As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Week 3 matchup against the Houston Texans progressed Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but wince and shake my head. Penalties, drops, and other miscues happened on what seemed like every play as the Buccaneers continued to shoot themselves in the foot. All of those mistakes eventually caught up to the Bucs, and the team squandered a 9-7 halftime lead and lost 19-9 to the Texans in Houston.
Here are the four biggest things that happened as the team fell to 1-2 after the loss.
1. GM Jason Licht might be looking for a new kicker tomorrow morning.
Rookie kicker Kyle Brindza was probably on top of the world midway through the first quarter. He has just hammered a 58-yard field goal through the uprights to cut the Texans’ lead to 7-3. It was the second-longest field goal in franchise history. Then the bottom fell out.
Brindza then proceeded to miss his next four kicks: an extra point after Jameis Winston’s touchdown pass to Charles Sims and three field goals in the second half, all from shorter distances (41, 33 and 57) than the first kick he made.
Now I’m not saying that the team should release Brindza outright tomorrow. Far from it. But it probably wouldn’t kill them to bring in some competition for the rookie kicker. A more reliable leg might be what the Bucs’ kicking game needs at this point.
Those ten potential points that Brindza missed out on would have tied the game for the Bucs. For a young team that needs all the help it can get from its kicker, this is a demoralizing feeling to have when they miss four kicks in a game.
2. Whoever stole the hands of Mike Evans and Louis Murphy needs to give them back.
The above tweet says it all. Even though Evans was Winston’s primary target all game long (he finished with seven catches for 101 yards), he dropped way too many catchable passes. For a No. 1 receiver, that is unacceptable.
His lack of concentration stopped at least two drives today, if not more. Although it is nice to see that his connection with Winston is growing stronger as time moves on, he needs to catch the ball when Winston puts it in the perfect spot. If he doesn’t, it kills the offense.
Murphy didn’t help matters either. Although the veteran receiver had a couple of nice catches, there were a couple more that should have been made to help extend drives. Every drop a receiver has hurts the morale of the entire offense. Today was no exception.
3. The defense didn’t have the best game today.
A combination of injuries (defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, safety D.J Swearinger and cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, Tim Jennings and Mike Jenkins all missed time, with Banks and Swearinger not returning), penalties and missed assignments hurt the Bucs’ defense all afternoon.
Texans running back Alfred Blue, the backup to Arian Foster, ran all over the defense, rushing the ball 31 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. Fullback Jay Prosch also gashed the middle of the defense for a couple of good runs.
Although the pass defense stepped up in the second half to limit Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett, he tore the defense up in the first half with short-to-intermediate passes.
The Tampa 2 is designed to stop big plays, and it did that pretty much all afternoon. But it only truly succeeds when turnovers are created, and when the defensive line can rush the quarterback. Neither of those things happened today.
The lone bright spots were linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. Alexander posted ten tackles, including one for a loss, two passes defensed and his first career interception on a gorgeous play in the first half. David, meanwhile, shook off his early game tackling mishaps to lead the team with 14 total tackles, including one for a loss.
4. Jameis continued his evolution as a franchise caliber signal caller.
Although he had an up-and-down performance in his third NFL start, Winston continued to show why team leadership has so much faith in him. His numbers (17-of-36 for 261 passing yards to go along with one touchdown and one interception) weren’t the best, but he continued to show the poise and leadership that is beyond his 21 years of age.
After Brindza’s last missed field goal, FOX’s cameras caught Winston giving his fellow rookie words of encouragement. Furthermore, despite all the drops from his receivers, he never let it get to him.
Next week will bring another test against division rival Carolina at home. As long as Jameis continues to mature at his current rate, the second win of his young NFL career will certainly be within reach.
Quick Hits: For the first time all season, the offensive line didn’t allow a sack. Rookie left tackle Donovan Smith held his own for most of the game against superstar JJ Watt, who didn’t have a sack for the first time since Week 12 of last season…. The Bucs had 10 penalties, mostly on the defensive side of the ball….Rookie punter Jacob Schum had a good day, finishing with a gross average of 44.6 yards per attempt.