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

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.”

Damn right.

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

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

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 [11] 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

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

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

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

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

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.

That’s asinine. Thursday Night Football is generally sloppy. It’s bad football regardless of who is playing. But it was on the schedule and it counts as a bad Bucs loss. Even though I forecasted a win in this week’s Pewter Preview and Predictions, I actually predicted a loss for the Bucs in my original game-by-game prediction in a previous SR’s Fab 5 before the season started. I correctly nailed the first five games for the Bucs in those predictions.

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.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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BucNnole
1 year ago

I’m sitting at my desk steaming this morning. Good teams don’t lose that game. Donovan Smith might as well try out to be a Spanish Matador. We need to get healthy and disciplined in a hurry. SAME OLE BUCS!

eaustinyoung
Reply to  BucNnole
1 year ago

He has no hustle. If he blows a block he just watches it go by. Doesn’t even try and make a redeeming play in any form. I know offensive lineman are big, but he just seems fat and slow. Being big is ok but not if you’re weak and constantly gassed.

eaustinyoung
1 year ago

1. The last time the Bucs gave up that many penalties was against New Orleans. They lost. Shocker. 2. They need to draft a Left Tackle for the love of god. 3. I now see the reason the Bucs cant use all their weapons is because Leftwich apparently has 4 fucking plays in his playbook. And three of them are just putting the team on RoJo’s back up the middle. 4. How are you gonna put your DBs 10 yards off the receiver like it’s against Rodgers going for a Hail Mary and let Foles dump it off to old… Read more »

eaustinyoung
Reply to  eaustinyoung
1 year ago

Also hate on Brady all you want but Jameis has 3 more sacks and 3 turnovers if he starts that game. Brady protected the ball under pressure – which is better than nothing.

Last edited 1 year ago by eaustinyoung
Tea-United99
Reply to  eaustinyoung
1 year ago

Ah yes, someone using Winston as reason to feel better about what horrible football we just witnessed. Wouldn’t be a Buc website without it. Instead of going to the security blanket of a player who gave his all for five years, can we please stay focused on the players here who aren’t doing that, who seem to be mailing it in? Because Smith looks like he doesn’t want to be here, Jensen acts like he wants to be institutionalized, and the play calling and philosophy needs to go in the Big 12, where the Air Raid offense resides and stay… Read more »

Tea-United99
Reply to  Tea-United99
1 year ago

Oh and Thursday Night Football is a cash grab and every game is yet another example that the NFL truly doesn’t give a shit about player safety. What a frickin joke. If they wanted to lie better they could at least give the teams who play in them their bye week, essentially giving them 17 days to rest, then feed some crap to the masses saying that the extra time helps even everything out. But no, giving the team three extra days to rest after playing such a physical sport four days apart is the line we’re fed.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Tea-United99
1 year ago

Yet nothing you said negates what I said. Who’s really reaching here?

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Tea-United99
1 year ago

Also Arians stuck up for Jameis a ton too even when he looked stupid doing it.

firethecannons13
1 year ago

TNF really is the worst. Feels sacrilegious to play on Thursday, not to mention the constant sloppy play and increased injuries due to forcing players to play on short rest.

Lets hope we can use the extra time off to get healthy for a huge game against GB.

PatrioticChief
1 year ago

Good article. Not much to argue with here. Bleh quarterback play, bad coaching, and bad outing from the offensive line. Self inflicted wounds. Bucs likely stating down the barrel of 3-3 barring a big turn around against GB.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  PatrioticChief
1 year ago

Lightens up a little after that. Raiders are beatable, Giants *should* be trounced, and then Saints and Panthers are both beatable after that. Could be 6-4 or 7-3 by the time they play the Rams. But who knows…

WeAretheChamps2002+2021
1 year ago

A couple of comments to your points Scott: 1) “…inexplicably played soft pass coverage throughout the entire game…” If we’re being truly self-reflective, the Buccaneers CBs play off-man, off-zone coverage the majority of the time. Carlton Davis doesn’t have the make-up speed if he gets beat deep, and SMB has problems high pointing the ball at times as noted by Jon Ledyard. Jamel Dean is by far the best corner for TB, with a PFF rating of 82.4 (which is currently 3rd in the entire NFL). He also has the closing speed Carlton Davis doesn’t, as demonstrated last night on… Read more »

