The Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered a critical loss in the NFC South race on Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons came to town and edged out the Bucs at the buzzer in a 16-13 loss. This was a game that the Bucs were expected to win, but were upset with a chance to take control of their division.
There were a lot of things that stood out to me in this game. Most of them were frustrating, but some positives as well. Here are my six points from yesterday’s loss to the Falcons.
1. Rachaad White Evolution
Yes, on paper it was another abysmal day running the ball for the Buccaneers. However, that;s not to say that starting running back Rachaad White was a non factor. The second year running back out of Arizona State made a large impact in this game as a pass catcher.
His six receptions were tied for most on the team this week and his 65 receiving yards were third only behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. For a Bucs team that has struggled to run the ball and establish a third option in the passing game, this felt like a practical solution to both problems.
Utilizing White’s receiving ability in the short passing game is essentially another way to run the ball. High percentage completions that go for four or five yards keeps this offense on track and prevents the defense from locking in on the big time playmakers. This was an encouraging sign of growth from the offense.
2. Bucs Beating The Bucs
It felt like the Bucs moved the ball effectively on most of their drives. Unfortunately, that never really resulted in many points. Something always seemed to get in the way and take points off the board.
That something was the Buccaneers own sloppiness. The Bucs had nine penalties in this game and three turnovers. Some of that was the Falcons making a play, but things like false starts and a questionable fourth down attempt near midfield were self-inflicted mistakes.
I said going into this game that turnovers were the only way the Falcons would win. Add a fumble from Deven Thompkins and a bad Baker Mayfield interception to the failed fourth down attempt and the Bucs really did a lot to try and give this game to the Falcons.
3. I Thought The Play Calling Was Better. Really, I Did!
For an offense that only put up 13 points, I thought the play calling improved from last week. I guess that isn’t a high bar for an offense that put up 6 points last week, but we’ll call it a positive trend. I found this particularly true in the first half of the game.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are still things that need to be improved from a play calling standpoint. However, I thought the Bucs moved the ball fairly well when not committing penalties and turnovers and could have moved the ball even better with better execution (more to come).
This is a positive step for Dave Canales. Let us not forget that this was only his sixth game as a play caller. He is growing and adapting and that his still a huge improvement from what they had last season.
4. Baker Back To Earth
After the first four games of the season Baker Mayfield was playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. This was somewhat expected with a quarterback friendly offense and the best wide receivers he’s ever had to work with. Unfortunately, he hasn’t looked the same since the bye week.
Mayfield wasn’t awful, but he had awful moments. His interception took points off the board late in the game when the Bucs were down three points. I also felt like he didn’t find the open man on several occasions and forced bad passes (I believe the All 22 game film will back that up).
We knew that Mayfield wouldn’t be an MVP candidate for the entire season and that’s okay. What’s not okay is that Mayfield looked the biggest individual reason as to why this offense struggled.
5. This Defense Has A Pair Of All Pros
Two players consistently stand out when watching this Buccaneers defense. To no surprise, those two are Lavonte David and Antoine WInfield Jr. These two are playing like the best players at their position in the NFL.
David was once again all over the field on Sunday. His 13 tackles, 8 of which were solo tackles, led the Bucs defense. He is also one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL week in and week out.
Winfield Jr. made another great play in coverage to deflect a pass in the endzone. His fourth quarter forced fumble at the goalline kept the Bucs alive to eventually come back and tie the game with less than a minute to go. You are perhaps watching the best safety in the NFL this yearyear.
6. Wide Receiver Usage
How the Bucs use their wide receivers can be frustrating at times. It would be nice to see Mike Evans featured even more than he already is. He caught the Buccaneers only touchdown and the entire offense seemed to click when Mayfield tried to get him the ball, but it felt like he was an afterthought in the second half.
I would also like to see much more creativity using the wide receivers as part of the running game. For a team that can’t run the ball, why not give the fastest guys on your team a few touches per game. That would make motions and fakes that much more effective because the defense knows it would be part of your rushing attack.
This is primarily a Canales issue. He wants to run the ball and that’s absolutely fine, but this team needs to be creative in how they do that because they aren’t getting the job done right now.
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