Raiders WR Amari Cooper and Bucs S Chris Conte - Photo by: Getty Images
Tampa Bay is winless at home and Oakland – now 6-2 – is undefeated on the road this year after the Raiders stunned the Bucs, 30-24, in overtime on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The 3-4 Bucs blew a 10-0 lead and failed to get over .500 with a win. Now Tampa Bay must get ready to face NFC South-leading Atlanta – now 5-3 – on a short week. The Bucs will try to get their first home win in the last six games on Thursday Night Football against the Falcons, who have lost three straight to Tampa Bay.
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.
TWO BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1: RAIDERS TRIED TO GIVE THE GAME AWAY, BUCS WOULDN’T TAKE IT
Oakland had 10 penalties for 86 yards in the first half. I’m sure head coach Jack Del Rio addressed it at halftime with his team trailing 10-3. The Raiders obviously didn’t listen and continued to commit penalties at a record-setting pace in the second half and in overtime, finishing with an NFL-high 23 for 200 yards. Was Lovie Smith on Oakland’s sideline?
Yet despite trying mighty hard to beat itself, Oakland didn’t, thanks to quarterback Derek Carr, who shredded Tampa Bay’s secondary while completing 40-of-59 passes for 513 yards with four touchdowns. The Bucs defense couldn’t come up with any interceptions, and its lone takeaway came on a Carr sack-fumble in the second quarter.
The Bucs trailed 17-16 in the fourth quarter and then pulled ahead, 24-17, after a Jacquizz Rodgers touchdown run and a two-point conversion pass from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans. Carr drove the Raiders down the field and threw a touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera with 1:38 left after a fourth down penalty on Bucs nickel cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah gave Oakland new life inside the 10-yard line.
The Bucs had three chances to win the game – once with 1:38 left and three timeouts at the end of regulation, and twice in overtime – and went three-and-out on all three possessions. The Raiders even helped out with two missed field goals by Sebastian Janikowski – one at the end of regulation from 50 yards and another in overtime from 52 yards.
“They were trying to give us the game, man,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “They were handing us the game with those missed field goals and all of those penalties, and we didn’t take it, man. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. That’s a good football team, and to have so many penalties, they were trying to say, ‘Hey, Bucs … here’s the football game.’ We didn’t capitalize on that. When we needed to the most we didn’t capitalize.”
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston was inconsistent against Oakland, completing 16-of-32 passes (50 percent) for 180 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Winston was 1-of-4 for five yards in overtime, and 4-of-11 for 29 yards in Tampa Bay’s final three drives.
STATEMENT 2: TAMPA BAY’S DEFENSE ISN’T THAT GOOD
Mike Smith’s defense struggled mightily on Sunday, surrendering 626 yards in five quarters, including a blistering 513 yards and four touchdowns from Carr. The Bucs generated just two sacks, and Smith’s heavy use of a four-man rush was ineffective as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Robert Ayers combined for only two tackles and no sacks.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III and Raiders WR Amari Cooper – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Smith didn’t want to blitz Carr because that would leave the Bucs strictly in man coverage with no safety help against the likes of Amari Cooper, who had 12 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown, and Michael Crabtree, who had eight catches for 108 yards. The result was Carr having too much time to throw and Cooper and Crabtree abusing both man and zone coverage all day, but especially in the second half and overtime.
Carr threw the ball 59 times, but only had six passes broken up and none intercepted. Despite being on the field for 85 plays Tampa Bay’s defense could only generate one takeaway, and that was a sack-fumble by rookie defensive end Noah Spence early in the second quarter. The end result was that the Bucs allowed the Raiders a whopping 7.4 yards per play, and 8.2 yards per pass, as Oakland picked up 27 first downs versus 18 from Tampa Bay.
It could have been much worse as several of the Raiders’ NFL-record 23 penalties came on offense, negating even more yardage gained by Carr and Co. Next up is Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ high-flying offense, which scored 33 points and racked up 367 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
TWO PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: WHY DIDN’T KOETTER GO FOR POINTS BEFORE HALFTIME?
With the Bucs leading 10-3 with 1:06 left before halftime and armed with three timeouts, head coach Dirk Koetter opted to run the ball twice from their own 12-yard line and take the lead into the half rather than try to go for points and increase Tampa Bay’s lead. With the game headed to overtime with a 24-24 tie, the Bucs could have used a field goal right before half, right?
I don’t like to see a team squander any precious possession, and I criticized Lovie Smith last year for not being aggressive with a few final, last-minute possessions before halftime during his tenure – especially with plentiful timeouts. But the problem with this instance, and the reason why I can’t criticize Koetter, is that the Bucs were backed up near their own goal line and the Raiders had two timeouts.
“They had two timeouts, too, and if I’m not mistaken we were on the -yard line,” Koetter said. “We hadn’t exactly been grinding it up and we had the lead. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so I’ve got to take that.”
What Koetter means is that if Winston had thrown some incomplete passes that stopped the clock and the Bucs had to punt, the Raiders would have gotten the ball near midfield and could have driven down into field goal range with two timeouts and possibly kicked a field goal to make it 10-6 at the half.
