Cardinals 38, Buccaneers 33: Immediate observations and reactions
By Bailey Adams
The Buccaneers (2-3) came just short of completing a huge comeback on Sunday, falling 38-33 to the Cardinals (3-3). Here, we have observations and reactions from the loss.
The Buccaneers were a huge mess early in Sunday’s game, which came back to bite later on. A 33-point second half wasn’t even enough as they fell 38-33 to the Cardinals.
Observations and Reactions- General
-In the first half, the Bucs looked about as uninspired as I’ve seen a team look in quite a while. How that happened after a longer-than-usual break is beyond me.
-The defense got Tampa Bay out to a horrible start. Then, the offense continued that. There wasn’t anything at all that happened in the first half that is worth talking about.
-As awful as the first half and first few minutes of the second were, it was good to see some fight out of the Bucs. Down 24-0 with their starting quarterback out, they managed to get some momentum rolling in the second half. While it doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, it was still a small victory.
-Dirk Koetter had a couple of decisions really come back to hurt him in the end. Instead of opting for a field goal at the end of the first half, he went for it on fourth down and the offense failed. In the second half, his offense missed on two-point conversions twice. That’s five potential points that were left out there. And yeah, the Bucs lost by five.
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Observations and Reactions- Offense
–Jameis Winston went down hard on his shoulder on Tampa Bay’s first drive, which affected his play until he was taken out with an injury. He finished the day just 5-for-10 for 61 yards.
–Ryan Fitzpatrick did a fairly admirable job, considering the circumstances. The veteran finished with 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 22-of-32 passing. He at least got the Bucs back in the game, which isn’t something that many people could’ve expected after seeing him play in the preseason.
–Doug Martin ran for 53 yards on 14 carries. He showed some nice bursts, but once Tampa Bay fell way behind, the run game was an afterthought. Through two games, Martin has been promising. Let’s hope next week is his first chance to get a full workload in.
–DeSean Jackson had some nice gains on the day, including a touchdown catch to get the Bucs on the board. He finished with three catches for 38 yards and the score.
–Cameron Brate is a gamer. His effort always seems to be there, and it has served the Bucs well. He finished the afternoon with six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. It was his fourth straight game with a touchdown, which is a new Tampa Bay tight end record.
–Patrick Peterson locked Mike Evans down for much of the day. However, once Peterson left with an injury, Evans took advantage. He ended the day with three catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Observations and Reactions- Defense
-I don’t even want to talk about the defense, but I will anyway.
-For as many playmakers as the Bucs have on the defensive side of the ball, the unit sure is awful sometimes. Is it Mike Smith‘s scheme? Because there is way too much talent out there for the defense to be performing this poorly.
-Speaking of poor, the run defense that looked so promising early in the season got dismantled on Sunday. Who dismantled the defense? Oh, none other than 65-year-old, past-his-prime Adrian Peterson. AP ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries just a few days after arriving in Arizona. Yeah, an aging veteran who has been with the team for less than a week, shredded through the Bucs like it was practice.
-Let’s not let the pass defense off the hook here. Carson Palmer, who is even older than Peterson, started 14-for-14 with 228 yards and three touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald was virtually unstoppable. He hauled in 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
–Vernon Hargreaves might officially be a problem. He was inconsistent last year, but showed some promise. This year, it looks like he’s only gotten worse. I don’t know how many plays there were on Sunday that ended with me wondering what exactly VH3 was doing.
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-The pass rush wasn’t much of a factor, which I guess might be a continuous theme of the season.
-At risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say again that Gerald McCoy deserves nothing but respect. The man is always giving it everything, yet he constantly gets negativity thrown his way. Enough is enough. His third quarter sack of Palmer came with one arm, as he was getting blatantly held.
-Despite a horrible start for the defense as a whole, it was good to see Lavonte David back on the field. He made a big play- shocker, I know- in the fourth quarter, returning a fumble 21 yards for a touchdown.
–Justin Evans had a nice day, for the most part. He blew a coverage that led to a touchdown at one point, but made a few nice plays in coverage and a couple of nice tackles.
Observations and Reactions- Special Teams
-Everyone’s favorite player, Bryan Anger, got a fair share of work in on Sunday. He punted four times for an average of 38.5 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20.
-The Bucs signed Patrick Murray this week. I thought I’d remind you, if only because everyone might’ve forgotten based on Sunday’s game. Koetter might’ve forgotten as well, considering the way he managed this game. I’m sure it was due to the score, but the head coach opted to give his new kicker just one chance on the day, and it was on a late extra point. Had Murray kicked a field goal at the end of the first half and two second half extra points, things would’ve gotten very interesting.
Another year, another ugly loss in Arizona. It’s over, so that’s good. But wow, what a disappointment. A close loss to the defending champions and a long layoff produced some optimism heading into Sunday, but that was just a mistake. Is optimism always when it comes to the Buccaneers? I like to think it isn’t, but they don’t help me out on that all too often. This year was supposed to be different. With more talent than they’ve had in years, the Bucs were supposed to be a team on the rise and a favorite to make the playoffs. But through five games, does that look like the case?
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By no means am I saying that all hope is lost. The Bucs are still 2-3 with a lot of football left. But this team sure has a lot of issues. I’m assuming that Jameis Winston’s shoulder injury isn’t too serious and the coaches kept him out as a precaution. If that’s the case, then I have no doubt that Tampa Bay can bounce right back next week. Plus, after an ugly first half, there were some positives to take away in the second half. The Bucs showed fight, Ryan Fitzpatrick made some nice throws and Cameron Brate continued to shine. Defensively, things got a little better. Lavonte David made some plays,
came up with a big pick and the unit as a whole looked a little more comfortable. It was a frustrating day, but it’s over now and we can just move on. Right?
The Buccaneers wrap up their two-game road swing next Sunday in Buffalo against the Bills. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.