Bruce Arians looked a frustrated figure when prowling the sidelines during the Bucs’ 27-24 defeat to the Rams on Monday. His team was 7-3 and stood a chance of winning the division after an injury to Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Unfortunately it turned into yet another primetime disaster.
The Bucs could slump to 7-5 if Arians can’t lead the Buccaneers over Kansas City this Sunday. He definitely has a lot of work to do between now and then. Here are five things he would have learned on Sunday:
Bucs Continue To Struggle Under Bright Lights
Tampa Bay was awarded a franchise-high number primetime games this year after signing Tom Brady in the offseason. Fans hoped that Brady would inspire the team to better performances under the bright lights. However, those hopes proved premature.
The Bucs have averaged just 18 points per game when playing in a primetime slot this year. Compare that to an average of 35 points in their other games and you see the problem. Tampa Bay is now 1-3 in primetime games, and 6-1 when not playing on Thursday night, Sunday night or Monday night. The good news is there are no more primetime games for the Buccaneers in the regular season. The bad news is that they will be back under the bright lights if they make the playoffs, so Arians needs to find a way to get them to deal with the pressure it brings.
Brady Looked Lost, But Not Washed
Brady threw two interceptions and completed a season-low 54% of his passes for 216 yards during the defeat to the Rams. Twitter users quickly reacted with scorn, declaring Brady to be washed. Some players certainly decline at rapid rate when they reach Brady’s age, but it is premature to call him washed up.
After all, he completed 72% of his passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns in his previous game. Brady had a bad night, but he has the experience and the mental fortitude to bounce back quickly. Arians was not afraid to criticize his quarterback in the aftermath of the defeat, but he argued that Brady is struggling with continuity as opposed to confidence.
He played 20 years in New England, so it was always going to take time to adjust to a new system. “I don’t think it’s a confidence problem whatsoever,” he said. “It’s not lack of trust – it’s lack of continuity within the offense, of the whole picture.”
Brady looked lost in this game, missing open receivers, forcing bad passes and struggling to cope with the Rams’ aggression. He is also 0-19 on deep passes in his last four games, so that is clearly an area he needs to work on. Arians piled the pressure on Brady after the defeat, and he will hope for an emphatic response against the Chiefs, a game in which the Bucs are clear underdogs in the NFL betting.
Missed Tackles Provide Cause For Concern
The defense missed a season high 12 tackles in Sunday’s game. That sloppiness epitomized a dreadful defensive display. Todd Bowles was steadfast in his commitment to zone coverage, when it clearly wasn’t working. Jared Goff lapped it up, picking the Bucs’ defense to pieces all night long.
This was a winnable game against the Rams. The offense and defense looked pedestrian under the bright lights, and that does not bode well for a potential postseason run. Arians will be pleased by the way his team limited the Rams’ rushing game, but there were no sacks against a team missing its left tackle.
Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods will rarely have an easier night, as they combined for 275 receiving yards. The play calling and implementation was a mess, and Arians needs to work on the strategy and communication.
Leonard Fournette Is Running Out Of Chances
Bucs fans were excited by the arrival of Leonard Fournette in the offseason. Talk of a dream team abounded. However, he put in another disappointing performance on Monday, featuring three pivotal drops. Ronald Jones watched on from the bench for several plays, while LeSean McCoy did not get any game time at all.
Brady needs running backs that can catch the ball. It would make him a lot more effective, so McCoy would be an obvious option. He is the most prolific catcher out of all the running backs on the roster, so it would make sense to give him a chance, and to use Jones more.
Mike Evans Does Not Quit
One bright note was a phenomenal touchdown from Mike Evans. He caught the ball on the seven-yard line and somehow managed to barrel his way through two defenders to reach the end zone. He displayed tremendous power and physicality to drag them along with him. the clip went viral, and he even drew praise from LeBron James. Chris Godwin also showed impressive determination for a game-tying touchdown, and that sort of tenacity could be vital in the weeks ahead.