We knew this day would come, Bucs fans. When Ryan Fitzpatrick reverted back to the mean and delivered a Fitztragic performance. While we’re not about moral victories here at What The Buc, it was good to see that our Buccaneers didn’t quit despite being down by 20 and gave the Steelers the scare of their lives down the stretch before falling 30-27.
Pieces of Eight
1) Ryan Fitzpatrick is the only quarterback in NFL History to begin his season with three straight 400 yd passing performances. That’s what you call an NFL record, folks. And while Fitz’s bonehead turnovers were what really put Tampa Bay behind the eight ball, he didn’t get much help from his offensive mates with shoddy blocking, no running game and his normally reliable receivers slipping on the wet Raymond James Stadium turf or dropping balls they normally corral with ease, or, in Chris Godwin’s case, fumbling the football.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. So while Fitz’s brutal turnovers were definitely the deciding factor, when Jameis returns this week, even if he, as Luke Easterling of BucsWire reports, has been working with former and recently cut NFL players simulating Bucs practices and doing film study at the same time he normally would with the Bucs, you can’t take Fitz out yet. If what happened Monday Night it happens again in Chicago? Welp.
2) The Bucs beat themselves. How many times have we typed it (especially last season)? The plays were there to be made. Open receivers missed because of a bad throw or protection breaking down. Guys dropping balls. Fumbles, turnovers, blown assignments and stupid penalties. All things that good teams take advantage of and bad teams get beat by. Now, I’m not saying the Bucs are a bad team, don’t get it twisted. I’m just saying the Bad Bucs made their first appearance of 2018. What we know from the first three games is this. If the Bucs don’t beat themselves, they can beat anyone in this league – especially with this offense. To be honest, I don’t think it matters who the quarterback is – Fitzpatrick, Jameis, hell, Ryan Griffin, if you don’t turn the ball over on offense, you’re going to win.
3) The NFL has a real big issue with the roughing the passer rules. I know Morelli’s crew penalizes more than most crews in the league, but for both teams, a lot of the roughing the passer calls were just plain weak and utterly ridiculous. It’s awful, universally panned, and desperately needs to be “de-emphasized” because it is a terrible look. What angers me more, is if you breathe on a QB, you get a personal foul, but Chris Godwin can get blasted near the headgear causing a drop and nothing gets called. Speaking of Morelli’s “overofficious jerks”, thanks Pete and crew for robbing the NFL of another classic moment on Monday Night Football with Desean Jackson’s 80 yd punt return for a touchdown by calling a half-ass holding call that happens on every single punt return.
4) Want to. The Steelers, with their backs against the wall, took it to the Buccaneers in the first half. Tampa Bay failed to match Pittsburgh’s intensity in the first two quarters and was dominated on both lines of scrimmage. That led to the disastrous second quarter that put the Bucs down by 20 at halftime. When the Bucs finally match that intensity level, they roared back and really had a great shot at pulling off the greatest comeback in Buccaneer history. It wasn’t meant to be. Tampa Bay needs to be the desperate team this week in Chicago, you don’t want to start a losing streak. Okay, you blew this one, get back on track in the Windy City.
5) Mike Smith’s bend-but-don’t break-except-we-always-break defense was terrible in the first half. From Chris Conte becoming an internet meme after being punked on National Television to Tampa Bay playing prevent and allowing Ben Roethlisberger – future Hall of Farmer – to go unmolested down the field in the waning moments of the first half for a gut punch final second touchdown that ended up being the final margin.
Give the Bucs defense credit for playing a hell of a second half and keeping the Steelers off the scoreboard while allowing the Bucs offense to climb back into the ballgame. Jason Pierre-Paul with two sacks, Curry and McCoy splitting one, is good to see. Yet too many times, we saw Roethlisberger behind a patchwork offensive line with way too much time to throw. The pass rush has been better, but not consistent enough to be feared. Also, note to Mike Smith: Playing Antonio Brown 10 yds off the ball deep in your own territory – not a great idea.
— Gayle Saunders (@EagleSessions) September 25, 2018
6) With the Bucs falling behind, Tampa Bay rushed the ball just 11 times (not including Fitz runs), for a paltry 3.2 yds per carry. The Bucs have deactivated 2nd round pick Ronald Jones for the first three games this season. In those three games, the Bucs have turned in the 30th worst running game in the league. From his pre-season performance, Jones won’t help much. It’s a trust issue with Dirk Koetter right now and Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken has been pass heavy (as you would expect with the arsenal of weapons at his disposal), so Peyton Barber, whose excellent at blitz pick up and vet Jacquizz Rodgers gets the nod because they do more than just run the ball. Shaun Wilson gets a helmet because he helps out on Special Teams.
Yet, with the Bucs struggling to sustain a running game, I think it’s time to get Jones on the field and see what he can do. It can’t be much worse than what the Bucs have gotten from Barber and Rodgers. I’m not dissing Barber, who is a nice power back that can get you 4 yds a carry, but he’s not a threat. Jones at least has that home run ability that defenses would need to respect.
7) A strange dichotomy of the Bucs defense is they have the 3rd best run defense in the NFL. Of course, the cynic would say why run when you can pass all over Tampa Bay? It’s a good question and one that should trouble Bucs fans. When Tampa Bay’s defense needed to shut down the run and get the ball back for its offense in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, they couldn’t do it – allowing John Conner to rumble for 17 yds to close out the ballgame. The series before, the defense allowed Conner to pop for 27 yds, allowing the Steelers to bleed even more time off the clock. Now, it was the end of the game and you can say the defense was getting tired as Pittsburgh ran 69 offensive plays, but if you can’t stop the run when you desperately need to stop the run how good are you at doing it?
8) Had the Bucs rallied to win on Monday Night Football, the Chicago game would have been a very dangerous one for these young Bucs. With the loss to Pittsburgh, the Bucs are the team that’s desperate to avoid a two-game losing streak. It’s a critical game for the Bucs, as 3-1 heading to the bye is significantly better than 2-2. Tampa Bay had a number of protection issues against Pittsburgh on Monday Night and now they face Khalil Mack, one of the best pass rushers in the game. It’s going to be a big challenge but one the Bucs must meet if they’re going to go where they want to go in 2018.
DLT’s Emotional Game Tweet of the Week
— 👽JC De La Torre ☠️ (@jcdelatorre) September 25, 2018