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 saw its’ winning streak snapped at three games as the Bucs lost to the Bears, 20-19, on Thursday Night Football. Tampa Bay falls to 3-2 on the season while Chicago improves to 4-1. After a weekend off, the Bucs will need to play more disciplined football and get healthier to battle the undefeated Green Bay Packers at Raymond James Stadium in Week 6.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
Table of Contents
STATEMENT 1. Bucs Blew It Versus The Bears
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was right after Thursday night’s 20-19 loss at Chicago when he said, “This was one game where I felt like we got outcoached and outplayed.”
Awful play from the Bucs defense, which didn’t register a single sack in the first half, didn’t force a single takeaway in the second half and inexplicably played soft pass coverage throughout the entire game, and a lethargic offense that couldn’t get out of its own way due to a barrage of penalties halted Tampa Bay’s winning streak at three games. Byron Leftwich’s uninspiring play-calling, especially in the red zone where the Bucs came away with just one touchdown out of three opportunities, also played a big role in this loss.
Bucs K Ryan Succop – Photo by: Getty Images
For once, Tampa Bay’s kicker wasn’t to blame for a narrow defeat. Ryan Succop was the best Buccaneer on the field, connecting on all four of his field goals and his extra point. The problem is that the Bucs needed extra points after touchdowns – not field goals – from Succop on Thursday night.
The Bucs blew a 13-0 lead in the first half and gave the Bears some signs of life late in the second quarter when Chicago scored two touchdowns in the span of 1:12 to take a 14-13 lead into halftime. A fumble by rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn after a big hit by cornerback Corey Fuller proved costly as it happened just outside of the red zone at the Tampa Bay 27.
Anyone who watched the game realized that the 3-1 Bucs were more talented than the 3-1 Bears across the board, even with Tampa Bay’s litany of injuries, but it didn’t matter on Thursday Night Football because once again Arians’ team just imploded with penalties. The Bucs were flagged 11 times for 109 yards, but there was also a holding penalty on rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs and a holding call on Alex Cappa that were declined, as Tampa Bay’s offensive line played its worst game of the year in terms of pass protection.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady had a very pedestrian night, especially in the second half, completing just 11-of-18 (61 percent) for 123 yards – mainly due to three sacks and eight quarterback hits over the final two quarters as Tampa Bay’s pass protection broke down. Chicago edge rusher Khalil Mack went off in the second half, notching a sack against both tackles, Donovan Smith and rookie Tristan Wirfs, and knocking Brady down three times. Mack was denied another coverage sack because of offsetting penalties.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans gutted it out on a sprained ankle and finished with five catches for 41 yards, including the team’s only touchdown of the night, a 2-yarder. That score was Evans’ sixth of the year, which leads the league.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Getty Images
Running back Ronald Jones II is really coming into his own in his third year. With the Bucs down to just two running backs on Thursday night – Jones and Vaughn, due to ankle injuries to LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette – Jones had his second 100-yard game of the season in back-to-back weeks, rushing for 106 yards on 17 carries (6.2 avg.). The problem for the Bucs was that they couldn’t run Jones enough in the second half because they were facing bad down-and-distance situations too often due to too many penalties.
“Just pretty poor execution,” Arians said. “We got down and we had a sack, three penalties – you’re not going to beat anybody with  penalties or however many we had, especially when we were down there once and ended up punting because of about six or seven penalties on one drive. I didn’t have our team ready to play – it’s obvious.”
STATEMENT 2. Brady Fails To Come Through For The Bucs
Tampa Bay signed Brady for games like Thursday night. Down two points with over one minute left, the Bucs needed the Comeback Kid to engineer another second half comeback, as he did in last week’s 38-31 victory over the Chargers.
But just days after throwing five touchdown passes and winning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award, Brady failed to come through for the Bucs.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
Brady was previously 7-0 on Thursday Night Football and 5-0 against Chicago in his 20 years while playing for New England. But once again, Nick Foles proved to be Brady’s kryptonite, beating the future Hall of Fame QB just as he did when he was quarterbacking the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Brady didn’t turn the ball over, but completed just 25-of-41 (60.1 percent) of his passes for 253 yards with only one touchdown on the night. And when it mattered the most, Brady couldn’t come through.
He was 3-of-5 passing for 64 yards on Tampa Bay’s final scoring drive of the night, which ended with a 25-yard field goal Succop field goal on fourth-and-1 at the Chicago 7-yard line. But on the next two drives, Brady completed just 2-of-5 passes for 16 yards, and failed to drive the team down for a potential game-winning field goal from Succop with over one minute left in regulation.
Brady didn’t get much help from his offensive line in the second half as he was hit and harassed on most of his drop-backs. He also didn’t get very good play calls from Leftwich, as the Bucs’ second-to-last offensive series lasted just three plays and consumed only 16 seconds of the play clock. After a run by Jones lost two yards, which caused the Bears to use their first timeout with just over two minutes remaining, Brady misfired on two passes and the Bucs were forced to punt from near their own end zone.
“They had all their timeouts, so we had to make two first downs,” Arians said. “We make a poor play on first down and we throw two incompletions. We obviously only made them use one of their timeouts. It was just poor football.”
Getting the ball near midfield allowed Chicago to drive down for the game-winning field goal, a 38-yarder from former Bucs kicker Cairo Santos.
