Losses To Rams, Raiders Prove Very Costly For Buccaneers
By Bailey Adams
Back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Saints may have effectively ended the Buccaneers’ playoff chances, but some early-season mishaps loom large right now. Losing winnable games to the Rams and Raiders really came back to bite Tampa Bay, as it will miss the postseason for the ninth straight season.
The freshest wounds for the Buccaneers are from losses to Dallas and New Orleans. However, those two setbacks wouldn’t be nearly as painful had the team taken care of its business in a couple of winnable games earlier in the season. Back then, the Bucs weren’t as good as they are now. But even still, they dropped two games that they could’ve won, and instead of sitting at 10-5 heading into week 17, they sit at 8-7 with virtually no shot at making the playoffs.
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Back in week three, Tampa Bay dropped a home game by a score of 37-32 to the Los Angeles Rams. Since then, the Rams have fired their head coach and gone into a tailspin. They are now 4-11, and likely on their way to a 4-12 finish. The Bucs outgained them in the week three loss 472-320, but somehow managed to lose. They controlled possession (33:36 to 26:24), played to a 2-2 tie in the turnover battle and picked up 12 more first downs than the Rams. So, not only was the opponent beatable, but the game itself was very winnable.
In week eight, the Bucs went toe-to-toe with a very good Oakland Raiders team. In general, the Raiders aren’t easy to beat. Heading into the final week of the season, they are 12-3. But on October 30, they were certainly beatable. Oakland committed a NFL-record 23 penalties for 200 yards on the afternoon. That’s two football fields of free yards that the Bucs were given, but they still fell 30-24 in overtime.
Had Tampa Bay just taken care of its business early on in the season, it would’ve had a little bit of room for error late in the season. Really, had the Bucs just beaten the Rams or the Raiders, they’d be 9-6 right now. A 9-6 record would have them in much better position to make the playoffs. Not only that, but such a record would give them a chance to win their 10th game of the season this Sunday.
The what-if game is not a fun one. In fact, it’s pretty pointless to play. What’s done is done. But, what it shows is that despite all the good that happened for the Bucs this season, a couple of missed opportunities in the season’s first two months prevented them from accomplishing even more.
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Tampa Bay had a surprising season. But, it could’ve been much more surprising had they taken care of a couple of winnable games.