Days later it’s still hard to grasp that the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers lost to a team without a name. A team the Buccaneers are decisively more talented than. However, the Bucs must lick their wounds and move on to their next opponent, the Giants. Before fans are ready to see this team play again there is still much to unpack.
The Bad News
As kickoff neared, the news that Richard Sherman sustained a calf injury in warmups and would be out for the game foreshadowed what would be a dreadful afternoon for the Buccaneers. The Bucs first play from scrimmage would begin with a false start cementing the tone for the Buccaneers. The Bucs would then be shut out in the first quarter by the Washington Football Team after consecutive drives ended with interceptions for the Buccaneers. Imagine someone telling you that a week ago. The Buccaneers would go on to finish the first half without scoring a touchdown and finished the afternoon 1-for-3 in the red zone. Not a championship formula.
The Bucs would pile on missed opportunities in the red zone with drops and penalties throughout the afternoon. Coming out of their bye week the Bucs were among the top 3 in the league in penalty yards. The Bucs did nothing to reverse this trend adding 6 penalties for 43 yards on Sunday. With key players out of their lineup, the Buccaneers cannot commit senseless penalties and expect to win. Since playing a near penalty-free game against the Bears, the Bucs have racked up 17 penalties tallying 134 yards. These numbers don’t fit into a winning strategy. Last year penalties were an issue that seemingly went away with the snap of a finger.
The Good News
Devin White finally heard the cries of fans and came up with his best performance of the year, totaling 18 combined tackles, 2 Sacks, and 2 TFL. Devin White was a force in the run game all afternoon. After the rocky start he had to the season Sunday was a great sign. White is a highly motivated individual who responds to pressure, this performance should not be surprising to Bucs fans. Let’s hope he can begin to string these performances together like he did last year as they will be needed.
This loss seems to have stirred the Buccaneers. There is a collective message coming from the team’s key players that seems to go along these lines – we should have won this football game, our effort wasn’t good enough and we have to go out and make the plays. Because the Buccaneers seem to be together I believe Sunday moved the Buccaneers in the right direction as a team. There was no talk of “ I felt I did a good job doing…” the message was collective and that is 100 percent a good sign. This team understands where they are and what they need to do to get where they want to be.
The Silver Lining
The Bucs still sit atop the NFC South despite two consecutive losses. This fact is crucial in not pressing the panic button yet for the team although those scrambling have reason to. With three favorable games ahead the biggest issue the Bucs may face while game planning is figuring out who will play. Continuity is key in football and the Buccaneers lack of continuity on the field is kicking them in the rear materializing in mistakes on the field.
Seeing things like bad spacing in zone drops tells me guys aren’t getting all the reps needed to understand their assignments and perform their best on Sunday. I expect issues like this to iron themselves out once the Buccaneers return their starters to the lineup. Last year Bucs fans were begging Todd Bowels to stop playing soft zone coverages. This year the Bucs don’t have much of an option not to with the injuries they’ve sustained. With Sean Murphy-Bunting nearing his return to the field we could see the defense begin to sure itself up. Allowing a 10-minute possession to end the game is very alarming, but it shouldn’t happen again.
Without Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, the Bucs are missing two key pieces of the offense that is rearing its ugly head. While I love the flashes Tyler Johnson has shown, contested catches have been a struggle for him. This is an area where Gronkowski and Brown excel. Having the pair on the field also helps Brady process the field quicker. With their full set of receivers Brady is able to pick his matchups at the line and choreograph his movements properly to make sure his guy is open. I believe this team will begin to come back to form once these two are back in the lineup.