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 lost its much-anticipated 2020 season opener at New Orleans, 34-23, with the Saints showing why they are the three-time defending NFC South champions. Even with Tom Brady, the Bucs still found ways to beat themselves, losing the turnover battle 3-0, including two interceptions from Tampa Bay’s new quarterback.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: Even With Brady, Bucs Still Beat Themselves

Good football teams don’t beat themselves. Tampa Bay has yet to become a good football team.

The Bucs, who have been quite a bad football for the better part of the last dozen years, could teach a masterclass on how a team can beat itself. They’ve mastered that art over the last decade with turnovers and penalties – leading the NFL in both categories last year. Even with six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady at the helm – this Bucs team continues to be its own worst enemy at the start of the 2020 season.

The Bucs had nine penalties for 103 yards, and lost the turnover battle to the Saints, 3-0, and that showed up in a big way in Tampa Bay’s 34-23 loss at New Orleans. Brady was signed by the Bucs to have fewer turnovers than Jameis Winston, who is now the Saints’ third-string quarterback, but Brady threw two costly interceptions, including a pick-six that cornerback Janoris Jenkins returned 36 yards to give New Orleans a commanding 24-7 lead in the third quarter.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

“Very disappointing,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “I would never have thought with the we practiced for the last two weeks – would have never thought I’d see us have that many penalties, turnovers and just basic mental errors that really cost this one when we got back in the game with the coverage.”

Throw in the fact that the Bucs saw Ryan Succop’s first field goal attempt get blocked when right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle Tristan Wirfs got overwhelmed, and safety Mike Edwards made a costly gaffe by attempting to field a pooched onside kick attempt by New Orleans in the fourth quarter. Edwards collided with return specialist Jaydon Mickens and the Saints recovered the kick and wound up scoring a field goal to increase their lead to 34-17 with 8:05 remaining.

“I didn’t see any of that coming,” Arians said. “We practiced all that stuff. We had poor protection up the middle on the long field goal [and they] had good timing and [Ryan Succop] hit it good, we just got beat inside. Then, you never go backwards for a football. You learn that shit in high school. Mike Edwards decided to go backwards for a ball. It’s another thing you practice and you never anticipate guys doing it in the heat of the battle.”

Brady started off the game hot, scoring a 2-yard touchdown on a QB sneak to give the Bucs an early 7-0 lead, but cooled off and finished with 239 yards on 23-of-36 passing (63.8 percent) with touchdown passes to tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver Mike Evans, along with two bad interceptions. Chris Godwin (six catches, 79 yards) and Scotty Miller (five catches, 73 yards) led the way for Tampa Bay’s passing game, while Ronald Jones II rushed for just 66 yards on 17 carries (3.9 avg.).

Tampa Bay’s offense didn’t get much from its newcomers, as running back Leonard Fournette was held to five yards on five carries, and had one catch for 14 yards, while LeSean McCoy had one catch for two yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski had two catches for 11 yards.

Brady was hard on himself and his performance after the game.

“Obviously, they made more plays than we did and I just made some bad, terrible turnovers and it’s hard to win turning the ball over like that,” Brady said. “I obviously have to do a lot better job.

“They were bad throws. When it comes down to it they were just bad throws – can’t do it.”

Arians didn’t pull any punches when it came to Brady’s miscues.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

“One was a miscommunication between he and Mike,” Arians said. “He thought Mike was going down the middle – it was a different coverage – Mike read it right. He should have been across his face, but Tom overthrew it. The other one was a screen pass with an outlet called. He threw the outlet and it was a pick-six. Bad decision.”

Yet Brady and the Bucs battled back in the third quarter to draw to with seven points, 24-17, until cornerback Jamel Dean lost his focus in coverage and allowed tight end Jared Cook to haul in a 46-yard catch down to the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. Four plays later, Drew Brees threw his second touchdown pass of the game, a 5-yard strike to Emanuel Sanders, to put the Saints in control, 31-17.

