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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: What is going on with the second half performance of the Bucs? Is it coaching? What is going on with Tom Brady in the second half throwing at the feet of players or over throwing players? We don’t seem to throw receivers open downfield.

ANSWER: Good questions, especially as they pertain to Tampa Bay’s 33-27 overtime win against Buffalo. The Bucs raced out to a 24-3 halftime lead, but their problem wasn’t just in the second half, when the Bills outscored Tampa Bay 24-3 to tie the game and send it into overtime. The problem started right before halftime. Richard Sherman intercepted Josh Allen at the Buffalo 45-yard line with 1:08 left in the second quarter. But the Bucs went three-and-out, as Tom Brady was 1-of-3 passing on the drive for just five yards.

Not getting at least a field goal there when the Bucs needed to drive about 15 yards to get into Ryan Succop’s range was costly. It’s a different ball game if the Bucs are up 27-3 at halftime. The game is essentially over if Tampa Bay had gotten a touchdown there to go up 31-3 at the half.

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Then the Bucs couldn’t capitalize on a huge momentum swing to start the second half. Pat O’Connor sniffed out a fake punt attempt on fourth-and-2 at the Bills’ 45-yard line. Tampa Bay took over at the Buffalo 42, but couldn’t get any points once again. Brady was 1-of-3 passing for six yards on the drive, and his 4th-and-2 throw was batted down by a blitzing linebacker.

Perhaps the Bucs should have attempted a 51-yard field goal to go up 27-3 in the third quarter rather than go for it. The Bills held on fourth down and gained some momentum. Buffalo drove 81 yards on nine plays for a touchdown after that turnover on downs and a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

In the second half, the defense simply didn’t get enough stops or make enough big plays. Tampa Bay had three sacks and one takeaway in the first half, but didn’t get to Allen in the second half and didn’t create any turnovers outside of the stop on the fake punt. The Bills committed to running the ball and rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

On offense, Brady was 19-of-26 (73 percent) for 216 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown at halftime. The Bucs converted 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) third downs in the first half, but just 1-of-6 (16.7 percent) in the second half. Brady was just 8-of-16 (50 percent) for 76 yards in the second half, which contributed mightily to the Bills’ comeback.

“Obviously just missed a lot of throws in the second half or it wouldn’t have been that close,” Brady told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson after the game.

And yes, a couple of his errant throws were at his receivers’ feet. The Bucs’ passing attack doesn’t really scheme receivers open. It relies on Tampa Bay’s receivers, tight ends and backs to make plays one-on-one in man or zone coverage to get open. Perhaps that is a bit faulty in the play design, but when the Bucs have the athletic talent they do in their arsenal, it usually seems to work out in the end.

In overtime, the Bucs defense forced a punt, and the offense converted both third down opportunities to win the game. Brady was a perfect 4-of-4 for 71 yards, including the 58-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman. The combination of not scoring more than three points on offense in the second half contributed just as much as the defense wearing down and allowing 24 points – thanks to the Bills’ dedication to the run. Buffalo rushed for 127 yards of the team’s 173 yards on the ground in the second half, averaging 9.1 yards per carry. Most of that obviously came on Josh Allen scrambles or designed runs.

QUESTION: Given the defensive struggles and injuries do you expect the Bucs to get back to the dominant force they were in second half of last year?

ANSWER: I think the Bucs have shown some glimpses of dominance since the 29-19 loss at Washington. They crushed the Giants, 30-10, at home the next week. Then they rallied in the second half to beat a good Colts team on the road, 38-31. In Week 13, Tampa Bay handled the Falcons in Atlanta, 30-17. Tampa Bay was dominant in the first half of Sunday’s 33-27 overtime win against Buffalo, racing out to a 24-3 lead. The Bucs showed out in overtime with a big stop by the defense and a game-winning touchdown drive.

The Bucs do need to learn how to put all four quarters together and put teams away when they are on the ropes. Tampa Bay had a 20-10 lead at Atlanta right before halftime until Brady threw a pick-six that allowed the Falcons to cut the score to 20-17. The Bucs outscored the Falcons, 10-0, in the second half to win the game, but gifted Atlanta that pick-six TD.

As I wrote about in the question above, the Tampa Bay offense had two chances to create points off turnovers in Buffalo’s end of the field – right before halftime and the first drive of the second half – and failed to do it. That left the door open for the Bills to mount a comeback in the second half, which they did.

