That was a gut punch if I’ve ever seen one. The Buccaneers - preseason Super Bowl contenders - just lost their second game in a row and their fourth in the last five games. And they did it against the Carolina Panthers. The same Panthers that fired their head coach, are on their fourth string quarterback, traded Robbie Anderson, then traded Christian McCaffrey - and they did it by a score of 21-3. That’s right. The Buccaneers never even got in the end zone against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Guess it’s fitting that Halloween is in a week because this is getting flat out scary. Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Playcalling At Its Finest. There’s no getting around it - Byron Leftwich is failing this team. Could lack of faith in the offensive line be a reason for the lackluster playcalling? Maybe, but it doesn’t excuse everything. Even Jonathan Vilma said on the broadcast that Leftwich was making things easy on the Panthers by running out of obvious running formations and passing out of obvious passing formations - that there’s no creativity. No doubt about that, Jonathan. If I can tell my kid exactly what the Bucs are about to do based on their formation, what do you think seasoned NFL coaches and players can do? Shut them down. The Bucs needed one yard in the first half on 3rd-and-1, so what do they do? Run it right up the middle with Leonard Fournette for no gain. Go for it on 4th-and-1 and what do they do? Toss it to Fournette for no gain and a turnover on downs. You mean, behind a weak offensive line, those are the play calls you trust to get a yard? Not Mike Evans on a quick slant where he’s boxed out the corner, not Chris Godwin on a quick out at the sideline for two yards. Nope. Just keep running the ball because that’s been super effective all season long.
2.) How Different Things Could Have Been. On the opening drive, Mike Evans dropped a walk in touchdown pass after his defender fell down and left him wide open. It hit him straight in the hands and he bobbled it away. How different could this game have been if he makes that catch? The Panthers - who are in full rebuild mode after trading away McCaffrey and Anderson - are dejected two minutes into the game and the Buccaneers finally get off to that hot start everyone has been waiting on. Instead, that drop became a catalyst of what the Bucs’ offense has been all year - disappointing.
3.) Guard By Committee. Y’know what every team loves to do because of the high success rate it has? Constantly rotate guards throughout a game. Using a “guard by committee” system allowed the Bucs to start Luke Goedeke, then pull him for Nick Leverett, then put Goedeke back in, just to pull him for Leverett. I said on 10 Tampa Bay’s “The Blitz” that if you pull Goedeke, you have to keep him off the field. The confidence and growth of a rookie that loses his starting job will be nearly impossible to come back from given that it’s performance based. Instead, the Bucs pulled him, put him back out there, then pulled him again - and Bowles claimed after the game that Leverett had “earned” those snaps. Great. Then start him and leave it alone. Neither one is Ali Marpet. Heck, neither one is Aaron Stinnie. It doesn’t matter which one is on the field because the protection and run blocking are still atrocious. Just pick one and live with it.
4.) This Is All On The Offense. Yeah, the defense gave up 21 points and got gashed for two huge runs late in the game. Guess what - they were gassed. They kept the Bucs in the game far longer than they should have and the offense didn’t live up to their end of the deal. 2-for-12 on third down is a recipe for losing and the defense could only do so much. They were already without Carlton Davis, Akiem Hicks, Logan Ryan, and Sean Murphy-Bunting and then they lost Antoine Winfield Jr. during the game. It’s a minor miracle they kept the Panthers at seven points for as long as they did. Nope, not blaming the defense one bit for this one. They had to be standing on the sideline screaming “Help! Us!” and if they weren’t, they should have.
5.) Situational Awareness. With just over 13:30 left in the game, the Bucs trailed 14-0. After getting 1st-and-goal, Tom Brady threw three straight incomplete passes. The Bucs opted to kick the field goal which left me asking, “Why?” Even if Succop makes it - which he did - it was still a two possession game, same as if you tried for the touchdown and failed. You can make the argument that a field goal, a stop, a touchdown, and a two point conversion means the Bucs just have to get in field goal range as time runs out. While true, answer this - if the Bucs go for it and score the touchdown, how much does that swing the momentum? Does that inspire confidence in the offense that they can do it again? Does that energize the defense to go out there and get a stop knowing the offense finally got out of their slump and can go do it again? Maybe, maybe not - but it would have done a heck of a lot more for the team’s confidence than the field goal did. All that did was say you were admitting defeat and just didn’t want to get shut out. The risk would have been worth the potential reward.
6.) Use The Rookies More. Cade Otton had another solid day, catching four passes on five targets for over 60 yards - finishing as the team’s second leading receiver. Rachaad White, at this stage, looks like he’s bringing more to the offense than Fournette. I love Lenny, but White looks more decisive, explosive, and versatile. Get both of them more involved in the game plan and good things are going to happen. Even if White is in there as a blocker to pick up blitzing corners or linebackers, it’s time to shake things up and give him more opportunities. Otton is locked and loaded as the tight end one, and I’m not advocating for Fournette to be benched - just that White has earned more playing time and more touches. If Nick Leverett has earned snaps at guard, White for darn sure earned more opportunities.
Six Numbers To Consider
20 - Years ago since Brady was below .500 seven or more games into a season
29.7 - Percent of third downs the Bucs have converted in their four losses this season
12 - Games since the Bucs were last held without a touchdown (9-0 loss to the Saints, December 19 of 2021)
271 - Consecutive pass attempts by Brady without an interception - a Bucs franchise record
3 - Chris Godwin’s rank on the Bucs all-time receiving leaders list (82 yards from tying Mark Carrier for second all-time, 4,819 away from Mike Evans as the all-time leader)
5 - Tackles for loss by Antoine Winfield Jr this season - most in the NFL by a defensive back
Six TV Shows That Describe The Buccaneers
6.) “Promised Land” - That’s where the Bucs were supposed to contend to be, instead - like the show - those hopes feel cancelled after about five weeks.
5.) “Anger Management” - Where most Bucs fans are headed after this one
4.) “The Odd Couple (2015)” - This team feels like an attempted reboot of 2020 and 2021 and it’s failing miserably. And let’s not overlook the couple of coaches in this reboot that aren’t living up to expectations...
3.) “Game Of Thrones” - Everyone headed into this season excited and anticipating an epic ending. Instead, they’re just hoping to hurry up and get it over with
2.) “The Biggest Loser” - Well, that’s just what this team is the last two weeks
1.) “LOST” - Every week we have 40 new questions and no answers.
Six Best Tweets
This is not a Super Bowl contender. It's not even a playoff caliber team. pic.twitter.com/w9cuVgL6GK— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) October 23, 2022
— Rondé Barber (@rondebarber) October 23, 2022
In case you missed the worst drop of Mike Evans’ career. pic.twitter.com/AJAuWsl1A9— Evan Closky (@ECloskyWTSP) October 23, 2022
The Bucs might be beyond help.— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) October 23, 2022
The NFC South is in a very weird place this year pic.twitter.com/5x9r7A3bjF— Locked On Sports (@LockedOnNetwork) October 23, 2022
The entire NFC South is simultaneously contending for the division and a Top 5 pick.— Julian Council (@JulianCouncil) October 23, 2022
Six Super Bowl Bets
As usual, this was compiled ahead of Sunday Night Football being completed
1.) Buffalo Bills - No doubt they’re the team to beat in the NFL
2.) Kansas City Chiefs - The only other clear and obvious contender right now
3.) Philadelphia Eagles - Atop the NFC but haven’t been truly tested yet
4.) New York Teams - Jets and Giants both win again...though I still refuse to accept either of them are for real
5.) Minnesota Vikings - Only thing holding them back is Cousins Cousining
14.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Not sure they could beat the University of Illinois at this point in time