“I thought our second-half defense was outstanding other than the one busted coverage when we let Cook catch the ball down the sideline,” Arians said of the Bucs defense, which held the Saints to 271 yards of total offense. “Other than that, I thought it was really, really [good] in the second half.”

But the Bucs haven’t learned how to play consistently well for all four quarters, and they haven’t learned how to stop beating themselves – much to Arians’ chagrin.

“There’s no doubt,” Arians said. “It’s my job to make that stop. I thought we had it fixed. Obviously, I didn’t do a very good job of getting it fixed.

“The Saints didn’t do some of the things we did to ourselves, so we have to play better.”

STATEMENT 2. Bucs DTs Are No-Shows In New Orleans

The Bucs are paying defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh $8 million this year, and the team has a first-round draft pick invested in nose tackle Vita Vea, but neither high profile defender did anything to impress in Tampa Bay’s 34-23 loss at New Orleans in Week 1. Suh and Vea were virtually invisible, as each had one assisted tackle and committed a neutral zone infraction to start of the 2020 season. Vea’s was egregious, as it came on a key fourth-and-2 situation at the Tampa Bay 47-yard line that gave the Saints a cheap first down late in the second quarter.

New Orleans wasn’t likely to run a play on fourth-and-2, and was hoping to cause Tampa Bay to jump offside. Vea proved to be the willing accomplice, and the Saints marched down to connect on a field goal right before halftime to increase their lead to 17-7. Nose tackles, especially those in a 3-4 defense that are lined up directly over the center, should watch the ball and never jump offside.

Bucs DT Vita Vea and GM Jason Licht
Bucs DT Vita Vea and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“That’s the most disappointing thing – the way we played, the mental errors and the penalties,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “We practice fourth-and-short [and] never jump offside 100 times. Actually, guys were telling each other, ‘Don’t jump offsides,’ and we jump offsides. That’s unexplainable to me. We’ve got a lot of things to correct.”

Part of the job of Tampa Bay’s defensive tackles is to free up the Bucs’ inside linebackers to make tackles, so neither Vea nor Suh will ever really light up the stats sheet. And it should be noted that both Lavonte David and Devin White each had 11 tackles.

Yet Suh and Vea are capable of playing far better and making at least some impact plays, and neither did that on Sunday in New Orleans. Meanwhile, defensive end Will Gholston was way more impactful, finishing with seven tackles and two tackles for loss.

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Is LT Smith Going To Play This Bad All Season?

Left tackle Donovan Smith had a pretty good training camp and reported to camp this summer in very good shape. But that didn’t matter on Sunday in New Orleans as Smith had an absolutely awful second quarter, allowing penetration by defensive end Cameron Jordan on a Leonard Fournette run that resulted in a loss. He also allowed a sack by Trey Hendrickson on one play, and then almost surrendered another sack as Brady was hit from behind and flagged for intentional grounding. It should be noted that Smith was partially run into by Scotty Miller on the Hendrickson sack, on what was a broken play all-around. Smith also surrendered a sack-fumble in the second half to Carl Granderson.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

If the Bucs offense is going to be able to match up with other high-powered offenses like New Orleans, and if the 43-year old Brady is going to stay healthy this season Smith will have to play much, much better. Smith surrendered two of the Bucs’ three sacks in New Orleans, and Brady was hit a total of six times in the game. For a player entering his last season of guaranteed money, Smith will have to play a lot better over the next 15 weeks if the Bucs are going to make a run at the playoffs – and if Smith is going to remain in Tampa Bay beyond 2020.

QUESTION 2: What Does This Loss Mean For The Bucs?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The Saints are coming off back-to-back 13-3 seasons and are the three-time defending NFC South champions for a reason. They’re really good, and still better than the Buccaneers – right now.

Tampa Bay still has another chance at New Orleans, and Carolina and Atlanta also lost in Week 1. There are still 15 games left in the season, and although the Saints have the division lead thanks to their win on opening day, things can change in a hurry. The Bucs are far from a finished product and will get better as the season progresses.

Remember that Tampa Bay lost its season opener to New Orleans at home in Jon Gruden’s first game as head coach in 2002 and still went 12-4, and won the division en route to winning Super Bowl XXXVII.

