The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost more than a game on Sunday to the Cleveland Browns. They lost all the momentum that was gained from the last two victories and may have lost one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL for the rest of the season. In a game that started fast for both teams, muddled along during the middle, and then finished with a bang, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-17 at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland.
Cleveland tight end David Njoku made a spectacular one-handed catch on fourth and ten with :32 seconds left, to tie the ball game at 17 a piece. After both teams traded multiple punts in overtime, Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett hit receiver Amari Cooper on a 45-yard pass completion over Buccaneer’s cornerback Carlton Davis, who fell down on the play. That set up the winning score as Browns running back Nick Chubb punched it into the endzone from three yards out with only :19 seconds left in overtime.
For the game Brissett passed for 210 yards, on 23 completions, and one touchdown. Cooper had seven receptions for 94 yards, and Njoku had five catches for 29 yards, and a touchdown. The star of the day for Cleveland was Nick Chubb, who had 116 yards rushing, on 26 attempts, and the game-winning touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, their star players did not step up in crunch time, which is the exact reason they lost this game. The Bucs offense had three scoring drives out of 13 total possessions. Six of those 13 drives ended in three and outs, and they finished the game with six punts, and one failed hail mary attempt in their last seven times touching the football. Nine costly penalties, and poor play by tackle Donovan Smith, were two key issues with the disappointing offensive performance.
Quarterback Tom Brady completed 29 out of 43 pass attempts for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Chris Godwin caught 12 passes for 110 yards and scored a touchdown. Rookie running back Rachaad White ran for 64 yards and caught nine balls for 45 yards. Another rookie, tight end Ko Kieft, scored his first career NFL touchdown on a nice five-yard reception, which gave the Bucs their only lead of the game.
Tampa Bay’s defense played well enough to win the game but failed miserably when it mattered the most. The game-tying catch by Njoku was unbelievable, but the fact that the middle of the field was wide open for Brissett to make that throw was inexcusable. Carlton Davis falling down on the big play to Cooper in overtime, was symbolic of how this season is going for the Buccaneers. Tampa’s key players are just not producing at the critical moments.
Linebacker Devin White played a good game, and led the team with 13 total tackles, and a half a sack. His linebacking partner, Lavonte David contributed eight total tackles. Safety Keanu Neal added 8 total tackles, and a half a sack, while the other safety, Antoine Winfield, contributed seven total tackles. Defensive linemen Anthony Nelson, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches both tallied a sack on the day. And defensive linemen Carl Nassib, and Logan Hall each contributed a half a sack each.
The special team's unit was not too special on Sunday. Kicker Ryan Succop made both his extra point attempts and made his 19th straight field goal under 40 yards. Rookie punter Jake Camarda was extremely busy on the day, booting nine punts for an average of 47.2 yards, but only netted 36.7 yards because of some poor punts, and poor tackling.
The Buccaneers played like the team that lost three games in a row in weeks six, seven and eight, as opposed to the team who had won its last two games. Penalties, poor tackling, and a lack of explosive plays, sealed the Bucs fate on Sunday. This was the type of game that good teams find a way to win. Bad teams find a way to lose these games, and that’s precisely what Tampa Bay did. The even bigger loss for the Bucs, may be star offensive lineman Tristen Wirfs. He suffered a gruesome looking injury in overtime and had to be carted off the field.
Up next for the Buccaneers is a Monday night matchup against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. In a season filled with a few ups, and many downs, sweeping the Saints would bring a little cheer to the Buccaneer fans who have mostly been given reasons to hang their head. Game time is set for 8:15 PM ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.