The Bucs emerged victorious on Sunday, despite trailing by 10 points at halftime to the Indianapolis Colts. But the result was constantly in doubt, as Tampa Bay often elected to take difficult paths to victory. Late in the game, Leonard Fournette’s 28-yard touchdown run put the Bucs up 38-31 with 20 seconds left. That 7-point advantage represents almost certain victory at that point in the game, but the Bucs still almost blew it.

On the ensuing kickoff, Bradley Pinion pounded the ball into the end zone. But Colts return man Isaiah Rodgers fielded it under his own goal posts to bring the kick out. Rodgers erupted past the Bucs porous kickoff coverage unit, taking the kick back 72 yards to the Bucs 32. Only a clutch tackle by Mike Edwards saved a game-tying touchdown.

“Obviously, Mike, I think he hit top speed of his life chasing the guy on the kickoff return,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “And thank God he did.”

With 10 seconds left, the Colts had two shots to tie it. Lavonte David broke up Wentz’s first attempt, before Pierre Desir intercepted a Hail Mary at the 2-yard line to end the threat. In hindsight, Arians wishes he would have handled the last 30 seconds of the game better.

“Probably in hindsight, I would have got on the headset and told Leonard [Fournette] not to score,” Arians said. “So that you do take all the time off the clock and kick the field goal. And so you don’t have that kickoff return. Also in hindsight, we would not kick that ball deep.”

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

In fairness to Arians, I have no issue with Fournette scoring a touchdown with 20 seconds left. I would never trust my game result to a kicker if I had another surefire option, even from chip shot range. Now, if there was 1:20 left on the clock, absolutely. Not going down at the 1 in that situation would have been a critical error. But with 20 seconds left, now the Colts need a touchdown with one timeout. It would take a colossal failure to lose the game at that point.

But, that colossal failure almost happened. And this is where I do blame Arians a little bit. Last year, the Bucs had the worst kickoff coverage unit in NFL history. This year, the Bucs are the third-worst coverage unit in the league. The only silver lining is that Bradley Pinion allows so few returns. Against the Colts, Pinion had sent every kick out of the end zone until the last one.

Why? Was it intentionally put in play? I’m not sure. But it was a mistake that can’t happen in that situation. Perhaps Arians just assumed Pinion would send the ball out of play like he almost always does. Maybe Pinion didn’t get a hold of it completely, and Rodgers had a shot at a return. Either way, I’m sure the Bucs will squib that kick on the ground down the middle of the field next time. I blame the coverage unit more than the coaching, but Arians is probably smart to improve his process a bit there too.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
Subscribe
Notify of
31 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
BucLife
BucLife(@dback4life)
1 month ago

The odds of missing a FG from there are probably significantly higher than the Colts scoring a TD with 20 seconds left, so Fournette’s TD was good. Now kicking it deep on the ensuing kickoff isn’t a disastrous decision either, they just needed to cover it better. A squib kick would have probably been a bit safer, but even there somebody needs to make a tackle. Now why the Bucs Special Teams units are consistently at the bottom of the league is beyond me. We can neither cover nor return and I don’t think you can blame that on lacking… Read more »

JSW
JSW(@pewtereyes)
Reply to  BucLife
1 month ago

Agreed.

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
Reply to  BucLife
1 month ago

The odds of missing a FG from the 1 yard line are almost nil. That’s the reason the extra point line was moved back. Kickers were making 99.5% of the kicks. I would take those odds of winning any day. It’s as sure a bet as you can get. As far as the Bucs ST go, I completely agree. The only reason I can see for a team to consistently be at the bottom is because the coaches don’t feel it’s important enough to devote the attention to it. I disagree with the coaches on that point and think the… Read more »

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
1 month ago

Not sure how anyone can blame Coach, the ball was kicked to the back line of the endzone. I watched Pierre Desir who had a chance to make a play standing there while the guy ran passed him with little effort. I think now we know why Indy cut him, can’t cover receivers and can’t cover kicks. Liability everywhere you put him!

gg720
gg720(@gg720)
1 month ago

I think the main problem is our special teams coach. As the stats show, we are at the bottom or near the bottom in our return abilities on kick offs and punts and never seem to be able to make a decent return on our punt or kickoff runs. How can coaches not look at film and see where certain players are not producing and remove them from these special teams.

bucballer
bucballer(@bucballer)
Reply to  gg720
1 month ago

I would tend to agree gg. Hold the guys accountable. If they r not performing then get someone in there who will. Who wants a job? Special teams r a third of the game. They r important. The guys need to execute. They should all be on the same page for that particular play!