Winning or losing Week 1 hasn’t been any type of harbinger for the Bucs in recent years. Tampa Bay won its season opener in 2016 and finished 9-7, but failed to make the playoffs in Dirk Koetter’s first season. The Bucs also prevailed in their season openers in the next two years and finished with a pair of 5-11 records.

2016: 31-24 win at Atlanta – 9-7 record
2017: 29-7 win vs. Chicago – 5-11 record
2018: 48-40 win at New Orleans – 5-11 record
2019: 31-17 loss vs. San Francisco – 7-9 record

2 BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Evans Has A Bounce-Back Day At Ray-Jay

Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury that caused him to miss three practices last week, but was able to fight through it and play the entire game, which was encouraging. Yet Evans was held to just one catch, which was a 2-yard touchdown late in the game that closed the score to 34-23, but he did draw two big pass interference penalties.

Bucs WR Mike Evans
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images

“To me he had 100 [receiving] yards,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “You get that many pass interference calls – those are yards. They’re not catches [and] they don’t go in the stats, but he had a 100-yard game easily with just pass interference penalties. He’s going to catch those balls if you they don’t hang all over him. I don’t think Mike was bothered that much. We tried watching him as much as we could.”

Actually, the two pass interference calls were a 22-yarder on cornerback Marshon Lattimore, and a 45-yarder on safety Marcus Williams, and totaled just 67 yards. However, if Lattimore’s 15-yard personal foul for shoving Evans in the back is added it, that pushes the amount of penalty yardage Evans drew to 82 yards.

Evans scored his 49th career touchdown reception, which was the third-most in the league since he was drafted in the first round in 2014. Evans caught the 543rd career touchdown pass for Tom Brady, and became his 79th different touchdown target, which was the most in NFL history.

Look for Evans to have a bounce-back performance against a young Carolina secondary that lost top cover corner James Bradberry in free agency and starts two rookies in safety Jeremy Chinn and cornerback Tony Pride. The Panthers surrendered 239 yards and one touchdown to Las Vegas’ Derek Carr and didn’t record any interceptions in a 34-30 loss in Week 1. Look for Evans to go off for 100 real yards next Sunday.

PREDICTION 2: Bucs Beat The Panthers Next Week

Neither Las Vegas nor Carolina looked great in their Week 1 showdown, which saw the Raiders beat the Panthers in Charlotte, 34-30. The Bucs will rebound from a sloppy effort in New Orleans and record their first win of the season against the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium in the team’s home opener to move to 1-1 on the season and 1-1 in the NFC South.

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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PatrioticChief

Brady has some gorgeous throws. I have laughed at the Brady is Winston memes as much as anyone but I do think he lights the Panthers up. Not sure it will mean anything because the Panthers are just the Panthers but a win will be a win.

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plopes808

Damn straight! Brady threw some dimes for sure, especially on those, I think I counted 4 PIs. I didn’t see the usual, WRs having to stretch out or jump to make the catch. It’s very good news that Evans played as many snaps as he did, getting him back makes a world of difference. The run game still worries me a bit but I believe the kinks will get worked out and we’ll have a well oiled machine going on offense. The defense was impressive all game other than the one play Dean gave up too early. The season looks… Read more »

Lamb Chop

How are the DTs no-shows? The Saints rushing attack was held in check. Kamara only gashed us on pass plays. We have to stop comparing these DTs to Sapp. They are not pass rushers first, they are run stuffers and they clog the line for the DEs, LBs, and blitzing DBs to get free. If anything, Shaq Barrett and to a lesser degree JPP didn’t show up in this game. What our DTs do, don’t show up on the stat sheet. When they do get penetration, it leads to RBs and QBs going straight into the teeth of the LBs… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Lamb Chop
seat26

Bucs need to draft offensive lineman like they draft cornerbacks and safeties. Throw in a couple of QBs and defensive lineman too. I think the team wins against the Panthers, though. If not Bucs braintrust will be looking for another GM next year.

