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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag  Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.

QUESTION: Why and how do the Saints always out-coach us in the regular season? Is Bruce Arians and Co. rattled by facing the Saints?

ANSWER: I’m not exactly sure why or how the Bucs have struggled so bad against the Saints in the regular season. Bruce Arians and his staff have certainly been out-coached. That was the case again on Sunday Night Football in an embarrassing 9-0 loss at home that delayed the Bucs winning the NFC South, falling to 10-4 on the year.

In the loss at New Orleans on Halloween, it was Todd Bowles who was out-coached by Sean Payton, as Tampa Bay’s offense put up 27 points and rolled up over 400 yards in that, but Bowles’ defense couldn’t force a takeaway and only sacked backup QB Trevor Siemian once. On Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium, Bowles and his defense did an outstanding job containing Taysom Hill and holding New Orleans to just nine points.

Bucs HC Bruce Arians, OC Byron Leftwich, QB Tom Brady and ref

Bucs HC Bruce Arians, OC Byron Leftwich, QB Tom Brady and ref – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Granted, Payton was out with COVID and wasn’t calling plays. The Saints offense was rather impotent without many weapons other than running back Alvin Kamara, who totaled just 31 yards. But still, the Bucs defense played well enough to win.

This loss was on offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who had no answers for Dennis Allen’s tough, physical defense. The major flaw in Arians’ offense is that it relies on players winning one-on-one matchups to get open. It isn’t really designed to get players open via play-calling and schemes. Outside of some wide receiver screens, there aren’t a lot of mesh concepts and rubs to aid receivers in breaking free of tight man coverage.

The reason why Arians’ scheme works is because, with elite talent at wide receiver and tight end, players like Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski can usually win one-on-ones with skill. As we learned on Sunday night without Brown playing and injuries to Evans (hamstring) and Godwin (knee), less-skilled backups like Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden simply can’t separate. The reserves really let Tom Brady down and forced some coverage sacks. And the short-comings of Leftwich as a play-caller – working for the first time since the end of 2019 without elite talent at the skill positions – and Arians’ system were exposed.

It’s also important to point out that the loss of Leonard Fournette as a pass-catcher, combined with Giovani Bernard going on injured reserve last week, also limited Brady’s options in the passing game. Fournette caught all seven of his targets for 33 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury. And Gronkowski picked an awful time to have an awful game – catching just two of 11 targets for 29 yards.

Brady and the Bucs offense looked mortal without its’ big guns, especially in the second half of Sunday night’s loss. And yes, Tampa Bay looked rattled on offense – players and coaches included.

QUESTION: Why does Bruce Arians constantly get out-coached in big games?

ANSWER: I was going to leave this question out, but decided to answer it because it’s simply not true. We’ve got a case of recency bias going on here. Monday morning quarterbacking due to the disappointment of Tampa Bay’s 9-0 loss is in full force.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht ESPY white house

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: USA Today

Was last year’s 38-10 win over Green Bay at Ray-Jay a big game? Did the wild card playoff win at Washington not count as a big game? Was the 30-20 win at New Orleans in Drew Brees’ final game a big victory? How about the rematch win at Green Bay vs. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game? Was soundly beating defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City in Super Bowl LV a big enough game?

Arians’ record in Tampa Bay is 32-18 (64 percent), including the postseason, and his record over the last two seasons is 25-9 (73.5 percent). He’s got the highest winning percentage of any coach in Bucs history and with his four postseason wins, he’s got the most victories after the regular season, too. Tampa Bay has now had back-to-back double-digit wins and a Super Bowl championship over the past two seasons. The Bucs are about to win their first division title since 2007. Arians has won plenty of big games in Tampa Bay.

QUESTION: I’d say it’s time to admit these coaches aren’t all that’s cracked up to be. Byron Leftwich coached like he left his brain in the locker room and Bruce Arians just got out-coached by an an acting head coach in Dennis Allen. This team against quality competition loses their biscuits, it’s troubling!

ANSWER: See the answers in the two questions above for more detail. Bruce Arians does not call the plays, but manages the game flow on the sidelines. He should have intervened on the ill-fated third-and-1 run by Ke’Shawn Vaughn that went nowhere. He could have insisted on having Ronald Jones II run the ball – or call a different play. Vaughn has shown no signs that he can be trusted as a reliable runner or pass catcher at this stage of his career.

And Arians should have insisted Byron Leftwich dial up some better calls on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 situations in the third quarter. Both involved high-risk, low-probability shots downfield to Jaelon Darden, who is an unproven receiver, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who struggled to break free from safety Malcolm Jenkins all night and had trouble catching the ball when he did.

The Bucs coaches have certainly fared better in other big games facing other opponents. Yet the Saints have the Bucs’ number in the regular season – there’s no doubt. The proof is in New Orleans 6-0 mark against Arians and Tampa Bay over the last three years during the regular season.

QUESTION: Can we pay the Saints to take us off the schedule?

