimately, you’re trying to score more points than the other team and turnovers are a big part of that. Penalties are another big part of that because you’re not possessing the football if you’re in third-and-long yardage. So you need to have clean games where you stay ahead on down and distance, you can get some rhythm, some momentum. We obviously have to do a better job of that.”
A better job indeed.
The third quarter is where the work needs to be focused on. So far this season, there have been times where the Buccaneers have come out flat after halftime. Ronald Jones II had an explosive 37-yard run on the first offensive possession of the second half but the next two plays were a sack on Brady and an illegal block in the back by Gronkowski. Three plays later, they had to settle for a field goal.
Their defense then forced Chicago to go three-and-out and the Bucs offense started at midfield. But another sack on Brady and five penalties later by Evans, Jensen, Smith, Tristan Wirfs, and Alex Cappa, Tampa Bay had to punt after reaching Bears territory. They looked at second-and-34 at one point during the drive and cameras caught Brady tearing into the offense on the bench, and rightfully so.
“I think that penalties, they stop drives,” said Brady. “We had so many third-and-longs and we just could never get into any rhythm, in the second half certainly, and just poor execution. So if you don’t execute well and first and second down, you have third-and-forevers and those are tough to convert time after time after time. So we’ve got to tighten that up and just play a more consistent type of football. We obviously have a lot of work to do.”
The Buccaneers face a 4-0 Packers team that leads the league in scoring in Week 6 at home. If they want to be in that game and have any shot at winning, they need to execute better and limit the mental lapses we’ve seen through five weeks.
Tampa Bay’s red zone efficiency was one of the highest in the league entering Thursday. However, on three trips into the red zone in Chicago, the offense only scored one touchdown due to penalties and not executing the plays called.
The coaches just didn’t have this team ready to play.
“Just pretty poor execution,” head coach Bruce Arians said Thursday night. “We got down and we had a sack, three penalties – you’re not going to beat anybody with  penalties or however many we had, especially when we were down there once and ended up punting because of about six or seven penalties on one drive. I didn’t have our team ready to play – it’s obvious.
“Just poor coaching. Poor coaching.”
There won’t be much room for mistakes or poor coaching on October 18.