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buclover1988

Donovan smith is a right tackle. I’m tired of seeing him get owned week in and week out. Wirfs is the left tackle. Switch them and the offensive line improves. Also, Arians needs to cede to Brady and call more plays that are designed to get the ball out of his hands quicker. That’s what Brady is good at. He held the ball for far too long IMO. The penalties need to stop. That’s concentration. Vea is right over the ball and there is no excuse for his blunder. It’s week 1 and while yes we struggled, I’m very encouraged… Read more »

Spruce

In case you haven’t been following Brady that’s 1 pick six in each of his last three games for Brady. The mistakes speech he gave also the third game in a row for him he has had to make it. What you saw is what you will get most of the season. Beautifully precise passes located in the best position for the receiver. Punctuated by costly head scratchers that may cost the team real opportunities. What you can expect out of Gronk is also what you saw. Arguably still the best blocking TE ever. You want him to be the… Read more »

Pete Wood

I think losing pisses off Brady and I think he’ll use the loss to motivate the team and himself. Bucs go on a tear against Carolina. We won’t see that team that lost yesterday again this season. Certainly not that Brady.
Bucs still win 12 games and reach NFC title game.

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Rating: +5. From 7 votes.
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fredster

I’ve watched for years now Smith playing like inconsistent crap. Is it a surprise to anyone that this year is no different? Especially when the guy said he does even want to play? Hmm shouldn’t be a damn surprise to anyone that’s watched him. Something is lacking. I think he’s lazy and or just doesn’t care about winning that much. As far as rest of team the defense played better overall, but still critical mistakes. I though Suh looked bad, but Vea kept pushing the line back into Brees. Jumping offsides when they are trying to get you to was… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by fredster
fredster

The lack of run production to me is scheme too. They are easy to see when going to run. Not very imaginative. Party scheme partly O line.

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awwdembucs

Ok we lost to a good team. Somebody needs to light a fire under D. Smith ass. Did anyone think we were going to go 16-0 . Clean up the mental errors, and call plays that utilize Brady’s strength. Remember this just one game, with out any preseason games. Go bucs

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Horse

Here’s my Monday Quarterback Chair analysis. DEFENSE As the game went on they got better; I’m encouraged by the scheme adjusted because of the other teams offense.. OFFENSE Other than Brady’s two interceptions he is an improvement over Winston. Why do we keep the running the ball on 1st Down versus Brady’s bread and butter dump pass. SPECIAL TEAMS Ouch! FINAL ANALYSIS ON THIS GAME The four turnover’.s says it all. FUTURE OUTLOOK FOR THIS TEAM We are already a better team than last year at this point. Expect to see interceptions, but not two a game. Expect 2-3 players… Read more »

destinjohnny

Been saying it.
We just don’t have the talent on the O-line to be elite.
Jason has only had 7 drafts to get it sorted, but who’s counting…

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thegeebo

The first drive was clearly scripted by Brady. It looked like the New England offense, spread, quick reads and throws. Resulted in a TD. The rest of the game was very much a Leftwich game from last year. Predictable first down runs for 2 yards. Plays that take too long to develop. Not enough play action. These are Leftwich staples. Brady needs to completely take over this offense.

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Richard James

Agreed. Was not a fan of the amount of running. If it was at least effective, I could understand, but how many 1 yard gains or no gains on the attempt can you watch before changing it up. The other problem is holding the ball too damn long. Brady is 2 second Tom for a reason. Sure, sitting back and letting a play develop is fine and is more likely to be successful when the quick daggers have been consistently delivered, but there were just too many 5+ second plays (especially when it was third and obvious) Doesn’t help with… Read more »

DT25

The holding the ball is somewhat scheme related. Winston got a ton of shit for it too, but when a majority of your primary routes are run beyond 10 yards down the field, you’re asking both your OL to block and your QB to hold the ball longer. We are going to have to shrink this passing offense a little bit to get “2 second Tom” back. Because Arians system is designed much differently than any Tom’s played in throughout his career. Think that was part of the reason Brady wanted to come to Tampa…but change for the sake of… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by DT25