BucLife
BucLife(@dback4life)
Reply to  bucballer
1 month ago

I don’t think it’s a personnel problem as the vast amount of Special Teams players has changed over the last 3 years, but the results haven’t. I agree with gg720 here that we should take a hard look at the ST coordinator if the performance of his units suck no matter the personnel.

JSW
JSW(@pewtereyes)
Reply to  gg720
1 month ago

Agreed. Not impressed with Keith Armstrong – just not…

TheLock
TheLock(@thelock)
1 month ago

Wasn’t Keith Armstrong fired from Atlanta as their ST coach for poor special teams play prior to joining the Bucs staff in the same capacity?
I don’t think we need to look far to see what the issue is here.

JSW
JSW(@pewtereyes)
Reply to  TheLock
1 month ago

Misplaced loyalty to an assistant who lacks championship knowledge and skills, eventually becomes disloyalty to the rest of a team that consistently demonstrate the same…Just because Armstrong is a good friend of Arians, doesn’t make him the best hire to coordinate special teams. They can still be friends, just get someone in here who can raise our special teams to a championship level – please!

Last edited 1 month ago by JSW
Spitfire
Spitfire(@spitfire)
1 month ago

I agree the TD is fine there but I was thinking he should have run out at the 1 too. Then you have 20 seconds and 3 shots to get it in before an almost automatic kick but even with good kicks, blocks happen. In the end better to run it in but then don’t give them a chance to run back the kickoff. Even if you kick it out of bounds, take the penalty and make them score from their 35. That was actually the 2nd time Pinion didn’t kick it out the back on the final kickoff, last… Read more »

JSW
JSW(@pewtereyes)
Reply to  Spitfire
1 month ago

No, no, no – ALWAYS take the points when you can get them – especially when you’re tied or playing from behind! Fumbles happen. Missed field goals happen.
If you can’t trust your kicker to put the kickoff through the end zone (which we usually can), then you should be able to trust your special teams to cover and make a tackle.
But NO MATTER WHAT, always take points when they are there to be taken – always!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  Spitfire
1 month ago

How many teams have made goal line stands from the 1 yard line? Way too many. You never want to depend upon the other team to not do something – more often than not, they’ll do just that. Like running the kickoff back tor 70 yards.

Nope, get the TD first. That guarantees you 6 points, and probably 7 points, meaning that the worst the other team can do in 20 seconds is score a TD to put it into OT. Which is a low probability drive.

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Your instincts are wrong nipples. The win probability is higher if you go down at the 1 rather than score the TD.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
1 month ago

What are you, like ten years old with your juvenile taunting (“Nipples” really???) Did you just learn that word from your little sister? First of all, moron, no coach ever expects his running back to get precisely 27 yards and not 28 yards from scrimmage on a running play. Prior to that play, Fournette had averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Do you idiotically believe that Arians will take the time during realtime gameplay and decide, “You know, despite the fact that Fournette is averaging just 4.5 yards per carry, I really am worried that he’ll get 28 yards for the… Read more »

ehinote
ehinote(@ehinote)
1 month ago

We have had the worst coverage unit over the last 3 years. Our Special Teams coach deserves most of the blame. Coverage units in the NFL comes down to coaching and scheme. Neither is good. And WE should never bring a kickoff out of the end zone even if we’re just touching the end zone line. We are horrible at returns as well.

