It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay came out flat and spotted Arizona a 31-0 lead in the third quarter before its second half rally fell short in a 38-33 loss. The Bucs have now lost back-to-back games, and are 2-3 on the year, which puts them in last place in the NFC South division.

TWO BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: Bucs Ambushed In Arizona
It’s one thing to have your team totally unprepared to play against an Arizona team with a losing record in your second ever game as a head coach if you’re Dirk Koetter. The result, of course, was a 40-7 debacle in the desert. But to have that happen twice – and after 20 games as a head coach – is eye-opening, and not in a good way. The Bucs looked totally unprepared and were outplayed and outcoached in a 38-33 ambush at Arizona on Sunday.

The Bucs had 10 days to prepare for the Cardinals. Ten. And the result was trailing 24-0 at halftime, while watching Carson Palmer complete 13-of-13 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns and Adrian Peterson rush for 85 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense gained 25 yards rushing and 113 yards passing between Jameis Winston, who left early with a shoulder injury, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

At one point in the third quarter the Bucs trailed 31-0 before making a furious comeback only to lose by five points. Koetter’s ill-advised decision to forego a field goal attempt on fourth-and-goal right before halftime and try nothing but two-point conversions on the first three touchdowns were costly as the Bucs lost by five points.

For a good part of the game the Bucs offense is totally offensive and the defense is absolutely indefensible. Koetter’s best decision of the day was throwing in the towel and sidelining Jameis Winston after he hurt his shoulder and not risking him to further injury.

STATEMENT 2: Bucs Should Have Signed Peterson
I wasn’t among those clamoring for Tampa Bay to sign running back Adrian Peterson in the offseason – even after Peterson was practically begging to become a Buccaneer. So this is not an “I told you so” moment for me. But I would be derelict in my duties not to point out that Peterson was signed by Tampa Bay’s NFC South rival, New Orleans, to a reasonable, two-year, $7 million contract. Don’t think the Bucs could have gotten him for that – or less?

Bucs RB Adrian Peterson - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs RB Adrian Peterson – Photo by: Getty Images

Even knowing that Doug Martin was going to miss the first three games of the 2017 season with a suspension, the idea of signing Peterson was shunned by the front office for some reason. Yes, he was 32 years old and coming off some knee injuries. But the Bucs had plenty of salary cap room and wasn’t he worth a gamble given his ability and experience? Wouldn’t Peterson been a better starter than Jacquizz Rodgers in Tampa Bay’s first three games?

After toiling away on New Orleans’ bench, getting minimal carries behind Mark Ingram and minimal catches behind rookie Alvin Kamara, the Cardinals acquired Peterson to help their ailing ground game, which has been without David Johnson since he injured his wrist in the season opener. All Peterson did was gash the Bucs for 134 yards and two touchdowns in his Arizona debut.

Peterson proved he was better than Martin on Sunday, gaining 81 more yards and scoring one more touchdown on 12 more carries. Peterson’s opening drive where he rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on his first five carries set the tone for the game en route to helping the Cardinals jump out to a 31-0 lead in the third quarter.

It’s impossible to know what type of impact Peterson would have had in Tampa Bay and if he would have replicated Sunday’s type of performance in any of the Bucs’ first five games. But wouldn’t the depth chart of Peterson, Martin and Rodgers and look better than Martin, Rodger and Charles Sims?

TWO PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Why Didn’t Koetter Go For The Field Goal And Extra Points?
The short answer is, “I don’t know.” On one hand, Koetter’s bold move to try to get a touchdown before halftime and cut into Arizona’s 24-0 lead could be viewed as commendable. But on the other hand, any comeback starts with points, especially the first points, and you can’t pass up the chance for points when you can get them. He should have gone for the field goal to give the Bucs some kind of positive heading into halftime.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images

The extra points are a different matter. Yes, the Bucs were down 31-0 when Tampa Bay’s touchdown appeared on the scoreboard. But Koetter should have waited until later in the fourth quarter to try to go for two just to see how many touchdowns the Bucs could have scored. As it turns out, the Bucs scored four touchdowns in the fourth, but only converted one of three two-point conversions, which cost them two points.