The Bucs have shown some dominance at times this year against lesser teams like the Dolphins, Bears and Giants, especially at home. They’ve had flashes of dominance against some of the better teams in the league like the Cowboys, Colts and Bills. The key will be putting two halves together moving forward and not letting up on either side of the ball.

QUESTION: What’s going on with the Bucs run defense? Seems like any time a team actually runs the ball against them they find success.

ANSWER: Successful running games rely on attrition, and that’s usually achieved by committing to the run for all four quarters and wearing your opponent down physically. That’s why I’ve scoffed at Bruce Arians’ bravado about Tampa Bay’s run defense after the 38-31 comeback win against the Colts when he said “Nobody runs the ball on us. I don’t care who the hell you are.”

Bucs ILB Devin White and Bills QB Josh Allen

Bucs ILB Devin White and Bills QB Josh Allen – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs, who had the league’s No. 1-ranked rushing defense entering Sunday’s game against Buffalo, allowing just 79.1 yards per game, got ran on plenty by the Bills. Buffalo rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries with quarterback Josh Allen leading the way. Whether it was a designed QB run play or a scramble, Allen rushed for 109 yards and a TD on 12 carries. He averaged 9.1 yards per carry, and so did the Bills. Devin Singletary only ran the ball four times, but picked up 52 yards and averaged 13 yards per carry.

The Bills used the same strategy the Colts did in the fourth quarter of their 38-31 loss to the Bucs. They spread Tampa Bay’s defense out and ran the ball when the Bucs were anticipating a pass. With a lighter box, the Bills had successful numbers in the ground game, especially when deploying Allen as a runner.

This was a good lesson for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to learn from moving forward, especially if the Bucs face another mobile quarterback in the playoffs. That could happen if Tampa Bay ever squares off against Arizona and scrambler Kyler Murray in the postseason.

QUESTION: Do you think there is a good chance Antonio Brown is going to be back after Saints game?

ANSWER: Yes. When Antonio Brown’s three-game suspension is over after the Saints game, he is expected to return to the field for the Bucs vs. Panthers game in Carolina on December 26. Tampa Bay does not have any plans to release Brown after his NFL suspension for violating the COVID-19 protocols, despite calls from the Tampa Bay Times to part ways with him.

Bucs WR Antonio Brown

Bucs WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: USA Today

Brown is a hired gun – a football mercenary if you will. He wasn’t brought to Tampa Bay to start a foundation or to become a pillar in the community. The Bucs have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for that. Brown was brought to Tampa Bay to catch passes and win games. Releasing him now – and there has been no public outcry to do so except from the Times – wouldn’t help the Bucs’ playoff chances. In fact, if Brown were to be signed by potential playoff opponents like Green Bay or Los Angeles the move could really backfire.

The Bucs will decide in the offseason if Brown’s antics this year warrant him returning to Tampa Bay for the 2022 campaign. The good news for the team right now is that Brown’s heel injury is on the mend and the Bucs anticipate him returning to practice next week after the Saints game and playing against the Panthers in Week 16.

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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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Captain Sly
Captain Sly
5 months ago

No other way to say this but that Brady almost cost us this game! Blame Leftwich all you want but Lefty was not missing open targets. Blame Bowles all you want but the defense made the stops. Any Defense will wear down after so many 3 & outs on offense.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

I’ll blame Lefto because the play calling stunk on both times the Bucs were gifted the ball in Bills terrotory.
Not only that but Brady was clearly irked when Lefto called a TO on third down right before the half.
His play calling in the red zone was also questonable. On a second and goal from the six he calls a run play up the middle. Way to waste a valuable play.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

We’ll let’s focus on what we can agree on, it was a Quality Win over a Playoff caliber team. Victory Monday!

JSW
JSW
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

Gotta go with drdneast on this one Captain Sly. Yes, Brady missed some throws that he’s got to make, but Leftwich needs to let Brady run the two minute offense as he’s feeling it on the field. He disrupted what Brady was doing and we came away with nothing as a result. (They need to talk that thing out.). Casual play calling leads to casual play. Creative play calling leads to excited play. The whole team just shifted into neutral at that point… and couldn’t find the gears again until overtime. (Take for example the bomb to Scotty Miller in… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by JSW
majc32
majc32
Reply to  JSW
5 months ago

You know whats exciting play? WHEN THE DAMN PLAYERS EXECUTE WHAT IS CALLED. Stop blaming BL for Brady mistakes. Even Brady said after the game he missed too many throws. He makes those throws then the play is a good call.

