Buccaneers: Week 8 Immediate Reaction and Observations
The 2-4 Buccaneers took the field at home this weekend to face the Carolina Panthers. Their opponents came in at 4-3, in second place in the NFC South, and coming off two straight losses themselves.
When the Buccaneers hoisted their flags, they did so into high winds and cooler than usual weather. In fact, it was colder in Tampa for this week’s game than it was in Buffalo during Week 7.
To start the game, the Bucs took the opening kickoff, and looked to set the tone for the game with a quick start.
A fast start eluded this team again however, and after two drives, Jameis Winston’s offense collected just 20 yards and one first down. Of course, a 3rd-and-4 pass from Winston to star receiver Mike Evans was dropped, and would have given the Bucs a first down near midfield.
Carolina’s second drive of the game started to expose a little bit of what has been so frustrating about Mike Smith’s defense this season.
Four times the Bucs got the Panthers to third down. Twice, they needed six yards or more to convert. All four times, a soft Buccaneers defense surrendered the first down.
This allowed Carolina to move inside the Tampa 30-yard line before Cameron Artis-Payne took a handoff down to the four-yard line for a first and goal.
The fifth and final time the defense got their opponent to third down came on the one-yard line. This time, it wasn’t a first down, but a touchdown. Jonathan Stewart jumped over the pile for a short running score, and the Panthers took an early 7-0 lead following the extra point by not Roberto Aguayo.
Five third downs, four first down conversions, a touchdown, and nearly nine minutes of possession on Carolina’s second drive of the game really sucked the energy out of Raymond James Stadium early.
Entering the midway point of the second quarter, the Bucs offense appeared to be building a head of steam as they entered Carolina’s side of the field.
With the ball on their opponent’s 33-yard line, left tackle Donovan Smith was flagged for hands to the face. Then, before another snap happened, right tackle Demar Dotson committed a false start.
This took the Buccaneers from 1st-and-10 from the Panthers’ 33, to 1st-and-25 on the 43-yard line. Good things don’t tend to happen in these situations, and two plays later, Winston fumbled attempting to pitch the ball as he was being sacked by Julius Peppers.
Kurt Coleman recovered the fumble, and Carolina took over on their own 37-yard line with zero points scored by the Bucs.
Complimentary football has been an issue all season long, and it continued to be here.
Following the fumble, Tampa’s defense allowed the Panthers just 11-yards before forcing a punt. Once the ball was back in the hands of Dirk Koetter’s offense, they gained just three yards and took less than 30-seconds off the clock.
This gave Carolina the ball back in better field position than they had when they punted in the first place, and over two minutes remaining in the half.
The result: Panthers drove into scoring position and made it a 10-0 game with just 17 seconds remaining in the first half.
FIRST HALF OBSERVATION: The Buccaneers simply don’t look like they have a coordinated plan of attack. The game plan isn’t working, and little appears to be happening to fix it.
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There’s a lot of playing time in a national football game. It’s important to remember this fact as a Buccaneers fan these days.
Carolina’s first drive of the second-half, after receiving the kickoff to start the half, looked like it was headed for points. However, the often insulted – rarely praised, Chris Conte picked off a pass intended for tight end Ed Dickson at the Bucs 36-yard line.
Remember that bit about complimentary football? Well, the offense quickly went into Panthers territory, down to their 33-yard line on just four plays. Followed by a run for no gain, sack, and punt. Improvement, but not good enough.
Fortunately, the defense held strong again, and gave the offense solid field position to start their second possession of the second half. This time, the Buccaneers drove into scoring range, and stayed there. A Pat Murray 41-yard field goal made it 10-3 Carolina with almost a quarter and a half remaining.
In the second half, it was more of the same. A Buccaneers team which has routinely picked up the pace and efficiency in the later stages of the game, just didn’t get it done.
Doug Martin continued to be the most consistent part of the offense, running hard on every opportunity.
Two fourth quarter interceptions thrown by Winston certainly didn’t help matters, but the second one was the most painful of them all.
One play after missing Evans on what would have been a huge touchdown strike with half of the final quarter still to play, the third-year quarterback fired a bullet right into the gut of linebacker Luke Kuechly.
It was intended for Cameron Brate, but you wouldn’t have known it if it weren’t for the two players wearing different uniforms.
Winston drove his side of the ball into enemy territory one more time with under three minutes left in the contest. But on 4th-and-14, and forced to go for it down by two touchdowns, Winston took another bad hit as his final pass attempt of the game dropped harmlessly to the turf.
SECOND HALF OBSERVATION: Can’t rely on a second wind when there was no first wind.
The Buccaneers are in trouble. Play calling continues to baffle me, and some other fellow watchers of this team.
Yet again, another winnable game for Tampa Bay goes into the loss column, and for another week we’ll have more conversations I’m quite tired of having.
Is Jameis Winston the quarterback for this team, is coach Koetter on the hot seat, is Mike Smith going to be fired, etc. These will all be topics discussed between this game and the New Orleans Saints game coming up in Week 9.
Playoffs are no longer a realistic topic of conversation unless you are controlling the Bucs in your copy of Madden NFL 2018.
Mathematically, it can still happen. I for one, will continue to write as objectively as I can, but cheer as biased as a fan is capable of. I will continue to wear my Bucs gear on a regular basis, and I will smile in the face of criticism and jokes brought upon me by co-workers and friends who are fans of other teams.
I’ll also continue to thank Alan Schechter for not rubbing in the fact his New York Jets look like
Super Bowl contenders compared to this version of the Buccaneers.
T.J. Ward continues to see minimal playing time, and while his presence may not have necessarily led to a victory, I’m baffled as to why an All-Pro has been brought in to play little more than special teams.
The theme this season has been a franchise operating at half power. When the Bucs offense is firing, the defense is as secure as a colander. When the defense holds, the offense is as helpless as Tom Cruise in a ladder match.
I’ll write it one last time; complimentary football is not a thing in 2017 for Buccaneers fans.
The Panthers amassed just 154-yards passing, and barely over 100-yards rushing on 29 carries (not counting the final kneel downs).
With the current Buccaneers offense, if your defense gives up less than 20 points, it should be a win.
"WARNING: NSFW (EXPLICIT LANGUAGE) – Check out the latest PewterCast post-game Instant Cast. Brent and Ren discuss their thoughts following Week 8’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, and open up the phone for you all to voice yours as well!"
This has been my reaction and observations. What are yours?
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