Buc76
Buc76(@jjjj)
1 month ago

Jaelen Dardon is not a good kick returner at least yet. Mickens was better. That was a bad move letting him go. I don’t see this blazing speed people say Dardon has and he certainly doesn’t have great moves. He’s not an upgrade for a team trying to win back to back Superbowls.I agree with ehinote

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
Reply to  Buc76
1 month ago

I agree, Darden has been a bit disappointing as a returner. Of course our terrible ST blocking hasn’t helped either. There’s usually someone right on him as soon as gets the ball.

pokerpat12
pokerpat12(@pokerpat12)
1 month ago

O.K. I have NO problem whatsoever with Lenny scoring (God Bless him). Where B.A. pissed me of was when he called a TO at the end of the 1st half while A. The colts still have the ball and B. This is not the 2003 Bucs defense that could shut down anyone. Also our return and coverage teams are consistently among the worst in the NFL. Fortunately Pinion generally kicks the ball out of the end zone so it’s generally a non-factor. That said, Here’s to getting completely healthy, running the table on the remaining schedule. Earning the #1 seed… Read more »

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
Reply to  pokerpat12
1 month ago

We’ve seen that a few times from BA, where he’s already assuming we’re getting the ball back but we don’t and he ends up helping the other team with his TO.

JSW
JSW(@pewtereyes)
1 month ago

ALWAYS take points when you can get them!!! I disagree with coach about Lenny going out of bounds and kicking a field goal. Field goals are not automatic. If I have a choice of putting the game on the foot of Succop to get 3 points, or on the foot of Pinion to kick one through the end zone, that’s an easy call for me. Pinion puts more balls out of the end zone than any other kicker…

Eddie
Eddie(@oct62020)
1 month ago

All these silly comment from the head coach cannot hide the fact that special team has performed poorly.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
1 month ago

Jon; that’s a lot of what if’s my man. I thought about a kick off the the ball bounces all over and we might get lucky and recover it. Who would have thought a 72 yard kick off return; maybe it was who we had on the field? In this situation, lots of DB’s, LB’s on the field I would hope?

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
1 month ago

Agree with Jon that you never want to force yourself to put the game in a kicker’s hands if you’ve got the ability to get a touchdown. Even if the kicker makes that kick, you can still get a runback for a TD by the other team and if all you have is a 3 point lead, you’re done. Rather than tell Lenny to not score (???), you have two other options if he does score. You can intentional kick the ball out of bounds, in which case the other team gets the ball on their 35 yard line, not… Read more »

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1(@aredsoxfan1)
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

“Probably in hindsight, I would have got on the headset and told Leonard [Fournette] not to score,” Arians said. “So that you do take all the time off the clock and kick the field goal. And so you don’t have that kickoff return.”
Pay attention nipples! The whole point of the strategy is to use all the remaining time on the clock and kick the FG with no time left. The other team never touches the ball.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
1 month ago

Knock it off with your juvenile taunts, little boy (“Nipples?” really?). You must be all of ten years old judging by your ridiculous comments in this thread.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
1 month ago

Pay attention moron. The whole point of the actual strategy our Super Bowl winning, first place in NFC South with a three game lead in December head coach is to win the freaking game, not outthink himself as you seem to believe you can do. Nobody is going to tell a running back in advance of a play from the 28 yard line to only get 27 yards, putting the entire game in the hands of a kicker who has missed short field goals and extra points – Succop is only a 76% kicker, which is very low for the… Read more »

WVBuc
WVBuc(@wvbuc)
1 month ago

So, you’re saying the Buc’s kick coverage unit has improved around 10% from last year to this one? That’s good growth :)

buccaneerNW
buccaneerNW(@buccaneernw)
1 month ago

It doesn’t speak well for your coverage units or defense if your offensive strategy has to incorporate burning every last second so there’s no chance for a game tying play. Fix the GD special teams!

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
1 month ago

I certainly understand B.A.’s logic even though I don’t necessarily agree with it. Don’t we all want to score when we have the chance? The problem wasn’t that we scored and left 20 seconds on the clock. The problem was that the ensuing kickoff didn’t go out of the end zone resulting in the unexpected and nearly disasterous return. Plus our KO coverage unit is so accustomed to Pinion’s kicks becoming touch-backs that they didn’t focus on the possible return. Does a coach really have to warn them? Wasn’t it more likely for him to down it in the end… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

Playing it safe is not ordering, somehow in advance knowledge that a runner who’d gained an average 4.5 yards per carry all game would somehow get 28 yards and still leave all of (gasp!) 20 seconds on the clock. Playing it safe is not letting the other team return the ball. Kick it out of bounds and they only get it on their 35 yard line with 20 ticks on the clock and have to score a touchdown with our first team defense – no special teamers – on the other side of the scrimmage line. Or, possibly better yet,… Read more »