Throw in the missed opportunity to kick a field goal and three plus two equals five, which is how many points Tampa Bay lost by. When you go for two points and don’t get it, you end up chasing points, and that’s what Koetter did for the last 23 minutes of the game, unfortunately.

QUESTION 2: How Long Will Winston Be Out For?
We’re not sure. Not only did the Bucs lose their second straight game to fall to 2-3 on the season after a 38-33 loss to the Cardinals, Tampa Bay might have lost its starting quarterback for a while. Winston’s right shoulder was driven into the ground by linebacker Chandler Jones in the first half and while he returned to action for two series, the pain became more intense and his arm stiffened up.

“If you can’t go, you can’t go,” Koetter said. “Jameis said he couldn’t go. I’m not exactly sure what the conversation was on the medical side. I’m not sure of that. But Jameis said he couldn’t go, so we put Fitz in.”

After the loss, Winston said he didn’t think he would miss next week’s game at Buffalo.

“I’ve had to come out before but I don’t think I’ve missed a game,” Winston said. “I don’t think I’m going to miss a game, either.

“I fell on my shoulder. I’ve had that injury before. If I would have fallen on my other shoulder it would have been fine, but the throwing shoulder is kind of tough.”

I remember speaking with middle linebacker Kwon Alexander after the Bears game in Week 2 and him telling me he would be back at practice and would definitely play the next week at Minnesota. Four weeks later and Alexander has yet to come off the inactive list. The bottom line is that players can’t be trusted to diagnose their injuries and reveal an accurate timetable to return.

TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Hargreaves Will Get Benched At Some Point
I don’t know if it will happen this week or a few weeks from now, but if his play doesn’t turn around quickly I’m guessing the Tampa Bay coaches to bench starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. He needs to be benched. Hargreaves is giving up way too much cushion on the outside in coverage, first reported by PewterReport.com’s Trevor Sikkema and then confirmed last week by defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson - Photo by: Getty Images
Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson – Photo by: Getty Images

Hargreaves is playing too soft and too poorly right now, and hasn’t shown much progress since his rookie season. After losing John Brown in coverage on a flea-flicker in the first half, Hargreaves lost outside contain and then made a poor attempt to tackle Peterson on a big 17-yard into the Bucs’ red zone. That lack of a sense of urgency was costly as quarterback Carson Palmer hit tight end Troy Niklas for a 14-yard touchdown on the next play to give Arizona a 14-0 lead.

There aren’t many great options to replace Hargreaves, who also had a pass interference call in the end zone on Larry Fitzgerald. Second-year cornerback Ryan Smith, who got his first start in Week 3 at Minnesota and struggled, is one option. The other option is moving nickel cornerback Robert McClain outside to replace Hargreaves. It’s a shame that the 11th overall pick in the 2016 draft has looked like nothing more than an average NFL player thus player.

PREDICTION 2: McCoy Is Going To Have A Big Day
Sorry, I don’t mean Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who collected his second sack of the season in Arizona. I meant Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the Bills’ top-ranked rushing attack (164.4 yards per game). McCoy has rushed for 279 yards and caught 27 passes for 189 yards but has yet to find the end zone through the air or the ground. That changes on Sunday when Tampa Bay comes to town.

Why do I think that the Bills’ top offensive weapon in their limited arsenal will come up big against the Bucs? Because defensive coordinator Mike Smith and his players knew that the two biggest weapons the Cardinals had were 32-year old running back Adrian Peterson and 34-year old wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and couldn’t stop either one on Sunday.

Peterson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay in his first start in Arizona, while Fitzgerald caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. Tampa Bay’s defense isn’t close to what it was last year and has surrendered 494 yards to the Vikings, 379 yards to the Giants, 402 yards to the Patriots 402, and 432 yards to the Cardinals in the last month. The Bucs are 1-3 in that span.

Can McCoy and the Bills put up 400 yards and beat the Bucs next Sunday? Well, Tampa Bay is 0-3 when giving up 400 yards this year, which is no surprise as most teams are. I’d pencil McCoy in for 150 all-purpose yards and his first touchdown of the season against Tampa Bay the way the defense is playing.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

16 COMMENTS

  1. Well, duh. I’ve been calling for Hargreaves benching for a while now along with the absolute debacle of selecting kickers. What coach gives freedom to CBs to play off as much as they want. When Hargreaves play pressed they managed to have some success but it came too late.

