I wasn’t a happy camper on Sunday folks, furious even. For those of you who follow me on twitter at @jcdelatorre, you know I live tweet the games. If you looked through my timeline, you basically saw me lose my sh…uh, mind. With games looming against the two teams that played last February for the World Championship, this was a game the Buccaneers had to have.
The worse the Bucs played, the angrier I got. The reason: It shouldn’t have happened. The Buccaneers had this game completely under control, then found a way to completely botch this thing up and because of that, they are 1-2 staring at the precipice of 1-4 (and another lost season).
Still, I missed some stuff during the game and were the Bucs really as terrible as it felt? Let’s find out.
What I Got Right
This ALMOST went into the What I Got Wrong section – then the Rams last scoring drive happened. While the Bucs defense had their moments on Sunday, it was certainly not a banner day for the Bucs. Tampa Bay actually wasn’t playing that badly on defense at the start. Yes, they had one blown coverage on the first drive. It appeared Bradley McDougald completely blew his support coverage over the top on the Case Keenum to Kenny Britt touchdown on their opening drive. McDougald bit down and left Verner one-on-one with no safety help. Verner didn’t have the speed to stay with Britt and it was an easy touchdown.
The other two scores in the first half were set up by an interception that gave the Rams a short field and a long field goal try.
The second half was where the wheels seemed to come off for the defense. First, after Aguayo’s missed field goal, the Rams went tempo and pounded Gurley at a tiring Bucs front seven. The result, touchdown and the Bucs losing the lead.
Then, after Jameis and the offense shaved the Rams 11 point lead to 5, Tampa Bay’s defense came out firing, forcing the Rams into a 3rd and 17. Instead of forcing a punt or turnover, Verner got beat by Britt again and grabbed him, an obvious pass interference penalty. 5 plays later, Keenum caught the Bucs in a blitz, found Tavon Austin one-on-one with backup safety Keith Tandy, who completely whiffed on the tackle allowing Austin to waltz untouched into the endzone.
I think the most frustrating thing about the Bucs is you see the flashes of a pretty decent defense, only to see the communication breakdowns completely devastate them. It was a common problem with Lovie’s defenses – the players not knowing what they were doing. It seems to have carried over to the Mike Smith defense. It’s inexcusable. Yes, they are playing a new defense, but they’ve had OTAs, minicamp and training camp to get the communication down. The guys that a screwing up are veterans.
At some point, I say replace the Verner’s of the world with Hargraeves and Adjei-Barima’s. Maybe Bradley McDougald should be watching Ryan Smith learn how to play safety in the NFL? They may be young but at least they’ll learn from experience.
What I Got Wrong
I was all over Jameis for the turnovers on Sunday. Both were devastating, game changing plays that completely swung momentum in Los Angeles’ favor. What I didn’t realize is how many opportunities the Bucs had to really put this game away.
The Rams’ field goal drive in the second quarter should have never happened. Facing 3rd and 17 deep in their own territory, Rams coach Jeff Fisher did what he does, he called a giveup play trying to get field position and protect from a turnover – a draw up the middle. Unfortunately for the Bucs, MLB Kwon Alexander attacked the wrong gap and the others couldn’t get off their blocks until running back Bennie Cunningham had scampered 22 yards securing a first down. There’s 3 points.
Of course, we know Aguayo cost the Bucs 4 points with his missed field goal and extra point, but the offense didn’t bail out their kicker. Tampa Bay had two chances at going for two and failed both times. In fact, if you really look at it, had the Bucs just kicked the extra points after those touchdowns, assuming Aguayo completed the kicks successfully, Tampa Bay would have only been down 3 points in the final minutes instead of 5. Now, I’m not saying the Bucs shouldn’t have gone for two in those situations, in both instances, the Bucs were trying to pull within 3. You had to go for two. You’ve gotta convert though and the Bucs failed to do so. It wasn’t all on Aguayo.
We already talked about the Rams’ last touchdown drive. Again, 3rd and 17 and you commit a penalty that eventually leads to the game winning touchdown.
Of course, the offense had its share of blunders, too. Down 24-20, they moved all the way down to Rams 13. Get a field goal there (assuming Aguayo makes the kick) and you’re down one. Score a touchdown and obviously you’re back in the lead. Instead, Jameis is stripped of the football and the rest is history.
Jameis and the passing game was electric, though. The Rams couldn’t stop him, he could only stop himself. He did that a few times on the final drive. With about 54 seconds left in the game, Winston missed Vincent Jackson wide open at the 10. Had the pass been on target, V-Jax may have been able to split the defenders and score. Unfortunately, Jameis smoked it high and it ripped through Jackson’s hands.
Right after Sims achieved the first down (and everyone in the world screamed TIME OUT! TIME OUT!), Dirk Koetter said there was a play they had been saving for the Rams and didn’t want to call timeout because they had the perfect matchup to run it. It was there, folks. Vincent Jackson was wide open underneath coverage, an accurate ball from Jameis and he scores easily.
Then, after Donovan Smith was nailed for a false start, 14 seconds left from the Rams 20, Jameis had Chuck Sims wide open in the middle of the field with a lane to the end zone. I don’t know if he would have scored, but he would have gotten really close (and with Sims’ elusiveness, he probably could’ve gotten in), but Jameis was just off a hair on the throw and Sims couldn’t complete the catch.
Of course, we all know what happened that last play. This is not to dis Jameis at all. Jameis played a great game. The touchdown pass to Mike Evans was one of the most improbable, amazing throws I’ve seen by a Buccaneer quarterback.
I’m just saying that there were so many opportunities for the Bucs to win this game that they let slip through their fingers.
Dick Stockton is Dick Stockton – a once great broadcaster that is a little past his prime. He was okay for the most part. Chris Spielman had a great week. He was much better than he was last week at the Arizona game and was giving us nuggets about defense that I didn’t know – I love it when an analyst does that. He also showed his study of the two teams, calling several plays right before it happened. Great work by him this week.
The What the Buc Moment of the Game
There were so many to choose from, its hard to choose just one. I think this game was really lost on that last Tavon Austin touchdown. The defense had chances to get off the field and then when Austin scored, it honestly felt like the dagger was in. To their credit, Jameis and the Bucs kept fighting to the final second, but that last score was just too much to overcome.
Around the Dirty South
The Panthers were stunned by the undermanned Minnesota Vikings – a shocking home loss that dropped them to 1-2. The Saints failed to keep the Bucs (and everyone else) tied for first place in the division by completely sucking on Monday Night Football against Atlanta. The Falcons now lead the NFC South at 2-1 and have a huge game next week with Carolina. An Atlanta win there and the Falcons could have as much as a two game lead on everyone else in the division.
Were the Bucs as Bad as They Looked on Sunday?
Offensively, no. In fact, they were rather terrific on offense against one of the better defenses in the NFL. On defense, it was a horrible showing against one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Tampa Bay let a mediocre Rams team come into their house and slap them around. That’s just inexcusable.
Even though the Bucs had chances to pull their feet out of the fire and didn’t get it done, this one doesn’t give anyone the warm and fuzzies. If the Bucs do miss the playoffs this year, this may be a game that comes back to haunt them.
The Super Bowl Champions and undefeated Denver Broncos come to Ray Jay. Look folks, no one will pick the Buccaneers to win this game (including yours truly). However, Tampa Bay has to beat a team they’re not expected to beat to make up for losing to a team they should’ve beaten in the Rams.
To do so, the offense has to be mistake free (looking at you #3) and the defense has to force a couple turnovers and not blow any more assignments against a Broncos offense that can go deep on you (and what is the Bucs’ defense’s worst issue? Yeah.)