ANSWER: You mean like in college football, where schools can buy their way out of contracted games? Great idea – I’d love to see it. But alas, Tampa Bay will have to face New Orleans twice next year – hopefully with a different outcome. No buyouts allowed in the NFL.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Saints DT David Onyemata

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Saints DT David Onyemata – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs just have no answer for the Saints in the regular season and really haven’t come close to beating them since Bruce Arians took over as head coach in 2019. New Orleans has now swept the series in each of the last three seasons.

The closest the Bucs have come to beating the Saints was a 31-24 loss at New Orleans in 2019. Sunday night’s 9-0 loss was the second-closest score differential between Tampa Bay and New Orleans. The Saints’ average margin of victory over the Bucs is 15. Granted, that’s a bit skewed by their 38-3 victory at Ray-Jay last year on Sunday Night Football. But the Saints have at least proved to be better than the Bucs by double digits in the regular season, unfortunately.

QUESTION: Are the Bucs overrated?

ANSWER: No, this is a 10-win football team that has looked and played dominant at times this season, but has really been hit hard by injuries. For most of the season it was on the defensive side of the ball. In Sunday night’s loss to the Saints, the Bucs offense suffered some serious injuries to receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette. That was the difference in the game.

I have to think without those injuries – or at least not all three offensive weapons getting injured – the Bucs could have mustered up 10 points to beat the Saints. The Bucs aren’t overrated. They’re just wounded right now – physically more than mentally.

QUESTION: With Ronald Jones II averaging about 8.0 yards per carry, why would the Bucs have Ke’Shawn Vaughn in at the end of the game and/or limit his touches in the fourth quarter?

ANSWER: It’s a bit baffling for sure. I know the Bucs coaching staff doesn’t have a lot of trust in Ronald Jones on passing downs. But I would trust RoJo over second-year back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who hasn’t shown he’s any better. Jones was targeted twice in the passing game and hauled in both catches for eight yards. Vaughn had a perfect pass from Tom Brady bounce off his hands, and fell down on another target.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jones only had eight carries, but did average 7.9 yards. He picked up 63 yards on the ground, including a game-high 30-yard run. It was puzzling that Leftwich didn’t turn to the ground game a bit more, given the injuries at wideout. Especially when the Bucs were only trailing 6-0 into the fourth quarter.

Jones’ last touch was a 3-yard catch on second-and-4. That grab set up a third-and-1 with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter. He gained 63 yards rushing and eight yards receiving, but didn’t get another target or carry over the next four possessions. Instead, Vaughn was given two carries and a target down the stretch, which was criminal. Jones is not the most complete running back on the team due to his deficiencies in the passing game. But he’s a more proven runner and receiver than Vaughn.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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drdneast
drdneast
5 months ago

While Pewter Report has been lobbying for Lefto to get a head coaching job,I have been citing all of the same reasons that were cited in this Q & A of why Lefty is an average coordinator at best.
Worst of all is he seems to clinch up in crucial third and fourthe down calls when the game is on. His red zone play calling inside the ten is suspect a well.
When Chris Collinsworth can spot what is going on in the game and we don’t make adjustments and keep calling the same concepts, something is dreadfully wrong.

drdneast
drdneast
5 months ago

Lefto has just accomplished something that no other team or offensive coordinator has been able to do in the past 15 years, he has held Brady scoreless. Good show. Well done. Idiot.

buddah
buddah
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Utter nonsense. Brady’s fumble was a critical mistake. The Saints defense simply had better personnel than the Buccaneers offense. The Buccaneers played two thirds of the game without their two top receivers and nearly one half without Fornette. Too much to lose to the NFL’s top defensive team. We may very well play them in the playoffs. We are likely without these receivers for the rest of the regular season. We have been crippled by injuries as have several other teams. The Ravens have lost three straight games and they aren’t as crippled as us. The NFL was crazy to… Read more »

pokerpat12
pokerpat12
Reply to  buddah
5 months ago

Sounds really nice but you may want to remove those rose colored glasses before watching the next game. Peace out!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  pokerpat12
5 months ago

Nothing rosy about players not doing their jobs.

SenileSenior
SenileSenior
Reply to  buddah
5 months ago

Brady had a bad game Sunday and he knew it. His demeanor showed this during his post game press conference. Recall how close his very first pass came to being a pick.
Yes, many of the the “backups” fell flat when called upon also.
And, yes, Peyton once again out-game-planned our coaches even though he was not physically present. His defensive team and his coaching staff did not perform below their standards either.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

You were doing OK until you ended with your typical juvenile name-calling. If “Lefto” is such an “idiot”, how do you explain the offense’s rankings, red zone effectiveness, and won-loss record? Can’t get much higher than 1st.