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  2. Scott, is ping bong the problem? Honestly, who let’s their players have ping bong tables in the locker room? Sounds to me like the “woodshed”, has become a country club for rich spoiled athletes. I hear the play going on during interviews, doesn’t seem professional. If the players have enough energy to play ping bong after practice, maybe they aren’t practicing hard enough. Maybe that time could be better spent in the play book, conditioning, running extra routes? This team is being pampered, and treated like they’ve arrived, or earned a little something extra. Time to take some toys away, time for these Bucs to grow up.

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  3. The 2016 draft VH3 first rd. Spence undersized DE and Robby A. This is looking like BAD DRAFT.
    THE BUCS have not addressed the DL as they should I have said before and will again to have a great Defense it starts up Front. IMO

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  4. Just don’t believe all this is Hargreaves fault.
    I don’t believe he is getting any kind of safety help or linebacker help which means he has to make a quicker decision what he has to do.
    Did you notice how timid David was in the first half, and when he felt more comfortable about his ankle Hargreaves also improved a little.
    There was absolutely no safety help at all for Hargreaves and this has been ongoing. I blame it more on Coach Smith.
    Just by looking at the body language of the defensive players these last two weeks tells you the same kind of body language we saw with another Coach Smith as to their defensive scheme.
    I thought the pass rush was pretty bad last year, but this year it’s worse! The difference has been Baker was not here last year and he stinks! Kwon Alexander played most of last year and hasn’t played the last four games and it looks like it’s hurting the Coach Smith scheme. That’s my take on it and I’m sure there’s many other reasons too. Go Bucs ! Turn it around NOW!!!!!

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    • What safety help can do anything for you when you play 12 to 15 yards off. Safety doesn’t seem to be an issue for Grimes.

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  5. Agree with the Hargreaves comment. I hated the pick when we made it and so far he’s confirmed what I had feared. Unless things turn around quickly, this was Licht’s worst first round pick of his tenure. Disagree with the notion that Koetter should have kicked the field goal at the end of the first half. The defense had been absolutely torched up to that point. He had to think a TD before half and a TD on the first drive of 3rd Qtr was the only shot to get back in the game.

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  6. We may have gotten ambushed, more like bushwhacked. It was probably a game plan executed to perfection and prepared by a cagey old coach that said at the beginning of the week “Dirk Koetter is one of the best play callers in the NFL”. Now he’s nailing Koetter’s hide at back door of his log cabin for two years in a row! This is the first thing that came to my mind as I watched the first quarter of the Bucs/Cardinals game.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2704151-jameis-winston-says-hed-absolutely-want-to-play-with-adrian-peterson

    Nobody listened or just overlooked an older player that evidently still has gas left in the tank. Adrian Peterson signed a 2 year, $7,000,000 contract with the New Orleans Saints, including a $2,500,000 signing bonus, $3,500,000 guaranteed. Traded to the Cardinals, but looked worth every bit of it yesterday.

    There’s a different philosophy at the Bucs, but It’s not working. The Vikings released OG/OT Alex Boone a few weeks ago. Alex Boone signed a 1 year, $900,000 contract with the Arizona Cardinals, including $900,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $900,000.

    Both these men are pro bowlers but not one bit of interest from the Bucs. The Bucs brought in DE/OLB Lamarr Houston but did not sign him. Houston promptly signed with the Texans and got a sack yesterday.

    Giants HC Ben McAdoo gave up play calling duties to former BUC OC Mike Sullivan and won their first game against the Broncos as heavy underdogs!

    Somethings not right at the Bucs and some things have to change soon or we’ll all be sitting in January pondering what could have been. Go Bucs!

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    • Macabee; always great insight. You put it in the words I seem to lack, but I feel the same as you. This is more than a player or two problem; this is coaching issues.

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    • And AP could easily be done for the season if not his career on the very next play from scrimmage.

