Lions 24, Buccaneers 21: Immediate observations and reactions

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 10: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass in the first quarter of a game against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 10: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass in the first quarter of a game against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Five turnovers doomed the Buccaneers (4-9) on Sunday afternoon as they fell 24-21 to the Lions (7-6) at home. Here, we have observations and reactions from Tampa Bay’s third straight loss.

24. 50. Final. 21. 48

The Buccaneers shot themselves in the foot in another winnable game, falling 24-21 to the Lions on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Let’s get to some reactions.

Observations and Reactions- General

-The Bucs aren’t a good team and they don’t even look close to being one. The offense is broken and the defense is just as bad. Coaching is a problem, as is depth. This team has a long way to go in the offseason.

-The offense and defense never seem to click at the same time. The Tampa Bay defense took advantage of a couple of Detroit mistakes in the first half, taking the ball away three times. How did the offense respond to that? By also turning the ball over three times and scoring seven points. The offense came alive in the fourth quarter, but then the defense folded and allowed a late go-ahead field goal.

-Let’s talk about that referee convention that we saw in the first quarter. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t mean much, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any human being as confused as those refs were. The officials started with a helmet-to-helmet call that was, objectively, one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. Then, they were trying to figure out if O.J. Howard caught the ball to begin with. He took multiple steps after gaining possession, so I don’t know what was difficult about that. About an hour and a Detroit challenge later, the refs finally got the call right and the Lions got the ball. That sequence might have been the best thing to happen in this game.

-The Bucs were in their red jerseys today, so at least they looked good in the loss.

Observations and Reactions- Offense

Jameis Winston had another roller coaster day on Sunday. On Tampa Bay’s 75-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, he completed five of seven attempts for 65 yards. He was fitting his throws into tight windows with great accuracy. Then, he turned the ball over three times and looked worse than he has in a while. He battled back later by leading two touchdown drives to tie the game at 21.

-Also, to be fair, context is important on Winston’s two interceptions. On his first, DeSean Jackson failed to come back on his route. At the very least, split the blame on that one. Then, on the second, Winston overthrew Howard, who was being held. Turnovers are very clearly a problem for Winston, but context is important when evaluating mistakes for any player.

Doug Martin returned to action on Sunday after missing last week with a concussion, but failed to make the most of his carries. He ran ten times for just 26 yards and a touchdown, then fumbled when the Bucs were in field goal range. From there, he rode the bench.

Peyton Barber took over for Martin in the second half and saw much better results. He rushed for 58 yards on twelve carries. Going forward, can Dirk Koetter really justify playing Martin over Barber?

Mike Evans was quiet on Sunday, but Chris Godwin continued to show promise. The rookie caught a team-high five passes for 68 yards. He NEEDS an increased role in the season’s final three games.

-O.J. Howard fumbled in the first half, but ended up having a solid day. He caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown, bringing his total to five. His five scores are tied for the most by a Buccaneer rookie tight end.

-How about that Leonard Wester touchdown? Big man touchdowns are never boring. Let’s all watch it over and over again for the rest of the week.

-The Buccaneer offensive line is bad. Not only is pass protection a major issue, but the guys up front are continuously getting flagged at the worst times. After the defense got a turnover in the second quarter, Tampa Bay was threatening. A third down conversion was then negated by a hands-to-the-face penalty on Caleb Benenoch. With the Bucs pushed back to third and fifteen, Winston got sacked and the drive stalled.

Observations and Reactions- Defense

-The defense kept the Bucs in the game, but then let them down in the end. That sounds awfully similar to last week.

Matthew Stafford was efficient against the Tampa Bay secondary, finishing 36-of-44 for 381 yards and a touchdown. He did throw two interceptions, though, which were just two of eight total incomplete passes.

-The Bucs were able to stop the run, as they should against a bad rushing attack like the Lions’. Detroit managed to run for just 53 yards.

-Tampa Bay lost Gerald McCoy early, and it didn’t look good. He was visibly upset on the sideline and never returned. The initial report is that he is dealing with a shoulder/bicep injury. If he is out for the rest of the season, it goes without saying that it will be a big loss for the Bucs.

-The Bucs won’t be effective again as a defense until they put together a legitimate pass rush. Once again, they failed to register a sack. Without pressure, any quarterback can sit back and pick apart a defense. Tampa Bay is far removed from the days of dominant defenses. It’s about time for this franchise to get back to that.

-This year, the defense has been a little too reliant on forcing turnovers. But on Sunday, the unit forced three. That helped the Bucs stay in the game, as Lavonte David forced and recovered a fumble before Brent Grimes and Robert McClain later added interceptions.

-For David, his fifth opponent fumble recovery is a new team record.

-If I had a dollar for every time the Buccaneer defense fell apart at the end of the game in the last five or six years, I would have… a lot of dollars. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

Bryan Anger hasn’t really been himself lately, but being himself means he has superhuman punting abilities. So, really, he has just been human lately. He averaged 49.3 yards per punt on three punts on Sunday afternoon.

Patrick Murray didn’t get any field goal chances on Sunday, but he converted on all three of his extra point attempts.

Final Thoughts

Sunday could’ve been a whole lot worse for the Buccaneers. At 21-7, everything was hopeless. The offense finally clicked on two consecutive drives and got the game to 21-21, injecting some life into the team. Of course, that only led to further disappointment, but at least the offense didn’t just lie down and quit. The Bucs are just bad. They likely won’t win another game this year, which would mean a 4-12 finish and a top pick. Remember when this team was supposed to be a playoff contender? I barely do, at this point. But here we are.

Dirk Koetter can’t save his job at this point. He doesn’t seem to care, either, as Sunday felt like another “meh” day from him and the coaching staff. I’m sure he does care, considering it’s his job and he wants to win. But did anyone else see anything out of him today that indicated that he cares about coaching this team past week seventeen? With reports emerging this morning about a rocky relationship between him and Jameis Winston, we’re likely seeing him coach his last three Bucs games in the coming weeks. If the decision comes down to it, the Glazers will have to choose their quarterback, even with his inconsistencies and issues, over an unproven head coach that has overseen the regression of what once looked like a top-tier offense.

Today’s game is over, so let’s all forget about it. Jon Gruden is back in town for a game next week. I’m sure everyone will act reasonably upon his return.

Next: Buccaneers Round Table: Should Glazers factor injuries into coaching decision?

The Buccaneers return to action on Dec. 18, hosting the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) on Monday Night Football. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m.