Buccaneers wide receiver Louis Murphy was nearly the hero in a game that could have been Tampa Bay’s first home win of the season. Instead, Murphy’s 21-yard catch down to the Cincinnati 20-yard line with 26 seconds left didn’t count due to the Bucs being penalized for having 12 men on the field, and the Bucs lost to the Bengals 14-13 to fall to 2-10 on the season.
After the game, Murphy was distraught while sitting in the locker room trying to explain how the Bucs let another potential win slip through their fingers.
“All these guys, all these coaches and all of the work we put in all week, all season, to lose a game like that, it’s heartbreaking,” Murphy said. “I have to go back and watch the film. All I know is that this is a heartbreaker. It’s a heartbreaker. We got to the -yard line, but we didn’t get to the -yard line. It’s a tough one.”
The Bucs deployed four wide receivers and running back Doug Martin on the play, but also had Oniel Cousins, a reserve lineman, lined up on the field as a tight end. Murphy, who finished with one catch for seven yards, didn’t know how the Bucs offense had 12 men on the field for that play.
“Somebody has to,” Murphy said. “I don’t understand how it happened. I don’t know what happened. I have to go back and watch the film. But man, for us to lose like that…”
As bad as Tampa Bay’s last drive was marred by penalties, the team was flagged 16 times on Sunday against Cincinnati. Only 13 penalties for 94 yards were accepted by the Bengals, and a few of those infractions cost the Bucs’ chance to get touchdowns earlier in the game in two red zone opportunities.
“I don’t know, we just couldn’t,” Murphy said. “At the end of the day, we did put ourselves in position to win the ball game. For whatever reason we didn’t. We put ourselves in position to win the football game, but we didn’t come up with the win. That’s the heartbreaking part about it.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat themselves with 13 penalties for 94 yards in Sunday’s 14-13 home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith called the team’s penalties “dumb” and “stupid.” Two of the most egregious infractions came on Tampa Bay’s final offensive possession as the team tried to get into field goal range for a potential game-winning kick.
Garrett Gilkey, who replaced Evan Dietrich-Smith at center, was flagged for a 10-yard holding penalty with 38 seconds left that moved the Bucs back from the Cincinnati 31 to the 41-yard line. That foul was Gilkey’s fourth of the day, and was a precursor to the Bucs’ disastrous 12 men on the field penalty that wiped out a 21-yard reception by Louis Murphy down to the Cincinnati 20-yard line.
After the 5-yard penalty was enforced after an instant replay concluded Tampa Bay indeed had 12 players on the field, the Bucs were set up with a second-and-20 from the Bengals’ 46. After two incompletions, wide receiver Mike Evans hauled in a 13-yard catch down to the Cincinnati 33, but couldn’t get out of bounds to stop the clock as Tampa Bay was out of timeouts.
“It seemed like every big play we had there was some sort of penalty,” Evans said. “We’ve got to stop beating ourselves. We had 13 penalties and we lost by one? Maybe we get the win with a couple less penalties.”
After the change of possession with one second left, Evans got in Gilkey’s face on the sidelines and had some choice words for the team’s penalty-plagued center on Sunday.
“Things happen,” said Evans, who caught four passes for 49 yards. “It was between men. It was a spur of the moment thing. I was angry. It happens.
“It’s my competitive nature. I apologized to him afterwards. I lost my head for a split second. We have a good team bond, but I was upset. I lost my head for a little bit.”
Gilkey also had a few bad shotgun snaps, including one on third down on Tampa Bay’s first offensive possession that led to a sack of quarterback Josh McCown and forced the Bucs to kick a field goal to go up 3-0 on Cincinnati. The Bucs’ started that possession at the Bengals’ 9-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown.
“I think it just comes down to focus and being consistent,” Gilkey said. “I think for myself when I get out of sorts, I tend to get sloppy, and today that showed up. I was sloppy in several plays. So I look at myself, and it’s just a matter of maintaining focus and composure. We put ourselves in a position to lose today. I was a huge part of that, and I recognize that.”
Despite the nonsense about Tampa Bay still being mathematically alive for clinching the NFC South division title, the 2-9 Buccaneers are guaranteed a losing season due to their 21-13 loss at Chicago. The best Tampa Bay can finish is 7-9, but that would mean the Bucs would have to win their remaining five games of the 2014 season to do so. Considering that Tampa Bay has yet to win back-to-back games this year, that seems very unlikely.
The Bucs have now posted losing seasons in each of the last four years dating back to 2010 when Tampa Bay had a 10-6 record in Raheem Morris’ second year as the team’s head coach. The Bucs were 4-12 in the final year of the Greg Schiano era, and 7-9 the prior. In 2011, which was the last year with Morris as the head coach, Tampa Bay went 4-12.
If the Bucs don’t make the playoffs by failing the hapless NFC South division, it will mark seven straight seasons that Tampa Bay hasn’t qualified for the postseason.
Sunday’s loss to the Bears also means that Lovie Smith joins every other head coach in Buccaneers history – except Jon Gruden – to post a losing record in his first season as head coach. Gruden went 12-4 in his first season in Tampa Bay in leading the Bucs to their first and only Super Bowl appearance and championship.
Not only did Tampa Bay’s 27-7 win at Washington improve the team’s record to 2-8 and move the Buccaneers to within two games of the NFC South division lead, it also kept the team in the running for a top-4 draft pick. By virtue of the fact that the New York Jets won last week against Pittsburgh, the Bucs are now tied with the Jets with a 2-8 mark, but have won more games than Jacksonville (1-9) and Oakland (0-10).
The winless Raiders would have the first overall pick, followed by the Jaguars, the Jets and the Buccaneers in terms of draft order for 2015. The Titans, who had a bye week, is 2-7, and would pick fifth if the NFL Draft were held today.