Pete Wood
1 year ago

This loss just pissed me off. Not as bad as Red Sox losing game six of the 1986 Series, but still bad. I disagree about the refs. They did cost us the game, but in a one point loss, any one thing could make the difference. Really bad play calling (should have gone for it on 4th and one instead of the FG), more dropped passes, failure to convert in the red zone. Blown coverage– Still not sure how Graham makes that TD or Foles escapes a sack with a little toss that turns into a first down. Just a… Read more »

fredster
1 year ago

Brady forgot what down it was. Then wouldn’t admit it. Arians lied too. So dumb now Bucs are laughing stock on sports shows. Plenty of blame to go around here. This was Just pathetic game and this team is undisciplined. I am so sick of people defending Donovan Smith too. He sucks. Period. Below average player that’s stays healthy probably in large part because he doesn’t play hard. That’s not opinion it’s fact some plays his technique is worse than high school player. Penalties always at worst times. He’s a big lazy lard ass.Ryan Jensen sucked his first year here… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by fredster
BigSombrero
1 year ago

Thank you Scott Reynolds for calling it like it was. Your article perfectly articulated the problems last night. I agree 100% with everything you wrote.

I’ve echoed many of the same sentiments, but I sound like an asshole when I do it.

Thank you for your honest take.

Knightrider79
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

The refs absolutely cost us the game. On the play where Shaq was called for unsportsmanlike. If that flag isn’t thrown then the Bears would’ve been forced to punt and given the Bucs better field position. Instead it pushed us farther back. On the play where Vaughn fumbled, Brady was hit in the knee. Which in today’s NFL is a no no. That would’ve been 15 yards for us, first down, and more importantly would’ve taken the TD drive away from Chicago because we would still have the ball. On the play where Jensen was flagged for unsportsmanlike. He was… Read more »

matador
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

It’s not that you sound like an asshole…

thegeebo
1 year ago

This article really nailed it. Well done SR. Plenty of blame to go around. But as I’ve been saying since last year, the inconsistent, inefficient, and incredibly predictable offense being called by Byron Leftwich is the biggest thing holding us back (even more than the penalties). At times he shows a little bit of improvement (more play action finally!), but then on the most important drive of the game, he calls the *Leftwich Special*, a first down HB dive for a loss of 2 yards. Everyone and their mothers saw it coming… My God! Be creative!! Use motion! Look at… Read more »

McKay Curse
1 year ago

I think we need to relax a bit here. Yes we had a bad game, but this team, with NO preseason and a new quarterback, are feeling their way. Yes we have too many penalties and yes Donovan Smith is a turnstile, but we are very far from a bad team. In fact, if the coaching staff can make the adjustments, there is no reason we do not beat the Packers. They have played no one to this point and have not faced a defense like ours. Even though I am angry we lost, it is a growing experience that… Read more »

eaustinyoung
Reply to  McKay Curse
1 year ago

Agreed. Green Bay does not have the pressure that Chicago does. Brady should be much more efficient when he isn’t running for his life. It’s gonna be up the defense to not let Rodgers burn them alive.

Naplesfan
1 year ago

Media writers like Reynolds and typical commenters here are so predictable…. Bucs have a great comeback win on Sunday, and everybody is wanting the Bucs to get measured for their Super Bowl rings … then four days later, playing a Thursday night game that the whole league and fandom hates with a passion, and both the Bucs and the Bears ended up looking very sloppy, as did the refs, and now the same people from Sunday night are all pissed off and making declarative statements about how the Bucs lost an easy win. Jeezus H Christ on stick, get real!… Read more »

Spitfire
1 year ago

Sorry Scott but that’s just not true about the officials not costing us the game. The Bucs still could have won despite the play calling, but the officials missing the false start and then overturning that pass to Vaughn absolutely handed the Bears the game. Without those two drives the bears score 2 field goals. Vaughn was juggling the ball before finally controlling it and didn’t take his two steps. Also, every time the Bucs made a big play the officials would call a ticky tac penalty that they weren’t calling on the Bears and it was blatantly obvious that… Read more »

plopes808
1 year ago

On the bright side, we lost by 1 point while limited to 1 RB and our 4th and 5th string WRs (Evans was out there but clearly not 100%) Aside from the injuries, we had the officials clearly putting their money on Chicago. There were many bad calls but the 2 biggest ones shifted the momentum big time. The bs “encroachment” called on Shaq when the guard clearly moved, then the bs “roughing” they called on him as well, giving the Bears a first down. Then you factor in the stupid penalties by the Oline, most notably Jensen. Brady lit… Read more »