Ryan Neal, S
It's time to let everyone off the Ryan Neal ride, one that has broken down and is starting to catch on fire.
For yet another game, Neal was consistently out of position and on the wrong end of big plays by the opposing offense. This marks three straight weeks where he has been noticeably awful, and it started almost right away. Buffalo was backed up on its own 4-yard line for its first offensive drive, but Josh Allen dug out of the hole by picking on Neal and coming up with big plays.
It's a theme that needs to end.
Neal was cooked all over the place on Thursday night, and once again was on the wrong side of a play that flipped the scales. Tampa Bay had just pulled off a 10-point swing in under a minute to tie the game with halftime approaching. Buffalo took the momentum right back on a touchdown pass to Dalton Kincaid with You Know Who in coverage.
It wasn't a game-winning play, but much like the Jameson Williams mistake this one allowed the Bills to stop the Bucs from gaining any footing.
Todd Bowles said earlier in the week that there wouldn't be any personnel changes before Thursday night, but it's starting to feel like that was a product of a short week and not that changes weren't going to be made. Something else that was notable after Sunday was that Bowles said he knew what happened on the blown coverage on Kyle Pitts that set up a game-winning field goal and that it would be 'addressed'.
He didn't name any names, but it seems pretty clear who he was talking about.
Neal has been horrendous, and Thursday night's performance against the Bills might be the final straw.
Dave Canales, OC
The Dave Canales honeymoon is officially over, and it might be time to start wondering if the clock is ticking on the first year offensive coordinator. That’s more a reflection on the Bucs coaching staff as a whole, but Canales is doing himself no favors in helping move things in the right direction.
Last week he drew the ire of Bucs fans for his uncreative play calling that bordered on malpractice and the weird decision making continue this week. To his credit, Canales tried to move away from a balanced attack and away from a run game that has been totally useless. Other than that, things weren’t much better and two moments stood out as particularly frustrating.
One moment technically counts as multiple moments, as Canales couldn’t stop drawing up third down plays that left his receivers short of the sticks. This has been a problem all year, as the Bucs slant passes are never more than a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage and lack any sort of danger to opposing secondaries. They’re simply too easy to defend, and it’s causing a ripple effect that impacts the defense. With the Bucs offensive drives ending so quickly, the defense barely has any time to rest before needing to come back out onto the field.
Given how hard the defense has been fighting to keep the team in games that would otherwise be blowouts, the least the offense can do is extend at least one drive.
Another moment came late in the fourth quarter and highlights an even deeper flaw for Canales. Down 24-10, the Bucs offense showed absolutely no urgency in trying to get down the field. The play clock was being run down to zero, players were walking back to the line of scrimmage, and time was being wasted.
That drive ended up taking nearly eight minutes off the clock, and it came back to cost the Bucs. Tampa Bay scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut the score to 24-18, and the defense promptly forced the Bills to punt after only giving up one first down.
Because the offense was so laissez faire on the scoring drive, the offense got the ball back with 21 seconds and zero timeouts. Had there been some urgency on that drive, the Bucs very well could have been in a position to march down the field and win the game, but instead needed to settle for chunk yardage and Hail Mary to try and win the game.
That’s entirely on Canales.