The bye week is a big opportunity for NFL teams, and the placement of it is important. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming off a divisional loss to the New Orleans Saints, it's the perfect opportunity to reflect, rest, and recharge for a second half of the regular season that promises to only intensify from the first eight games of the year.
Where do the Bucs need to get better, first? According to head coach Bruce Arians, the answer is easy.
That’s all he said when asked on what he wants to improve on during the Week 9 bye.
Hard to argue, really. Especially when you consider his squad just committed 11 penalties, giving away 99-yards of field position. Eight of those penalties came on the defensive side on the ball and gave the Saints six of their first downs on Sunday.
The sheer number of penalties is troubling by itself, but it’s the back-to-back roughing the passer flags drawn by linebacker Devin White and defensive lineman William Gholston respectively, which really stands out.
“We do a scouting report on who’s calling the game every week,” Arians said about the penalties. “This referee is very, very protective of the quarterback. They lead the league in roughing the passer penalties and we committed obvious penalties. Any time you touch them on the head, it’s a penalty. Players just have to take the responsibility to play smarter.”
What do you get when you combine a flag-happy group of officials and a defense known for attacking the quarterback, who was second in the NFL in penalties entering the game?
Well, in this case, you get a game-changing amount of flags.
Even with the penalties and subsequent advantage gained by their opponent, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense were still in a position to win the game late.
A pick-six thrown by the legendary quarterback targeting wide receiver Chris Godwin ended those chances, but the sheer fact they had the opportunity in the first place is impressive in its own right.
Even with the three turnovers to zero takeaways in Week 8, Tampa Bay is still +4 in turnover differential halfway through the year and ranks 11th in the NFL right now. So I stop short of saying the turnovers are a problem, even as all will acknowledge the team can’t give away three possessions very often and expect to win.
Finally, the team needs to get healthier. No kidding, right?
“I think we’ll know more when we are back,” Arians told media on Monday about player injury statuses. “But Sean [Murphy-Bunting] and Carlton [Davis III] look like they are making really good progress. Scotty Miller is also.”
Secondary reinforcements are needed urgently for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While it may be the one priority the team themselves can’t impact with effort alone, the ability for the roster to get healthy in the back half of the 2021 NFL Season is going to have a big impact on just how successful this Bucs squad can be.