So many things went wrong for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6 it’s a miracle the game wasn’t more lopsided than it was.
The Bucs were given a chance to make up for a loss earlier this season to the Philadelphia Eagles and prove that they deserve to be talked about as a contender in the NFC. The red hot Detroit Lions came to town for a clash of first place teams, but it looked painfully like a classic Buccaneers loss in just about every frustrating way.
Aside from some spark from the defense, nothing went right. The offense stalled, mistakes were made that stunted momentum or outright smothered it, and the Bucs were never able to get out of first gear and make an impact.
The loss was eerily similar to the one against the Eagles, as missed opportunities early in the game knocked Tampa Bay off course and unable to recover. The vibe of the game felt like losses we saw the team suffer last season, which is perhaps most concerning since old issues reared their heads with a mostly new regime.
It wasn’t one single moment that led to the loss, rather a collection of increasingly frustrating missed opportunities that pushed the Bucs onto the wrong side of the game and the wrong side of the win column.
Todd Bowles made two brutal strategic mistakes
While fans will point to a numbe of things the coaching staff did, two specific decisions that Todd Bowles made stick out as particularly frustrating.
Detroit had the ball with less than a minute left before halftime but seemed to be back on the ropes thanks to the ferocious Bucs defense. Tampa Bay had just sacked Jared Goff to force a 3rd and 10 at the Lions 40 yard line with 38 seconds left in the half.
Rather than use one of his remaining time outs to see if his defense could get the ball back, Bowles allowed the clock to run out and the half to end. Tampa Bay had two timeouts left, which could have created a scenario where the defense forces a punt to give the offense a chance with time to get into field goal range to end the half.
Not only that, but punching the Lions in the mouth to end the half by ending their drive would have done a lot to build back momentum. It was similar to a situation last year in Cleveland when Bowles let the clock run out on the half rather than try to get the ball back for Tom Brady.
Later in the game, with the Bucs down 14 points, Bowles elected to punt on 4th and 2 from his own 33 yard line. Going for it would have been risky, but it felt like the type of moment we’ve seen Baker and the offense muster up in weeks prior that energized the team and inspired a win.
In both cases, Bowles coached scared and it ended any chance the Bucs might have had to win back some momentum — or score points. Tampa Bay’s defense held the Lions potent offense to just 20 points, an effort that should have been supported by than two field goals and a lot more fight.