What probably should’ve been a 10-14-point loss for an improving Bucs team against a Super Bowl contender on the road turned into 33-point blowout in a matter of three minutes.
It was 10-0 Cardinals with 3:12 left until halftime. Arizona had soundly outplayed the Bucs to that point, to be sure, but Tampa Bay was inside the opponents’ 30-yard line and driving. A score would’ve made it a new game.
But instead of adding a touchdown or field goal and finishing the half with momentum – such as the team did last week in Atlanta – a miscommunication between Jameis Winston and Charles Sims, in the game because Doug Martin was injured, led to another ugly turnover.
Suddenly it all began to unravel for the Bucs.
The Cardinals converted a third-and-long and drove down the field to make it 17-0 with 1:30 left until half. Then the Bucs, desperate for points and a spark of momentum, threw three straight incompletions, taking only 17 seconds off the clock before punting back to the Cardinals. The home team scored four plays later on a 51-yard bomb, all but sealing the victory at the midway point of the game.
To recap, it went from 10-0 with the Bucs in position to score, to 17-0 with the Bucs now against the wall and one-dimensional, to 24-0 with the Bucs looking fully depleted – in just three minutes.
“Going into halftime without momentum, it is hard to bounce back from,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “I think we answered the bell (offensively), but defensively we have to keep it going. We have to work together.”
“Yeah, it was bad,” said cornerback Brent Grimes, who had a difficult outing against Larry Fitzgerald. “It was just a bad day all around. Stuff happens. Like I said, I can’t really give you a true answer, I have to watch the film. But it fell apart (late in the second quarter). We have to learn from this and come back next week.”
Last Sunday the Bucs converted the two-minute drill into seven points and it turned the game in their favor, on both sides of the ball. This Sunday we were reminded that an attempt at a quick score could also backfire.
“Well, we’re down 17-0. Heck, we went right down the field and scored last week,” head coach Dirk Koetter said after the game. “You can’t have it both ways, all right. You can’t say that last week it was the turning point of the game when we went down no huddle and scored, and then be pissed off this week when we go three and out and it lead to another score (for the other team.) Yeah, we went three and out.”
Koetter defended his decision to throw three times instead of running out the clock and escaping with a 17-point deficit at half, saying, “You’re playing to win.” The Bucs expected to convert at least one third-down, Koetter said, or, at the very least, keep the Cardinals offense from completing a 50-yard touchdown pass over the secondary’s heads. But it was just that type of day for Tampa Bay.
“That was the turning point last week and that was a big negative this week,” Koetter said. “I’m never apologizing for (being aggressive.)”
And he shouldn’t. People can criticize play-calling all they want, but the fact of the matter was the Bucs needed points against an elite team and had the confidence they could climb back into the game. In the end, a few miscues made for what should’ve been an acceptable loss against a better, more experienced team look a lot worse.
Koetter called Sunday’s 40-7 routing a “humbling” day and a “reality check,” but nothing to panic about. It was one game.
This is still a promising young team. With more experience and better communication, Tampa Bay can avoid first-half quick sand, stay competitive in games and put together a really nice season. The Bucs didn’t get ahead of themselves following their victory in Week 1. They won’t stay down on themselves after their loss in Week 2.
It’s already about going 1-0 in Week 3.
“Look, we’re going to try to win every week,” Koetter said. “We’re fortunate that we played well and got the win last week. We came in against a good team today. We didn’t play well. We turned it over too many times and we got our butt kicked. So, here we are. We’re 1-1 and we’re going to get ready for the Rams.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: email@example.com
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