JSW
JSW
Reply to  majc32
5 months ago

Yes, every play must be executed! (And I’m not trying to let Brady off the hook, or throw Leftwich under the bus…) I’m just saying, the first play for a quick change offense sets the tone for the drive to follow. By the first call in that huddle (after the Sherman interception or the O’Connor 4th down stop), you’re telling the players what the attitude should be going forward… In this case it was, ‘let’s play it safe boys, play basic, smart football for the next 31 minutes and get out of here with a win’, when it should be,… Read more »

JSW
JSW
Reply to  JSW
5 months ago

“We needed to find a way because we kind of let them back in there with a bunch of plays that were kind of routine for us,” said Brady. “Again, execution when it’s good, we are tough to stop. When it’s not good, they don’t have to do much. We had some plays there that were too easy to make, and we didn’t make them – but in the end we made enough plays to win.” Sounds to me like Brady is acknowledging two problems – 1) vanilla play calling; 2) poor execution…

majc32
majc32
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

So the OC calls the timeouts and not the HC? Yea you are not too bright.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

That’s like saying LB White almost cost us the game with his lack of pass covering skills. Kids a beast and always around the ball, except when in pass coverage where he was lagging behind the receiver all game long. Otherwise he played a really strong game and didn’t come off the field. That was surprising given his injuries. Brady and White r gonna do more good than harm, always! So, instead of looking at a couple of plays they didn’t make, I prefer to look at all the positive contributions they made towards the Bucs winning the game! The… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 months ago

The fact that the Bucs don’t scheme players open hurts them in crucial situations like in the red zone and third down situations.
It is strange that the one play they called yesterday to scheme a player open actually worked albeit with the other receiver..
The final play where Evans and Perriman do a short crossing pattern is actually designed to shake Evens loose but instead both DB’s went with Evans leaving a LB on Perriman. The rest is history.

bucballer
bucballer
5 months ago

I was wondering where the jumbo package was for those 3rd and shorts? U got one yard to make, put Vea in there at fullback and he can blow up the line for FOURnette or give the ball to the big fella as he has played RB before. Just a thought. Nice win!

Wausa
Wausa
5 months ago

Scott:
Does Jon Ledyard still think Leonard Fournette should not be getting so many snaps?
Also, he said in your postgame podcast he didn’t remember picking the Bills in this game. Seemed rather strange that he could not remember after having an entire podcast last week where he kept talking about it being a terrible matchup for the Bucs and predicting a Bills victory.

Randy H.
Randy H.
Reply to  Wausa
5 months ago

And he picked them on the Saturday Preview and Predictions article.

PissedOffBuc1988
PissedOffBuc1988
Reply to  Wausa
5 months ago

Jon ledyard is grossly overrated by many of the readers here on PR. He was flat out wrong about Leonard Fournette. While Lenny struggled up until the last weeks of last year, since the playoffs and beyond, Lenny has been a revelation. Fournette has become a serious weapon and one of the most well rounded backs in the NFL, has been making plays all year. I put very little stock into Ledyards analysis and in fact think he’s the weakest writer on the PR staff. Atwal is better and needs to be given more chances to break things down from… Read more »

bucballer
bucballer
5 months ago

Of course we play WR AB if he is healthy and eligible to play! He’s an extremely dangerous weapon that teams must account for. We r trying to win a SuperBowl! He may be a bit ignorant in terms of his social graces but the guy can still ball. Not only would I play him again, I would sit him down and have another come to Jesus meeting with him and explain to him, first do bo harm to ur team, teammates, or Tampa! Then I would use his regression in our favor and resign to a team friendly contract… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 months ago

Good Article Scott. The players play the game, not the coaches. Scott is spot on as to how the Saints will capitalize on our weakness in containing a QB who is mobile and is part of the running game plan. Why are some of you banging so much on the Offense? Our Defensive DL ran out of gas early in the 2nd half. Say all you want, but our DL is what it is, not very good at stopping 3rd down conversions. Why is that? because we don’t put enough pressure on the QB on 3rd downs. That’s my opinion.

Dman
Dman
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

Yes.

inspecto
inspecto
Reply to  Dman
5 months ago

Got to love it, 1 whole thread with no name calling .
Go Bucs !!!

scubog
scubog
Reply to  inspecto
5 months ago

It’s a Christmas miracle.