It sounds sensational when you say it, but the fact of the matter is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from a 3-1 start to losing two games in less than a week.
Tampa Bay blew a division lead on Sunday after losing to the Atlanta Falcons, and followed that up with another loss on Thursday night in Buffalo. It was a short week, but many of the mistakes that have been starting to hold the team back continued to be amplified.
Baker Mayfield struggled again, the run game continues to sputter, and mental errors stunt momentum before it can truly build. Case in point, for the second straight week a cathartically big run by Rachaad White was called back on a Trey Palmer holding penalty.
It happened a few days prior in the loss to Atlanta to such an identical degree that it almost felt like a glitch in the Matrix.
Defensively the Bucs have been forced to bend until they break, with Ryan Neal drawing criticism from fans while Todd Bowles gets testy with those suggesting he be replaced. It's the struggles of the offense that has everyone on edge, as the same problems that held the team back last year are creeping up again.
Tampa Bay changed offensive coordinators this offseason, firing Byron Leftwich and hiring Dave Canales. Through the first eight weeks of the season, though, fans are starting to wonder if a Scooby-Doo situation is playing out where underneath the mask of a new coordinator lies the same foundational problems.
Rich Gannon calls out Dave Canales for not using Mike Evans properly
Leftwich was harshly criticized for this play calling, something that was reflected in the Bucs offense looking lifeless and helpless despite having Tom Brady under center. Tampa Bay changed everything up but once again fans are questioning the play calling of the offensive coordinator.
They're not alone.
Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon recently broke down the Bucs struggles on Sirius XM Radio, and blamed Canales for a few key failures. One was that he thinks Canales might not be getting his play calls in properly, but the bigger issue he points to is how the Bucs have failed to get Mike Evans the ball.
“You just cannot allow a team like Buffalo to take away your best player. You just can’t. The good teams find ways to get their players the ball," Gannon said. “You gotta still find a way within your scheme, whether it’s bunch formations, stacked alignments, motioning the receiver, moving him around so they can’t get their hands on them at the line scrimmage, making it difficult for a team to double him.
Gannon was harsh but fair, adding that these issues seem like a symptom of a guy doing the job for the firs time -- which Canales is.
"It just comes with experience as a play-caller," Gannon said.
Evans has gotten the ball this year, but a pattern has developed in the games where the Bucs have struggled. In the team's first two wins, the offense didn't find its rhythm until Evans ripped off a huge play. In the losses to Philly and Detroit, Evans either dropped key passes or the big play was missed (Baker's interception against Detroit was going to be exactly that).
On Thursday he had a huge catch in the fourth quarter that felt like it might help lead to a Bucs comeback, but it was called back due to a Cody Mauch holding call. Evans caught a touchdown later in the drive that gave the Bucs new life and nearly to a win.
He's on pace for another 1,000 yard season, but it doesn't feel like he's getting the ball in the right spots at the right time. While the touchdown against Buffalo was big, it came with mere minutes left in the game where his momentum-building catches against Minnesota and Chicago came in the first half.
For most of the game, Evans was a rumor on the field, and the Bucs weren't getting their best offensive weapon the ball. Once they did, the game's flow changed but it was too late.
That's squarely on Canales. He's a first time offensive coordinator and there's still time to figure things out, but something needs to change sooner rather than later.