By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida – Bucs Reporter
Tampa Bay Buccaneers were eager to defend their 2020 Championship season as they took on the Cincinnati Bengals at home in the preseason opener. It did not go as planned.
Quarterback Tom Brady led the first drive of the game completing only one 9-yard pass to running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard, a veteran in the league who played 8 seasons with the Bengals, joined the Buccaneers in the off season under a one-year contract.
The rest of the drive was a bust with Leonard Fournette only able to pick up a couple yards, and the Bengals sacking Brady on third down to end the possession. As head coach Bruce Arians explained, “[Brady] saw it coming and he folded up like a cheap tent.”
Bring on the Backups
The Buccaneers quickly switched gears to give playing time to their other three quarterbacks. Veteran quarterback Blaine Gabbert entered the mix on the second drive of the first quarter finding multiple targets. Gabbert completed passes to OJ Howard for 15 yards, Tyler Johnson on the side line for 11, and Bernard.
However, at running back, it was Ke’Shawn Vaughn who stood out during the game with multiple ball carries throughout the night, including 42 yards on kickoff returns, 27 rushing and 10 receiving. Arians said, “Ke’Shawn played lights out. He made a hell of a play as a gunner. He ran the ball well, blocked well, I thought he made a really nice step especially on special teams.”
Following tight end Tanner Hudson’s 18-yard play that put the Bucs in the red zone, it was Vaughn who finished the job and scored a 2-yard touchdown putting the Buccaneers on the scoreboard.
That’s not how that works
However, in an unusual fashion, Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop lined up at the 2-yard line for a fake extra point and then kicked it in. As soon as the ball went through the uprights, the cannons fired, the crowd cheered, and then the refs blew their whistle alerting the teams to an aborted kick for failing to line up at the proper distance.
Arians said, “we had really bad communication on the fake extra point. Our kicker didn’t know the rule. You can’t line back up and kick it and get a point for it. Evidently it wasn’t communicated well enough to him that he couldn’t do that. So that’s on me.” The Buccaneers did not see the end zone again until the fourth quarter.
Arians not happy with defense’s play
Most of second quarter and all of the third dragged along as the Bengals drove up and down the field. Buccaneers defense was able to hold Cincinnati to field goals, but gave up twice the yardage and allowed the Bengals more time of possession.
Arians explained of his defense, “probably worst tackling experience I have seen in a long time. we had no arms. Everything was shoulder, blocking. Some young guys put some embarrassing things on tape.”
One young guy who put some good things on tape was rookie quarterback Kyle Trask from the University of Florida, who was drafted in the second round. Trask made his NFL debut halfway through the third quarter. He had a rough first drive, but started to find his stride in the fourth.
Trask reflected on his first NFL game saying, “it was very surreal but you know once you get out there between the lines it’s just football. We’ve done a great job of preparing during practice and getting used to that game speed . . . I felt very prepared.”
A bright spot
In the fourth quarter, Bengals Kyle Shurmur attempted a short pass that was intercepted by Buccaneers linebacker Joseph Jones for his first pick ever and first pick 6. And Trask was able to put up his first NFL score with a 2-point conversion to C. McElroy.
It was a game of firsts, including a frustrating penalty for the Buccaneers. While both teams drew multiple penalties during the game, there was one in particular that set off coach Arians.
Towards the end of the second quarter, Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen was running an option when rookie linebacker Joe Tryon tackled him for a loss of 5. The refs called it a sack and threw a penalty for unnecessary roughness. It also forced the Buccaneers to use a timeout for a better explanation on the call.
“[Allen’s] a runner. He wasn’t the quarterback, he was running the option,” Arians said, “that play’s been in the league now for a while. Hell you can hit them when they fake it. There’s no such thing as body weight. . . . That’s probably one of the worst calls I’ve seen in 10 years.”
As Tryon said, “luckily, it’s preseason. I learned from it.” He added, “I’ll probably go for the ball next time and we’ll get a turnover. It’s just adapting and adjusting.”
Overall, Arians recapped the 19-14 loss by saying, “there was good and bad, a lot of bad, a lot of ugly. The good was that we came out healthy. It’s a start.”