What a tough way to start things off for Bruce Arians and the Bucs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up losing a wild game filled with mistakes 31-17 to San Francisco. Two touchdowns were nullified for both teams due to penalties.
Tragic Figures of the Game: Jameis Winston and O.J. Howard
Quarterback Jameis Winston finished the night with 20 completions on 36 passing attempts for a total of 194 yards. He added one touchdown to Chris Godwin. However, he was picked off thrice and had another fumble, which the Bucs recovered. One of the interceptions was caused by O.J. Howard, as he was not able to catch a well-thrown ball. He deflected it and it ended up in the hands of a 49ers defender. The other two picks were taken to the house for a pick-six. When the Bucs had the chance to take the lead in the 4th quarter, down 23-17, Arians decided to go for it on fourth-and-2. Winston had Godwin open but hesitated just a little too long. A Niners defensive back was able to swat down and almost intercept his late pass.
To make matters worse, Howard lost a fumble in the opponent’s red zone when the Bucs offense seemed to be on the verge of scoring.
Bright Spots of the Day: Defense and Ronald Jones
On a positive note, the defense played unexpectedly well. However, the 49ers offense certainly was not the biggest challenge the Buccaneers defense will face this year. Nonetheless, the defense played aggressive and efficient, holding Garoppolo to only 166 yards and one touchdown. Furthermore, Vernon Hargreaves had the Bucs only pick of the game. He returned it to the house and scored his first NFL touchdown. Ndamukong Suh looked sharp and motivated, which is a great sign for Tampa Bay. The defense as a whole allowed no more than 98 rushing yards to San Francisco and only 16 points (the other 15 points came on the two pick sixes). All in all, this unit seemed drastically improved from last season.
Another bright spot was second-year running back Ronald Jones. After a terrible rookie campaign, Jones proved what he is capable of doing this time. He ran decisively and hit the holes hard, averaging an impressive 5.8 yards-per-carry and totaled 75 yards on the ground.
Conclusion: The Main Share of the Blame Goes to Jameis Winston
All in all, the Bucs simply did not play efficiently on offense. Granted, Winston had two touchdowns to Cameron Brate nullified. His protection was not exactly the cream of the crop either, as expected. Furthermore, he did not have his favorite target available at full health. Mike Evans played with the flu and it showed. The two pick-sixes were inexcusable, however. Simply terrible decisions by Tampa Bay’s captain, period.
Nonetheless, it was just one game. Let us see how he and the Bucs respond against Carolina on Thursday night, in a very important divisional matchup.