Tennessee hosts Pittsburgh this week, New York plays at Buffalo on Sunday, while Jacksonville plays at Indianapolis. Look for the top three picks to remain unchanged.
The Raiders seem to be a lock for the first overall pick. Oakland hosts Kansas City next week, and then plays at St. Louis, followed by a home game against San Francisco, a road trip to Kansas City, a home game versus Buffalo and a season-ending contest at Denver. The Raiders could very well go 0-16 this year.
Tampa Bay travels to Chicago on Sunday to face the Bears at Solider Field.
Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed practice on Wednesday with a groin injury, and he is expected to miss practice or be limited later this week in order to rest up for Sunday’s game at Washington. McCoy was injured in last Sunday’s 27-17 loss against Atlanta, which dropped Tampa Bay to 1-8 on the season, and finished the game with just one tackle.
“It definitely affected his play,” Buccaneers defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “When you can’t burst, twist and turn like he has to, and he’s still facing double teams all the time, it definitely takes away from your play. To his credit he played through it. We’re trying to get him rest to hopefully have him for Sunday, but it made it more difficult for our team not having him at full strength.”
When asked whether or not resting McCoy would help get him to 100 percent by Sunday’s game against the Redskins, Frazier was unsure.
“Well, I don’t know how much better he’ll get in this short span with that type of injury,” Frazier said. “It’s a leg injury – muscle pull – but we’ll see. Even a 60 or 70 percent Gerald is better than no Gerald. I’m hoping he’ll be able to go.”
McCoy, who leads the team in sacks with five, in addition to recording 10 tackles for loss as the Bucs’ all-important three-technique defensive tackle, said he would be able to play against the Redskins on Sunday.
“Gerald’s not 60 (percent),” McCoy said. “I’m fine. I don’t have to put a number on it, I’m fine.”
Following Tampa Bay’s 27-17 loss to Atlanta, Buccaneers right tackle Demar Dotson picked up where defensive tackle Gerald McCoy left off last Sunday, questioning whether or not the team has enough talented players or enough players that care about winning.
“Losing is getting old,” Dotson said. “We’ve lost too many games in a row and we’re 1-8. You would think that you would get tired of losing. But week after week, we find a way to lose football games. I guess we’re not tired of losing enough. When you’re tired of losing, you do something about it. I guess we’re really not tired. Either we’re not good enough or guys aren’t tired of losing. It’s one of the two.”
Sunday’s loss to Atlanta is Tampa Bay’s fifth straight loss, and the third-straight defeat in which the Bucs blew a fourth quarter lead. No wonder this team is 1-8.
Dotson said that stupid penalties on offense that kill drives and on defense that extend drives for Tampa Bay’s opponents have hurt the Bucs the most. When asked if the Bucs play smart football, Dotson shook his head and said no and questioned the talent level in Tampa Bay.
“Not all the time,” Dotson said. “I think we do a lot of stuff to shoot ourselves in the foot. Too many penalties – that hurt us. I don’t think we’re good enough to overcome shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re a team that has to play smart, hard and physical. The things that we do to hurt ourselves – we’re not good enough to overcome them.”
Dotson hurt his neck in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter and was replaced by rookie offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile. He suffered a stinger, but said he would be okay for next week.
The Buccaneers have reinstated fullback Jorvorskie Lane and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers on Monday. Both players were eligible for reinstatement on Monday, November 3 after being suspended two games for the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Lane is the team’s lone fullback, while Bowers is a reserve defensive end and three-technique defensive tackle. Lane has two carries for 56 yards and one catch for three yards this year. Bowers, who is in the last year of his rookie deal, has six tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith was very upset with his special teams play following Tampa Bay’s 22-17 loss at Cleveland. The defeat drops the Bucs to 1-7 on the season.
“We had a lot of opportunities, especially in the first half, to put more points on the board,” Smith said. “All three phases contributed to it. Special teams really hurt us today. You can’t have a punt block, a field goal block and jump offside [on a field goal] and let them continue a drive to score a touchdown. All those plays really hurt us.”
Patrick Murray had a 31-yard field goal blocked when Billy Winn jumped over Logan Mankins, and missed a 55-harder before connecting on a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter. Mike James missed a block that led to a blocked Michael Koenen punt that actually traveled one yard in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Will Gholston jumped offside to allow a Browns possession in the third quarter to continue and turn into a touchdown drive with a 2-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to rookie running back Terrance West.
“One jumped over us – you’ve got to be able to get that,” Smith said. “Coming up the middle, we should have him blocked. And then you move on the snap of the ball where we jumped offside and let them keep a drive going. Those were all blunders that really cost us in the end.”
The Buccaneers released kick and punt returner Trindon Holliday, who was suffering from a hamstring injury. Tampa Bay signed returner and wide receiver Marcus Thigpen from the practice squad. Thigpen will handle the kick and punt return duties against the Browns in Cleveland this week.
The Bucs also activated rookie RB Charles Sims from the injured reserve-designated return list and promoted defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo from the practice squad to the active roster.
Former Buccaneers strong safety Mark Barron had some parting shots at Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme, which is run by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Speaking with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Barron called the Bucs defense, which ranks dead last in the league, “passive.”
“Yeah, it is passive,” Barron said. “That’s kind of the only thing I didn’t like about it a lot of times. I had to sit back and I couldn’t really be as aggressive as I wanted to in that system. So yeah, I would most definitely say that.”
Barron, the seventh-overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, was traded to St. Louis on Tuesday for fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Barron struggled in pass coverage this year, evidenced by just three pass breakups and no interceptions to go along with 49 tackles. Barron hasn’t made the impact plays the team expected when it spent such a high draft pick on the Alabama product. In two and half seasons in the NFL, Barron has just three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.