Bills 30, Buccaneers 27: Immediate observations and reactions

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 22: T.J. Ward #43 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts to defend Logan Thomas #82 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter of an NFL game on October 22, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 22: T.J. Ward #43 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts to defend Logan Thomas #82 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter of an NFL game on October 22, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Another week, another letdown. The Buccaneers (2-4) had the game in hand late, but completely fell apart and lost 30-27 to the Bills (4-2) in Buffalo. Here, we have observations and reactions from another crushing loss.

16. Final. 27. 48. 30

There were a lot of highs and lows on Sunday afternoon for the Buccaneers. Unfortunately, it ended on an extreme low and they fell to 2-4.

Observations and Reactions- General

-Compared to last week’s first half, Sunday’s was a big improvement. That doesn’t mean much, of course, considering I could’ve gone out and danced at the 50-yard line for 30 minutes and that would’ve been better than the first half of last week’s game.

-The Tampa Bay offense followed its preseason formula on Sunday, putting together a nice drive to open the game only to have it end in a field goal. The defense didn’t hold onto that lead for long, though.

-This team forgot how to win on the road. After impressive road victories over Kansas City and San Diego late last year, things looked good. Since then, Tampa Bay has lost four straight away from Raymond James Stadium.

-Are we at the point where the team forgot how to win? During the five-game winning streak last year, there was a lot of talk about the team finally figuring out how to win. Well now, it looks like they are back to finding new and ridiculous ways to lose.

Observations and Reactions- Offense

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-Can we get rid of this idea that the Buccaneer offense would be better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center? Jameis Winston is the franchise. Let him develop before calling for his head, people. He makes some poor decisions and is still finding his deep ball. We know that. But he makes plays and gives this team a good chance to win every time out.

-There was a lot of good for Winston just six days after spraining a joint in his shoulder. He finished the day  32-of-44 for 384 yards and three touchdowns. On the negative side, he turned the ball over twice. There has to be a real concern with the continuous flaws in his decision-making. His fumble, though, wasn’t necessarily on him…

Donovan Smith was beaten badly in the second quarter, which led to a sack-fumble. Winston never had a chance, as the defender got to him almost immediately. Later in the game, Smith got flagged for a hold on what was going to be a 50-yard pickup from Winston to DeSean Jackson. So… Sunday was a forgettable day for Smith.

O.J. Howard had the best game of his young career, catching six passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Despite his size, he finds a way to get lost behind the defense. How? I don’t know. I’m not going to complain.

-Howard’s first touchdown capped off a huge drive for the Buccaneer offense. The unit struggled early in the day, playing a part in a 17-6 deficit. After Smith’s penalty negated a big play, the offense responded. Overall, it was a seven-play, 75-yard drive to put Tampa Bay back in it.

-The offense really found itself late in the game. A 75-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard touchdown by Howard tied the game at 20. Then, after the defense got the ball back, Winston and co. ate up 6:16 and took a 27-20 lead on a Mike Evans toe-drag touchdown.

-Evans was fantastic, as usual. He caught seven passes for 91 yards and the touchdown.

-After a defensive letdown, the Bucs were set up for a potential game-winning drive with 2:28 left. Instead, Adam Humphries fumbled and just about gift-wrapped the game for the Bills. It was a rare mistake for Humphries, but one that could legitimately derail this season.

-Once again, the Bucs failed to really establish the run. Not much else to say about that.

Observations and Reactions- Defense

-The Buccaneer defense is a mess. That is all.

-Actually, that’s not all, because I have a job to do.

-Third downs were a disaster for the Buccaneer defense on Sunday. The Bills converted on seven of 10 third downs in the first half and ended the day 10-for-16.

-Somehow, the defensive line is still failing to get consistent pressure. Finding an edge rusher will be a big priority for the Bucs in the offseason, that’s for sure.

-It was great to have Kwon Alexander back on the field this week. Even better, though, was seeing Alexander and Lavonte David on the field at the same time. The two combined for 23 tackles on the day. David was the biggest factor for the defense, forcing and recovering another fumble to get the ball back to the Buccaneers after they tied the game.

-Just when the defense needed to step up late, it didn’t. Taylor hit a 44-yard pass, then a 15-yard helmet-to-helmet penalty added to the gain. A few plays later, Buffalo tied the game again. Then, after the offense turned the ball over, the defense had a chance to get the ball back with at least some time left. Instead, it was an 11-yard gain on 3rd and 10 that pretty much ended any hopes.

-Containment of Tyrod Taylor was a major issue. Facing a shifty quarterback like Taylor isn’t easy, but considering they see Cam Newton next, the Bucs need to figure something out.

Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

-The Bucs might finally have a kicker? Patrick Murray made field goals from 50 and 25 yards out on the afternoon while also making all three of his extra points. It would’ve been nice to see him with a shot to win it at the end, but the offense let him down.

-It was a rare poor performance from Bryan Anger. Both of his punts went for touchbacks.

Next: Buccaneers: Potential new looks on defense

Final Thoughts

This team really isn’t what we thought it was going to be. I try to avoid overreactions after emotional games like this, I really do. But from what we’ve seen in six games, does anyone believe that the Buccaneers have lived up to even a little bit of the hype? The offense is still taking too long to get going and the defense is an absolute disaster. This feels like a typical Tampa Bay team. Tons of talent, but not enough know-how when it comes to winning. The Bucs were a stop away from being 3-3 and gaining some ground in the division. Then, the defense forgot what football is. Even after that, there was a chance to drive down the field and win it late. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Buccaneers once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Is all hope lost? Absolutely not. Tampa Bay was 3-5 halfway through last season and nearly came back to make the playoffs. But one week after a horrible effort in Arizona, the team still looked flat early and despite recovering, couldn’t come away with a win. These guys have some serious soul-searching to do, especially with division rival Carolina coming to town next week. There’s still a chance for this team to turn it around. It can only do so if the defense figures out something. That something needs to be figured out quickly. As I like to say every time the Bucs lose: at least it’s over. Let’s all just forget about it.

The Buccaneers return to the field next Sunday (Oct. 29) at Raymond James Stadium against the Panthers (4-3). Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.