“Well, I think that penalties, they stop drives,” Brady said. “We had so many third-and-longs and we just could never get into any rhythm, in the second half certainly, and just poor execution. So if you don’t execute well and first and second down, you have third-and-forevers and those are tough to convert time after time after time. So we’ve got to tighten that up and just play a more consistent type of football. We obviously have a lot of work to do.”
Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
It looked as if Brady was confused at the end of the game on a fourth down incompletion on a throw to tight end Cameron Brate. Brady looked at the officials and held up four fingers, which seemed to indicate that he might have thought that fourth down was actually third down, but after the game, both Brady and Arians denied that. Yet Brady was accountable for his poor decision to throw a fairly deep pass to Brate down the field instead of picking up the six yards to the Bears 49-yard line the Bucs needed to convert a first down with 38 seconds left.
“Yeah, I knew we needed a chunk and I was thinking about more yardage,” Brady said. “It was just bad execution. We had a great opportunity there. Just didn’t execute when we needed to.”
In the end, Brady couldn’t overcome the penalties and poor pass protection from his offensive line, Leftwich’s suspect play-calling and his own poor decisions at the end of the game when it mattered most. Yet Brady needed to play better on the Bucs’ final drive with better throws and better decisions.
2 PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Did The Refs Cost The Bucs The Game?
No. Were there a lot of questionable calls from the officials? Absolutely, and some of the more egregious penalties were no-calls.
But the officials did not hand this game to the Bears.
Bucs HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: Getty Images
The Bucs did. This was yet another classic case of the Bucs beating themselves, which is a plague that has somehow stayed with this Tampa Bay team from the Raheem Morris era and has been passed down to teams coached by Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter and ultimately Arians, too.
The Bucs were the most-penalized team in football a year ago and came into the game as the third-most penalized squad in the league. Tampa Bay committed 11 penalties for 109 yards. Here are the culprits.
C Ryan Jensen holding and unsportsmanline conduct – 20 yards OLB Shaq Barrett neutral zone infraction and roughing the passer – 20 yards CB Carlton Davis pass interference – 19 yards LT Donovan Smith two false starts 10 yards TE Rob Gronkowski illegal block – 10 yards RT Tristan Wirfs holding – 10 yards WR Mike Evans offensive pass interference – 10 yards Bucs defense too many men on the field – 5 yards
Smith had a 10-yard holding penalty nullified by offsetting penalties, and Cappa had a holding penalty on third down declined by Chicago. Tampa Bay’s offensive line really cost this team a chance to win its fourth straight game, as it accounted for five penalties for 40 yards – seven penalties for 60 yards if you count Smith’s and Cappa’s holding calls that were declined.
There were some very suspect penalties and no-calls by the officials on Thursday night, but the Bucs did plenty of self-inflicted damage to themselves once again. Unfortunately through 21 games, Arians cannot produce a more disciplined team, and the end result is a Bucs team that continues to beat itself.
QUESTION 2: How Bad Is Vea’s Leg Injury?
It looks bad. Tampa Bay’s injury situation went from bad to worse on Thursday Night Football as nose tackle Vita Vea had to be carted off the field late in the fourth quarter after inside linebacker Devin White landed on his right ankle, possibly fracturing it. Vea had a dominant game inside with three tackles and a sack, his second of the season, before the injury.
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians didn’t have an update on Vea’s condition after the game, but spoke to what it would mean to lose Vea for an extended period of time – perhaps the rest of the season.
“It’s a big loss,” Arians said. “You don’t have another Vita that’s for sure. But other guys will step in, step up and play good.”
Rakeem Nunez-Roches will become the starting nose tackle for Tampa Bay in Vea’s absence, and rookie Khalil Davis, the team’s sixth-round pick, will likely be active on game days now after being inactive for the first five games of the season.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: Vea Goes On Injured Reserve
Unfortunately it looks like Vea will go on injured reserve after suffering a possible broken ankle in the waning moments of the game on Thursday night in Chicago. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bucs re-sign veteran nose tackle Kyle Love, who was signed by Tampa Bay in training camp, take Vea’s place on the roster.
Love has some familiarity with the scheme after practicing with the team in August. In case you’re wondering, the Bucs won’t be bringing back Beau Allen, who was with Tampa Bay for the last two years. Allen signed a two-year, $8 million contract with New England, but was placed on injured reserve on September 7.
PREDICTION 2: Bucs Fall To 3-3 With Loss To The Packers
I believed Tampa Bay was going to come back to beat Chicago up until Brady’s pass on fourth-and-6 fell incomplete. Instead, the Bucs lost by one point, 20-19. If this game were to be played on Sunday instead of Thursday Night Football, I think the Bucs are healthier and probably come away as the victor.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
Thursday Night Football is stupid, and I would still believe that if the Bucs had won 22-20. It’s a scourge of the league. Players hate it. Coaches hate it. Only the greedy owners, the NFL Commissioner and Fox, Amazon and NFL Network like it due to the prime time revenue it generates. The banged up Bucs were on a plane to Chicago less than 72 hours after a gritty comeback win over the Chargers.
I also predicted the Bucs would lose to the visiting Green Bay Packers, and I’ll stick to that prediction. Tampa Bay falls to 3-3 on the year, but I have the Bucs rebounding down the stretch to still finish 10-6 with a playoff berth. Let’s see if that holds true.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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