The day after a loss is never fun for any head coach facing the media having to answer for his team’s inability to win. Monday was no different for head coach Bruce Arians following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ disappointing performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL Season.
Losing is never the objective, but losing to a division rival stings a bit more than others. Coach Arians isn’t feeling the sting by himself however, as he stayed on brand, holding his players accountable for their mistakes.
Starting at the top of the list, quarterback Tom Brady threw two interceptions in his first start as the Bucs’ leading man. One, Arians stated belonged on the ‘accountability sheet’ under Mike Evans’ name, saying, “No doubt. It wasn’t Cover 2, it was quarters coverage and Mike should have been splitting, going down the middle and never stopping.”
The second, which was taken back for a pick-six by Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins was clearly on Brady, about which Arians stated, “If you throw an out route and you don’t throw it low and outside – that hasn’t been the case up until that one. [He] was a little bit late on it and it probably [would have been] a better decision to go somewhere else with the ball.”
It was the second interception which probably hit Buccaneers fans in the stomach the most, and not just because it was a pick-six.
As disappointing as their production was overall, this game doesn’t fall on the shoulders of Mike Evans and Tom Brady alone. The majority of the offense seemed to struggle throughout the afternoon, especially on third down where the team converted just five of thirteen third-down opportunities.
“A few of those, guys have to win one-on-one,” Arians said about the team’s third-down struggles. “We didn’t do a good job of winning one-on-one and we didn’t find the guys that were open. We’ll do a better job and continue to grow in that direction.”
Much of the conversation focused on offensive struggles, but the defense didn’t have a perfect game either. In fact, for those watching at home, just about everyone saw cornerback Jamel Dean fall off of coverage on Saints tight end Jared Cook. The result was a big play for New Orleans at a time where the Tampa Bay defense needed to step up the most.
However, while it was still a bad defensive play, Arians clarified it wasn’t a bad play by Dean, saying, “Jamel Dean was rolled up – he was a cloud corner. The safety – we were in Cover 2 – bit an inside route, which can’t happen. It was not Jamel Dean at all.”
Looking back, the safety in question on the play was Andrew Adams, who you can see Dean gesturing to after Cook hauls in the Drew Brees pass and runs out of bounds. Four plays later wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders would score his first touchdown with the Saints, and gave his team a commanding 31-17 lead in the fourth-quarter.
It wasn’t all negatives though. Rookie Tristan Wirfs was the spotlight of a lot of conversations ahead of Week 1, and faced an immense challenge matching up against Cameron Jordan. On his performance Sunday, Arians said, “I thought he played really well for a rookie against an All-Pro. You knew he was going to get beat once, maybe. The [false start] penalty – I didn’t like that, but he battled hard and his run blocking was really good.”
Of course, Wirfs’ left-side counterpart didn’t fare so well, as Donovan Smith struggled throughout the contest, against lesser competition than his rookie teammate.
“I was very disappointed in his play,” said Arians. “I think every now and then he reverts back to some techniques that are not very good [and] he got beat. He had, probably, the easiest guy to block up there and he did a poor job. It was one of his poorer games and [I] expect for him to bounce back this week, yes.”
Challenge issued, and for the team’s sake against the Carolina Panthers, hopefully it’ll be challenge accepted by Smith.
Pulling no punches himself, James Yarcho said on the Locked On Bucs Podcast,
“I have defended Donovan Smith quite a bit on this podcast…I have no explanation, no excuses, for him in this game. He was absolutely abysmal…He needs to get his act together, and he needs to get it together, fast.”
As many have pointed out this is just one game. One, underwhelming, and incredibly inefficient game.
Next week is a new chance to make good on the mistakes found in Week 1, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Carolina Panthers in another NFC South Divisional match-up.