Any football fan will tell you, whether it’s during the school day, at work, or on your favorite sports talk show— Monday mornings are for bragging rights, armchair quarterbacks, and “Did you see when?!” This Monday morning, Buccaneers’ fans giving a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the game will start with the—
First quarter- The Buccaneers’ defense came into Sunday’s game with a few key cogs out of commission. Both Carlton Davis and Shaq Barrett were inactive against the Saints. Their absence was noticeable on New Orleans’ opening drive. The Bucs were unable to pressure Derek Carr— The Saints’ passer went 5-6 with a touchdown pass. Zyon McCollum, playing for Carlton Davis, faltered in coverage and tackling early, as the Saints possessed the ball for nearly eight minutes of the first quarter on their opening drive.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense rolled out onto the field with a month’s worth of momentum. That momentum netted no results for Tampa, who started with three plays and a punt.
Second quarter- Tampa Bay’s next offensive possession was significantly improved. Starting in the first quarter and transitioning to the second, Baker Mayfield threw his first pass of the day to Mike Evans who converted his opportunity into a 30-plus yard gain. The Bucs’ offense took the ball across midfield, but the drive ultimately ended in disappointment. Baker Mayfield lobbed a ball downfield for Trey Palmer, resulting in his first interception since December third.
Todd Bowles’ defense failed early and failed often. The Saints’ debut series was an effortless score, after Baker Mayfield’s interception, backed up against their own goal line, with a third-and-long, Derek Carr connected with Juwan Johnson for 32 yards. The Saints would eventually punt, but didn’t need to fret. Tampa responded with a punt of their own and an unfortunately-timed botched kick by Jake Camarda placed the Saints’ offense right where they left off, with great field position. The New Orleans Saints’ offense continued to dictate the game’s terms to Tampa’s defense. Derek Carr found a wide open Taysom Hill for the quarterback's second touchdown pass of the day.
Baker Mayfield’s ensuing two-minute drill was poor and led to another Tampa Bay punt. Jake Camarda followed his offense’s poor play with another one of his own, punting another wayward duck that died shy of midfield.
Tampa Bay’s unwillingness to cover Juwan Johnson has been jarring. Johnson came into the game with less than 30 receptions this season. At the half, Johnson has more than any other skill player in the game— six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
The Bucs have done nothing well, genuinely. Outside of a few individual players making some solid plays, Tampa will go into the half with nothing to hang their hats on. They have an offense on pace for zero points and a defense on pace to let up 34.
Third quarter- Deferring gave the Buccaneers first dibs in the second quarter. The possession didn’t matter much. One punt later and Bucs’ fans got to watch more Derek Carr. The game’s third quarter remained a fairly bland affair until the 7:30 mark when Demario Davis scooped up a Rachaad White fumble, ending Tampa Bay’s best drive of the day. Tampa’s second turnover pierced like a nail in a coffin should. The Saints started with excellent field position again and again, New Orleans scored points— 20-0.
Fourth quarter- Tampa’s first three quarters were abysmal, quarter number four began with more of the same. Another Baker Mayfield interception and more booing from the crowd at Raymond James Stadium. The Baker Mayfield experience has tracked Tampa Bay fans through a range of emotions this season. The current state of Mayfield and the Buccaneers is very similar to the state of the team during their horrendous mid-season losing streak. Mayfield has a healthy share of doubters and over the last few games they ceased to be heard from. After today’s debacle, it is unlikely Buccaneers’ fans will do anything other than going back to being a divided fanbase. A playoff berth is still very much on the table for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, the feeling around the team has palpably changed.
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