1) The consensus going into this away game was that the Buccaneers weren't going to win. The San Francisco 49ers were just too talented on defense and offense. Last year's game was a disaster for Tampa Bay, a blowout by halftime. Historically the Bucs don't do well on the West Coast (unless it's against the Raiders).
There was some hope, after all, that an upset was possible, that the Bucs defense was getting better up front to where the Niners QB Brock Purdy could get overwhelmed, something along those lines. Alas.
1a) This game was at least more competitive than last year's, where the Bucs were merely down 13-7 at half. But the many flaws of the Bucs' season came to the fore, and couldn't be overcome.
2) Above all, the troubling situation with WR Mike Evans' drops and missed opportunities. While he recovered last week with a key TD catch, this game he secured only 5 catches out of 12 targets. He couldn't hold onto a catch late in the game that could have been a TD and a chance for the team to fight back to a lead. We began this season with Evans playing for a contract extension to stay with the team. Now we're looking at the reality he's no longer a WR1 and aging out.
2a) The next troubling situation is how Chris Godwin, who makes up the best WR tandem the Bucs have had in team history, isn't getting the looks he deserves. Godwin didn't even get a catch until the Third Quarter. He's not having a problem with drops, he's having a problem getting Baker Mayfield's attention. Either the gameplan isn't making Godwin a key component or Mayfield's ignoring him. If there's any justice, the coaches need to shift Godwin to WR1 role to relieve Evans to let him get his head and hands straightened out.
2b) I've spoken in Mayfield's defense earlier, and as I've said he's a reasonable and competent QB, he's just not the game-breaking decision-maker the Bucs need to get wins as the season progresses. He's over-relying on Evans to make plays. Until he gets on-page with Godwin, we're not going to see a better passing game.
2c) Defensively, the Bucs' weakness with the secondary - the injuries, the missed coverages, the soft zones - exposes us against teams with the QB and receivers corps that can shred it. Carlton Davis is struggling big time back there, and Jamal Dean suffered yet another injury. Antoine Winfield may be all over the place trying to make plays, but even he is getting burned out.
2d) The Bucs had the Niners pinned at their 2 early in the Third Quarter, and yet they gave up easy pass plays to where Purdy tossed a deep one to Brandon Aiyuk who then ran the rest of the way to a 74 yard TD reception. The pass defense on that play broke down, and Winfield gave up trying to tackle Aiyuk five yards out. Just... bad.
2e) Individual Bucs players had good play this afternoon: Lavonte David getting an early sack and contributing all he could; Vita Vea also getting a sack and playing above his level of illness; Yaya Diaby racking up 2 sacks and several QB pressures; Jake Camarda recovering a fumbled snap to get off a punt - again - to keep the Niners from that turnover; Devan Thompkins getting a good day with punt returns including a late one for 51 yards inside the Red Zone (that the Bucs couldn't capitalize). But overall, this team just isn't built for winning. Too many gaps everywhere.
3) Statistics of the game: Total yards for the Bucs, 287; for the 49ers, 420. When most of the other statistics - including third-down conversions! - favored the Bucs all game long, somehow the Niners were able to do more with their offense than the Bucs could.
3a) Penalties will be the death of... the 49ers? They led the game with 7 flags for 66 yards... and still won.
3b) Like I mentioned earlier, Bucs won the third down numbers, going 7-for-14 while the Niners went 4-for-10. But the Bucs didn't win that way.
3c) Turnovers mattered: Bucs coughed up a fumble and an INT while claiming none. I've mentioned before that the Bucs thrive when their defense forces turnovers. We opened the season winning in that regard. Without getting those TOs, we can't give our offense better opportunities.
4) Bucs are still in the mix for a postseason berth, but it's looking unlikely to get a Wild Card. Tampa's gotta win the NFC South, and that means winning every divisional matchup from here on out. Gods help us.
5) In other NFL News: Injuries are now so prevalent that I expect the league to decide on going to two-hand touch to avoid tackles from here on. Joe Barrow injured on Thursday night. They had to bring out the ambulance for Buffalo's Taylor Rapp. There's so many players going out with ACL injuries that they might as well put everyone on the ACL checklist and cross names out once they actually get it.
5a) CJ Stroud had his worst game as a rookie QB today - throwing 3 INTs - and still won over a stumbling Arizona team. Whatever makes a QB a GOAT, Stroud has it.
5b) Chicago almost beat the division-leading Detroit Lions today, but then the Bears remembered they're tanking this year to keep two top five draft picks and let the Lions eke out a last-minute win.
5c) The San Diego Chargers are still well enough to be competitive and bad enough that they're talking about firing the head coach. What they need to do is stop playing in LA where they don't belong and go back to San Diego to reclaim their karma.
6) In professional college football news: FSU's QB Jordan Travis wanted to get ready for playing in the NFL so he went and got injured so he could fit in with this season's walking wounded.
6a) I don't think this was going to be Florida's year, but losing to Missouri - even though the Tigers are ranked - is going to sting. At this point, the Gators are going to qualify for the Gasparilla Bowl.
6b) Damn you, ESPN! You visit the James Madison campus for their unbeaten winning streak for 2023 and what happens? They lose! Jinxers!!! Shame. SHAME!
6c) South Florida just isn't good enough on defense to stop teams like UT-San Antonio. The offensive talent - especially with QB Byrum Brown - is there for a decent run in the next two years. Now they need to attract more OL and CB talent. If the Bulls beat Charlotte - why the hell is a North Carolina school nicknamed the 49ers?! - they get to six wins and become bowl-eligible... also likely the Gasparilla Bowl.
7) In professional baseball news: We've officially entered the Free Agency period meaning the Tampa Bay Rays are going to let some of the more expensive players flee to other teams while making trades for reasonable AAA talent that could get promoted up next season into respectable starters. It's the only way the Rays can play THIS particular game. There's no deep pocket for rich players.
8) In professional hockey news: The Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling, and a lot of it has to do with defense. The Bolts are giving up too many goals, to where the only way to win is getting into shootouts. The scoring differential is -2, which is not a good number when the rest of the Atlantic division leaders have +3 or better.
8a) The Boston Bruins are playing like they wanna win something.
9) In professional movie watching news: I went last Sunday to an early screening of the Marvels - it's a good movie by the way - but the ticket price was $16. WHAT THE HELL? My understanding is that the early matinee shows were the cheapest ticket they offered. If that's the cheapest ticket, no wonder movie attendance has dropped this year. PEOPLE CAN'T AFFORD TO GO ANYMORE.
Remember that basic economics class they gave us in ninth grade? That old supply-and-demand chart in the shape of an X, where if you make a product too expensive, fewer people will buy it? If you sell it too cheaply, you won't make a profit? Well, we're at that point where we're on the wrong side of that X where things like movie theaters are too expensive. Dear Hollywood CEOs: If you want to bring people back to the theaters to watch your lukewarm cringe comedies starring Pete Davidson, you need to lower the ticket prices!!!
10) Next up: Bucs stay on the road heading up to Indianapolis to play the Colts. On paper, it's a winnable game. With this struggling offense and secondary... ugh.