      You can’t judge personnel signings based on a single game or a small handful of games. The last time AP had a productive season was in 2015, followed by an injury-ruined 2016 season. And before APs great season in 2015, it was preceded by another injury ruined season in 2014.

      AP may have another great season this year, but he may not. It’s a crap shoot with running backs, or even potentially any player on the field (just ask Green Bay or Houston about how bullet proof even the best stars of the league can be).

      People need to stop overreacting to single games, whether poorly played or greatly played. It’s a 16 game season.

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    • Some teams JUST have your number and the Cards sure have ours.
      I have to agree with coach K first half worst ever and I sat through the 76 and 77 Bucs teams but AT LEAST THEY ALWAYS GAVE A LOT OF EFFORT!

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  7. I won’t go on a Jason Licht rant like in the past but I’m well aware of his shortcomings as a GM. The game of football is still won in the trenches and during his 4 years we still have a LT that’s performing worse than Donald Penn who we let go and a DL that does not exist without GMC. I have definitely seen improvement in Smith’s game but I think he’s still not better than Donald Penn at this stage of his career. Teams that consistently have success can get after the QB and run the football, both areas we are wildly inconsistent at despite repeated attempts to fix. Teams don’t continue to improve when you take drafts that could’ve been Rankins and Bell but end up with a free agent kicker, the worse CB in football and a DE who appears to be Maurice Stovall thus far. Free agents gloss over previous misses but the draft is where good teams continue to improve and we frankly haven’t done a good enough job.

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  8. Everyone is saying today that the Bucs made a huge error in not signing Adrian Peterson, who scorched use yesterday in his first game as a starter this season.

    I seem to recall everyone was saying that the Bucs also made the very same huge error in not drafting Dalvin Cook, who was among the top couple rushers in the league as a rookie … until all of a sudden, his knee blew out and he was done for the season. And all the talk about what a huge screw up it was to not take Cook at least in the second round (by trading up) evaporated.

    Given that AP has blown his knee out previously, and once blown a ACL is more prone to blowing out again, all the talk about what a huge missed opportunity the AP signing was for the Bucs will instantly evaporate yet again if he gets hurt again.

    One game, or a handful of games, does not make a season or a signing or a draft pick. I like Doug Martin, and despite his history of injuries none were torn ligaments ending a season and possibly a career. Hamstrings may be debilitating (witness Kwon Alexander) but they don’t instantly end your season or your career.

    Besides, we didn’t have time to game plan AP’s sudden arrival in Phoenix, and our defense did manage to adjust to limit APto a near non-factor in the second half (49 yards vs. 85 yards in first half), despite the fact that a team with a lead in the second half would normally want to lean hard on their featured running back.

    There’s a whole lotta football left to play.

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  9. The Overreaction Monday is strong here.

    If these two point conversions are made and the TD is made on 4th and goal, the narrative suddenly becomes about how gritty this team is to comeback from such a terrible start. I’m not saying this looked good by any imagination, but AP becoming a godly-tier rb we should have signed after one game in Arizona and all this talk about “season over” is far premature.

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  10. So do we make a trade for a Malcolm butler to help out just a question

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  11. Ambushed? How about TOTALLY unprepared? They were beaten as badly as anyone has ever seen in that first half and the second half started off just as poorly. They were beaten mentally, physically maybe even spiritually. The “comeback” was icing on shit cake and we all knew it.

    1) Mike Smith’s defense is HORRIBLE! Soft, lazy and lethargic.

    2) Jameis Winston seems incapable of throwing an accurate deep ball. He’s not even CLOSE to hitting open receivers. It’s year three. Something’s wrong and needs to be fixed.

    3) The Buccaneers obviously still have absolutely ZERO confidence in their FG kicking game. Afraid to even attempt EXTRA POINTS! wow.

    OK, rant over. just not giving the Card as much credit for the “ambush” as I am for the complete failure the Buccaneers put on the field yesterday. It was just awful football and damn it we deserve better than that.

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  12. Garv once again I agree with your assessment of the game!
    The Bucs were NOT PREPARED for this game. This falls on the coaches. This is a team that can win only if they give 100% and not take ANY TEAMS for granted.

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