Ever since the Bucs began training camp, fans have been waiting.
Ever since the Bucs finalized their rookie draft class, fans have been waiting.
Ever since the news broke that DeSean Jackson, Chris Baker and J.J. Wilcox were joining the Buccaneers, fans have been waiting.
And ever since a tiebreaker was what held the Bucs from making the playoff for the first time since 2007 seven months ago, the fans have been waiting.
They’ve been waiting for Friday night.
But, for their team’s first win of the 2017 season, they’re going to have to wait a little longer as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-12.
It was made known that the starters on offense were only going to play the first quarter. They ended up playing just a little bit into the second quarter, but it only totaled to two drives, regardless. Quarterback Jameis Winston was an efficient 9-for-13 for 99 yards, but failed to cap off the opening drive with a touchdown, settling for a field goal instead.
For the wide receivers, Mike Evans dominated the early gameplan with four catches and 58 yards on seven targets. Two of the targets that were incomplete were fade routes on the goal line, which Bengals cornerback, Adam “Pacman” Jones, played well. DeSean Jackson managed one catch on his only target, which went for six yards, and Adam Humphries ended the game with one catch for three yards, but dropped his other target.
For the running backs, most of the first-team offense was about testing that high-powered passing game, so Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers’ 2.8 yards per carry average (both had 4 carries for 11 yards) looks worse on the stat sheet than it really was.
The offensive line was shaky early on, but as the game progressed, so did their play – especially left tackle Donovan Smith. Smith was getting bullied on the edge on the first few plays, but was then seen throwing defenders out of the pocket until the starters took their rest.
For the second and third string guys, despite not getting a touchdown, Ryan Griffin appeared to out play Ryan Fitzpatrick. Griffin was 4-for-9 for 57 yards before his night was ended due to a hard hit on his throwing shoulder. Fitzpatrick ended the game 6-for-13 for 45 yards with a rushing touchdown, but also an interception. He just didn’t look as precise. And, in the late-game minutes, Sefo Liufau went 4-for-5 for 33 yards.
From the receivers and running backs, the big surprise was receiver Chris Godwin only getting one target all night, which he reeled in for 14 yards. As for the rest of the bunch, receiver Josh Huff had a hot-and-cold night with one catch on three targets, but also a very nice kick return. Tight end Cam Brate had two catches on two targets for 27 yards, but fellow tight end O.J. Howard was held without a catch. Running back Peyton Barber led the team in carries with eight for 21 yards, and rookie Jeremy McNichols finished the game with 12 yards on two carries with one target that wasn’t a completed catch.
On the flip side, the first team defense had a tough time handling the Bengals’ first-team offense minus a fantastic interception by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves to end their first drive.
“That was a huge play,” Bucs head coach Koetter said. “He picked that thing off on the one-yard line. We challenged Vernon to take the ball away and he’s done it.”
Against second-team players and in a rotational role, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald looked explosive and disruptive. But, for the most part, you could tell this was a first game with real contract for these defenders, who have been light on contact all training camp – to avoid injury.
“You just don’t know yet,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “You’ve got to see what’s going to show up on the film. We’ll see once we get back to the film room. It just felt good to be back out there… I always expect the first preseason game to be full of mistakes. It’s rare you go into a first preseason game, your feet are always right, you step straight and you don’t lose on a rush. That’s how the first preseason game goes. It’s going to be rusty, but that’s what it’s for. They’re keeping score, so obviously we want to win, but we’ll see how it looks on film. We’ve got a lot to fix though.”
Kendell Beckwith and Sterling Bailey had the only sacks of the game for the Bucs, and J.J. Wilcox, Justin Evans, Kwon Alexander, Devante Bond and Robert McClain were all tied for the tackle lead with five.
In the kicking game, Roberto Aguayo made just one of his two field goal attempts, and also missed an extra point. Nick Folk, on the other hand, hit his only field goal, which was of 45 yards, and did not have an extra point attempt.
Tampa Bay will next take the field again in Jacksonville against the Jaguars next Thursday.