I respect most of your opinions and don’t now want to promote Byron’s potential as a head coach since I don’t know if he has the other skills, besides drawing X’s and O’s, necessary to become a good HC. What I do know is, we could be doing a lot worse.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 months ago

Sorry, that’s utter bullshit. The Saints out executed us not out-coached us. Coaches don’t cause receivers to run poor routes and drop balls. Coaches don’t cause blockers in pass protection to whiff on opposing pass rushers. Coaches don’t cause their own players to get injured. This is just the same old, same old bullshit of always blaming coaches for bad games and ignoring coaches on good games. The fans and writers just can seem to get it through their thick heads that only players play. The coaches ask for the players they think they need to play the game they… Read more »

fredster
fredster
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Your an idiot as usual. Did the players put Vaughn in the game In crucial situations over and over when He sucks and Rojo was doing well and more experienced? Did the players call for 30 yard low probability throw on 4th and 1? I could go on and on but you don’t get it and never will.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  fredster
5 months ago

With you idiocy is not usual – it is always. Moronic idiot and you have very very bad hate in your soul.

You know that 30 yard throw was called by Tom Brady, not by the OC. He makes ALL of the fucking calls at the line of scrimmage, idiot. He reads the defense, makes the call, and then makes his reads. Coaches have not a fucking thing to do with any of that. He’s the GOAT and he plays his own game.

Last edited 5 months ago by Naplesfan
Pete Wood
Pete Wood
5 months ago

Good Lord, this whining is over the top. The Bucs have good coaches and good players and they win big games. And like every other team in the NFL they lose sometimes. The Bucs are exactly where I thought they’d be at this point. We won some games we should have lost- Patriots, Bills, and Colts– and lost some we maybe shoult have won- the two Saints games. But, if I’m being honest, I thought we’d lose one of the Saints games. I had a bad feeling about Washington. They’re better than people thought. So, we’re 10-4 and the number… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

Typical bandwagon riders … as soon as the wagon hits a single jolt or rut, they’re suddenly off the wagon. Those with an agenda, such as hating on our coaches, or a particular player, just use it as an excuse to practice their same old, same old ridiculous bullshit. The next game when the outcome is good, they just STFU waiting for the next excuse to pile on their favorite hate target.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

You’re right about that Pete. Some of these people get so outraged by plays that don’t work and nearly become psychotic basket cases after a loss, I wonder if they should even be walking around in public without a straight jacket. In this case, I don’t think it was as much being “out-coached” as it was the Saints benefitting by the injuries to our top 3 offensive skill players (top 4 if you count A.B.) and our star TE having an off-day. With them in the game, that great coaching defensive scheme just might have resulted in a loss to… Read more »

pokerpat12
pokerpat12
5 months ago

OUTCOACHED again!!!! The Saints D-Line demolished the Bucs O-Line and as usual Bruce and Byron had NO answers. Our 44 year old G.O.A.T. of a QB was getting killed back there while our 2nd tier of WRs were dropping passes and NOT beating 1 on 1 coverage. Embarrassing. On the other end of the spectrum, Todd Bowles called a brilliant game and our Defense played splendidly. They deserved a better fate. Our play calling is Vanilla at best, no misdirection, little motion, little running the ball equating to little effect in the play-action game. We’d better change things up if… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  pokerpat12
5 months ago

There’s no answers when players aren’t making plays. “You go to war with the military you have, not the military you want” to quote a former SecDef.

Players have to find it within themselves to do their freaking jobs .. as the most successful NFL coach, Bill Belichick always says. Just do your job.

Buc stops here
Buc stops here
5 months ago

Thank you Scott for an honest assessment of the coaching staff. This article is spot on. The Bucs struggle with the Saints because it is obvious, Peyton is a better coach and so is his staff than the Bucs vaunted staff. The Bucs staff is excellent, don’t get me wrong, but the Saints staff is better. They have the killer defense and when they covered the receivers, Leftwich rarely ran the ball. His play calling on third and two (twice) and fourth and one (twice) was incredible. Throw it long to an unproven receiver or Gronk who was tightly covered… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
5 months ago

For all the talk of RoJo’s awfulness in the passing game, he had a lower drop% than Fournette did last year, and he has yet to drop a pass this season, albeit on limited targets. Watching us trot Vaughn out there to do EVERYTHING poorly while Jones sat watching on the sidelines last night was equal parts infuriating and frustrating. Just makes 0 sense. Vaughn is trash. I don’t think there are 5 teams in the league where he’d even be under contract right now.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
5 months ago

We watched Coaching Malpractice last night, no nicer way to put it. Brady knew it, BA knew it and the fans watching knew it. Sorry Injuries are no excuse for poor performances, every team in the hunt is dealing with injury. The Ravens HC won’t even go into OT because of an injury depleted roster. Got to quit with the excuses

Dman
Dman
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

Exactly.

Joseph
Joseph
5 months ago

You guys are nuts if you are looking past the offensive line getting destroyed. If your offensive line isn’t holding up it doesn’t matter what you call what scheme you run it’s gonna fail. Alex kappa’s soul got knocked out of him when he got blown into the next county at the snap of the ball. The offensive line performance was pitiful and at the top of all the worst failures.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  Joseph
5 months ago

If your Oline isn’t holding up then Change your protection scheme #Stop excuses!

Joseph
Joseph
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

Lol what protection scheme are you running when back up wrs are playing against an elite secondary and across the oline you are losing at the snap of the ball many times I saw our oline on the ground because they got blown up they couldn’t keep it together for a single drive.#keep it out of fantasy land and back into reality