After losing back-to-back games coming out of the bye week, the list of Tampa Bay Buccaneers players who deserve some blame is long. Baker Mayfield has looked mediocre, the run game is absolutely pitiful, and even the defense has been starting to show some cracks.
For all of the struggles across the roster, nobody on the Bucs has drawn the ire of fans more than Ryan Neal.
Neal came to Tampa Bay in free agency as a potential sleeper steal, as he was pegged as someone who might form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL alongside Antoine Winfield Jr. Instead, just six games into his Bucs career fans are calling for guys like Zyon McCollum or Dee Delaney to replace him in the secondary.
In both of the Bucs losses Neal has found himself on the wrong end of a big game-changing play. He failed to finish coverage of Jameson Williams on a touchdown pass that busted the game open in Week 6 and he was torched by Kyle Pitts on Sunday for what ended up being the game-sealing catch.
On that play, Pitts found the softest part of the Bucs zone coverage and ripped off a catch-and-run that set up the game-winning kick by Younghoe Koo. Devin White cited the coverage scheme as a reason for the blown play, but Bucs legend Rondé Barber saw something else.
Ronde Barber breaks down how Ryan Neal blew the Kyle Pitts play
Barber made an appearance on the Buccaneers Radio Network this week, and our friends over at JoeBucsFan listened in as he shredded Ryan Neal for blowing his coverage on Pitts.
He didn't do it to be malicious or mean, but Barber took Neal apart while breaking down what he did wrong that led to the game-changing catch.
“It was the wrong time for him to miss an angle. His feet got behind him. He was coming out of disguise so he was late to his landmark,” Barber said. “His feet didn’t get underneath him and by the time he went to transition, [Pitts] is running by him. That’s another 20 yards and that’s the game. And that sucks.”
As Barber points out, it wasn't just the soft coverage that allowed Pitts to make the catch that was bad, it was the YAC he was able to rack up after that ended up being the most fatal part of the play. Had Neal been in a position to stop Pitts after he made the catch, there's a chance the Falcons don't end up getting into field goal range and the game would have gone to overtime.
Neal wasn't solely responsible for the Bucs loss, as the offense failed to take advantage of the defense only allowing 13 points for most of the game -- including only three points in the second half until the game-winning kick.
With the margins so slim, though, errors like the one Neal made are magnified. The honeymoon is officially over and Neal needs to start playing like he doesn't want this relationship to end in a divorce.