With three more points the Bucs could have won in regulation, but had they failed to get them right before halftime and if the Raiders got them instead Tampa Bay would have wound up losing by three and not have even had a chance at overtime.
QUESTION 2: HOW FAST CAN ADAMS OR HOOKER GET TO TAMPA?
The safety position has been the weak link in Tampa Bay’s secondary all season and it reared its ugly head again on Sunday against Oakland. Carr hit Cooper isolated on safety Chris Conte, who was a few steps behind on a 34-yard scoring strike to start the third quarter. Cooper, who was held to just 11 yards on two catches at halftime, exploded in the second half for 10 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
Bucs DBs Jude Adjei-Barimah and Bradley McDougald give up the game-winning TD – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
On the game’s final play, Carr hit receiver Seth Roberts for a game-winning 41-yard touchdown. Roberts beat nickel cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah on a deep slant pass, but safety Bradley McDougald went for a shoulder hit rather than a wrap-up tackle. Roberts bounced off McDougald, who collided with Adjei-Barimah and Roberts was off to the races for the winning score.
The Bucs drafted safety Ryan Smith in the fourth round this year, but he’s deemed to be a project. Tampa Bay may need to use its first-round pick on either LSU safety Jamal Adams, who is considered to be a potential top-15 pick and the second-rated safety behind Michigan’s Jabril Peppers, who is believed to be a top-5 pick, or Ohio State’s Malik Hooker. Adams, a 6-foot-1, 213-pound junior, has four career interceptions – all last year – and is an incredibly sure tackler. Hooker, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt sophomore, has four picks this year, including one for a touchdown. He’s rated as a late first-round pick due to his speed and athleticism.
McDougald has been playing better since the Carolina game, but he’s still not the playmaker the Bucs envisioned he would become, and that’s why he – like Conte – was signed to a one-year deal this offseason. Mike Smith’s defense calls for safeties to be locked up in man coverage on slot receivers, and as we’ve seen in losses to Arizona, Los Angeles, Denver and Oakland, that’s a mismatch that has been exposed far too often this year.
TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: THIS LOSS WILL BEAT TAMPA BAY TWICE
With a .500 record and a chance to make a playoff run with a victory, the Buccaneers lost a heartbreaker at home to the Saints last year, 24-17. Then a dejected Tampa Bay team had to go on the road and play on Thursday night at St. Louis. The Rams would prevail, 31-23, and the Bucs became mired in a four-game losing streak to end the 2015 season.
The Bucs will undoubtedly be energized to play a home game in prime time, but after a full five quarters on Sunday, will Tampa Bay have anything left in the tank physically and emotionally after a gut-wrenching overtime loss? The guess here is “no,” as the Falcons will be riding high after a 33-32 come-from-behind win against the Packers. If the Bucs don’t have Doug Martin (hamstring) and/or Jacquizz Rodgers (foot) available in a few days, don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay’s 3-0 winning streak over Atlanta ends on Thursday night.
PREDICTION 2: BUCS WILL PETITION THE NFL FOR 16 ROAD GAMES IN 2017
The Bucs’ struggles at home continue with a 30-24 overtime loss to the Raiders. Since the 2014 season in which Tampa Bay was winless at home, the Bucs are now a woeful 3-16 at Raymond James Stadium – including a 0-3 mark this year. I first shed light on this subject about in my SR’s Fab 5 column two weeks ago prior to the San Francisco game.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is a respectable 10-12 on the road since the 2014 campaign, including a 3-1 record on the road this year. Season ticket holders may not want to hear this, but perhaps the Bucs should petition the NFL for 16 away games next year. I’m kidding, of course. On second thought, after seeing just three wins in person over the last two and a half years, perhaps Tampa-based Bucs fans wouldn’t mind saving their money and staying home and starting the petition themselves.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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 protected]
They better get their act together like now! Time for the gut check and get out there and get this win. There’s no doubt in my mine that Licht has not done a good job. We have a bunch of ex Falcons and Jaguars on this team; what kind of crap is that? Still no pass rush, what kind of crap is that?. Fear of blitzing because we have to play man to man coverage; what kind of crap is that? We draft a small CB and pick up a small old CB and now we’re afraid to play man to man against taller WR’s which we face mostly in the teams we play this season; what kind of crap is that?
Gee Horse you sound like a lab tech examining a person’s stool sample.
I think it is funny that this weekly article is called 2-point conversion, since we have to keep making them to cover our missed extra points! The Bucs need to start winning these close games at home. The bad thing was watching all the momentum shift go to the Raiders, who were moving the ball easily and stopping the hapless Bucs, who were overthrowing wide open receivers and dropping passes when they were on target. What happened to the run game? Just a distasteful game to take in…
Hope the Bucs can pick it up for Thursday.
Weirdest game I have ever seen. I kept expecting to see Rod Sterling in the corner of the end zone talking into a camera. Go Bucs!
You might have to explain who Rod Sterling is to the younger folks.
There are younger folks on here?
On Q#2, you shouldn’t underestimate our ability to wind up with a top 5 pick (again) and draft Peppers. That seems more and more likely looking at the remainder of the schedule.
Too high for a Safety.
Or a Kicker….
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