The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into the NFC Divisional Round playing with house money and still found a way to lose so badly that it calls into question whether it stunts momentum the team built.
After falling into a 1-6 slump in the middle of the season, the Bucs ripped off four straight wins to win the NFC South and punch a ticket to the playoffs. Once there, Tampa Bay blew out the defending conference champions by 23-points and nearly came back to upset the Detroit Lions on the road.
It’s not the margin of defeat that has everyone wondering if the Bucs popped their own bubble, it’s how the game ended. With over 0:30 seconds on the clock, Jared Goff took a knee on third down with the Bucs still owning one final timeout. Rather than call it and force the Lions to kick a field goal, Todd Bowles let the clock run out and the season end.
As if the error wasn’t bad enough, Bowles doubled down when asked about it and said that he didn’t think the Bucs were going to win anyway so ‘why delay the obvious’.
Fans remain utterly enraged over the entire debacle, and they’re not alone.
Kyle Brandt destroys Todd Bowles on GMFB: ‘This is ludicrous’
Good Morning Football begged the question of whether or not Bowles was being unfairly criticized for not calling a timeout with a potential chance to win the game. No matter how slim the probability was, Kyle Brandt was beside himself that a team would essentially waive the white flag in a playoff game.
“This is ludicrous,” Brandt said. “Either he completely messed up and just lost track of things, which is incompetent, or there really was some intangible gentlemen’s agreement with Dan Campbell, they have a past and everything. That’s not football. That’s not what you do.”
“You’ve got a few seconds. They haven’t guarded Mike Evans all day. You’ve probably got two plays. You hit a 20-yarder to Evans and then you have a strong-armed Baker Mayfield who at worst is going to chuck one in the end zone,” Brandt continued. “It’s the playoffs. Your whole team was about never say die and keep fighting till the last breath. … Either he completely blew it or he has a really cockamamie excuse of a gentlemen’s agreement. It’s nonsense. I think Bucs fans should be pissed off.”
What makes it so mind-boggling is that it goes against the mentality the team had while picking itself up off the mat earlier in the year. Quitting is what most other teams would have done after a 1-6 slump, but Bowles got the team to fight back and save its season.
So to have things end like this is as much confusing as it is infuriating.
To be as fair to Bowles as possible, most of the outrage makes it seem like the Lions were backed up deep in their own territory. Detroit had the ball at Tamp Bay’s 30-yard line, well within Michael Badgley’s range. If he hit a field goal it would have made it an 11-point game and put it out of reach.
However, who knows what would have happened. Maybe he misses, or the kick is blocked — or it’s blocked and returned for a touchdown. Crazy things happen in the playoffs and waiving the white flag with time on the clock and a chance to win is the definition of loser’s mentality.
The real kicker is that this debacle came just a few drives after the Bucs scored and then went for two. They had just establish a desire to not quit and get aggressive, which makes keeping the timeout even more of a head-scratching decision.