Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans did a lot of reminiscing Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium. Tony Dungy was inducted to the Ring of Honor, but fans were also reminded of mistakes that always cost the Bucs so many games. The team fell to 2-1 as they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-27.
In not-so-surprising fashion, the Steelers took advantage of an inexperienced, injured secondary, and penalties and turnovers to steal a victory in a desperation game. Drops and penalties cost the Bucs over 10 points, without would have secured the victory.
Fitzpatrick Makes History
Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly reproduced his epic passing performances in the previous weeks. The quarterback threw for 411 yards and three touchdowns to become the first in NFL history to throw for over 400 yards in three consecutive games. He did his part to try to win the game. But he was also instrumental in losing it contributing with three interceptions.
Head coach Dirk Koetter made a critical error in placing faith in Mike Smith’s defense around the two-minute warning where they already have given up 431 total yards, 353 passing to Ben Roethlisberger and 78 yards on the ground.
The Steelers proved more than capable of sustaining drives than three-and-outs. The black & gold hit 22 first downs and had substantial gains from wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Tight end Vance McDonald scored on a 75-yard TD catch and run. Running back James Conner sealed the game with a 17-yard run to give his team the critical first down needed to run out the clock.
The game was sloppy with the Steelers being penalized 13 times for 155 yards, while the Bucs were penalized nine times for 80 yards. Turnovers were minimized with Roethlisberger only throwing one pick, while the Bucs contributed a fumble with Fitzpatrick’s three interceptions.
The game nearly got away from the Bucs at the half. Their implosion allowed the Steelers to score all 30 of their points in the half while the Bucs only mustered 10 points. They did fare better with time-of-possession in the second half, but it wasn’t enough though. The running game was again not much of a factor for the Bucs. They ran for a total of 63 yards on the ground, nearly half of those from Fitzpatrick. “Leading” rusher Peyton Barber had eight carries for 33 yards. The team more or less had to abandon the run thanks to attempting to overcome a 20-point deficit.
Mike Evans the Bright Spot
Mike Evans set a franchise record for touchdown receptions with his lone score and contributed 137 yards on six receptions. Wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight end Cameron Brate factored in two other scores. The Steelers did a commendable job neutralizing DeSean Jackson’s deep threat capabilities. They limited him to just three catches for 37 yards. Tight end O.J. Howard is continuing to be a rising star playing up to his first-round status. He added six catches for 72 yards.
The Bucs’ defense did what they could to limit the damage from the Steelers coming up with three sacks on Roethlisberger with two from Jason Pierre-Paul, and a combined sack from Vinnie Curry and Gerald McCoy. The unit also registered more tackles for losses with 10-6, but unfortunately, the Steelers defense was able to apply more pressure on Fitzpatrick hitting him 13 times and deflecting 10 passes compared to the Bucs’ 9 hits and 2 deflections. All of Fitz’s interceptions were in the disastrous second quarter. One was returned by linebacker Bud Dupree for a score.
Next up, the Bucs (2-1) head north to Soldier Field to battle their former NFC Central rival Chicago Bears (2-1).