With the playoffs quickly approaching and the Buccaneers attempting to solidify their place the team needed to finally put together a complete game. Against the Bengals, a playoff contender themselves, the Buccaneers came out swinging. Unfortunately, it completely collapsed in the second half.
First Half Of Hope
Fans anxiously awaited kick-off this week hoping for some miracle of a turnaround for the season. Wanting for the team to show guts, aggression, and poise. Ultimately, they got just that for two solid quarters. The first quarter started with solid defense. In the opening drive the Bengals started to move, that is until a Carlton Davis interception quickly halted their efforts. After, the offense would show some strength. Moving 67 yards on 13 plays they ended up on the Bengals three yard line and settled for a field goal. They looked good in the run game and utilized the depth of the field throwing. Defense again stepped up on the ensuing drive allowing no yards and forcing a three and out.
Exuding some understanding of the desperate situation the team was in the staff and players on offense followed the defenses lead with a 11 play 59 yard touchdown drive. However there was some foreshadowing that took place during this drive. Starting out strong the team gained two first downs right off the snap. A far cry from the continued third and long fans have become accustom to all season. Yet, something else stood out. On a third and one play the Buccaneers offense couldn’t gain a single yard. Not once, but twice on this drive. Now they gambled and won and it worked out well but was in itself ominous.
The defense would hold again forcing a three and out on negative six yards. Following this stand, the offense would sputter slightly. Settling for a 50 yard field goal attempt that was no good. Again, the defense shows up with another three and out. Their third in a row. This time the offense rewarded their hard work with a ten play 85 yard drive. Of those ten plays only one was a third down. They were showing promise. Fans were getting excited. There was a light t the end of the tunnel of a rocky season. Or so we thought.
It All Comes Crashing Down
Having deferred the Buccaneers would start the second half with the ball and a chance to extent a 17-3 lead. It was the beginning of the end. The Bengals had made some half time changes and looked to fight back.Tom Brady would miss two passes, one deep and one short. Then things really crumbled. While in punt formation the Buccaneers inexplicably direct snapped to Giovani Bernard. Seemingly unaware of the snap count or maybe the play in general he fumbles giving the Bengals a short field. Here, the defense still stands tall and allows only a field goal. A win really considering they started the drive on the Buccaneers 16 yard line.
So one has to question if the play was called for the direct snap. Did the coaches have a look they liked? At that point it was a field position game with plenty of time. They had gambled twice already going for in on fourth down in the first half. In my mind it was a clear cut call to punt. Either way the offense looked off again before the play occurred.
On the next drive the Buccaneers start moving the ball again. Gaining a first down without having to reach a third down first. Then they slowed down. Ko Kieft is called for holding. The offense, feeling the pressure of being so far back in their own territory is forced to gain the yardage back in large chunks. On third and eight Brady drops back and send a ball into
coverage that’s intercepted. The play looked disjointed and forced. Meanwhile the Bengals would take advantage with a touchdown. Now the defense drew two flags on this drive that kept it alive. If they hadn’t the result could have been much different.
The offense would again take the field and with the score now 17-12 Buccaneers, with 5:37 left in the third quarter. After mustering ZERO yards on to plays Brady is sacked and fumbles. Is protection broke down and there was little to offer the quarterback in the way of targets. Starting with a short field the Bengals score against a gassed defense. Subsequently the Buccaneers would rinse and repeat these events. On first and ten Brady inexplicably fumbles handing the ball off. This leaves the Bangles at the Buccaneers 39 with a short field and against a tiring defense. The result…another touchdown.
Following the downward spiral Brady steps back to throw on a first and twenty (after a ten yard penalty on Nick Leverett). The ball has no zip and falls short right into the diving hands of a defender. Luckily the defense holds the Bengals to a punt. The Buccaneers copy and punt themselves. Completing the collapse the defense seemingly lets up and the Bengals march down for a game winning and sealing touchdown. On one particular play
(Bengals third and one) the defense holds. Unfortunately, following that play Akiem Hicks is hit with encroachment giving the Bengals a first down.
Lastly in garbage time, the Buccaneers move seamlessly down the field in a 1:32 for another touchdown. But by then the game was out of reach. Even for Brady.
The good news is we saw some guts from Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich. The call to go for it on two fourth and one situations was surprising and a move in the right direction. They also seemed to be more aggressive and not playing for third and manageable situations. However, the bold call to direct snap pinned deep into their own territory was rather foolish in my opinion. I understand that if it worked (they only needed one yard) everyone would think differently. But that deep in your own area while leading by 14
is how you lose games. Had they made it I would have been ecstatic but my thought process would still have been the same. I would not have done it.
Additionally Brady didn’t look great. In fact he hasn’t been the Brady we have all come to expect to see this season. Is he hitting a wall? It’s hard to say. I think there is a lack of confidence in the offense right now and it’s been exposing chinks in the armor. We are already down to three games left so they better figure it out now. Luckily the next here games are against dwindling teams. That being said they can’t be over looked.
Additionally, the defense played well considering how many times they were given a short field.