You can watch football for a long time and not see a victory handed away like the Bucs did on Sunday. Against a Saints team down to their third-string quarterback, the Bucs still found a way to lose. Three turnovers played a huge role in the loss, but more egregious were Tampa Bay’s 11 penalties for 99 yards. After the game, head coach Bruce Arians didn’t mince words.

“I thought that it was an embarrassing display of football,” Arians said. “Of all the things that we talked about coming down here, about what it takes to win, and to play like that. It starts with me. Obviously, we weren’t ready to play. Penalties, turnovers, you’re not beating anybody that way.”

The Bucs final turnover came on an attempt at a game-winning drive, a situation they never should have been in. Tom Brady’s first interception occurred because of two egregious uncalled defensive infractions. Tyler Johnson was bear-hugged ten yards down the field in his route, while Chris Godwin was grabbed around the waist coming out of his break. The latter interference caused the receiver to stumble and not arrive at the catch point in time. It would end up being one of many missed calls that swung the game.

Of the Bucs 11 penalties, several were poor calls. But that has been the story all season for Tampa Bay, as the second most penalized team in the NFL with 59 infractions. That’s one behind the “league-leading” Eagles, with 60. But the Bucs have surrendered 580 yards in penalties this year, by far the most in the league. That’s almost as many rushing yards as Tampa Bay’s defense has allowed (620)!

“Penalties,” Arians said. “We gave it to them. They (the Saints) did a nice reverse (on the game-winning drive). We gave them easy first downs all day. They didn’t make any first downs. It was all 15-yard penalties for roughing the quarterback. It was stupid.”

We won’t go through each penalty, but a quick look at some of the major ones tells the whole story. A roughing the passer flag on Devin White was obviously a bad call upon replay. It prevented a 3rd-and-12 for the Saints from the Bucs 26-yard line. Instead, New Orleans got a first-and-10 from the 14.

Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepted Trevor Siemian on the next play, but Will Gholston was then flagged for roughing the passer. Of course, officials missed that Gholston’s helmet was knocked off his head by Terron Armstead. Also, Gholston barely touched Siemian. I mean, what are we doing here?

Bad officiating was the theme of the game. I could go into several more examples, but the Bucs also had a plethora of penalties they could have controlled, but didn’t. Tampa Bay leads the league in pre-snap penalties with 23, adding another three on Sunday. The vast majority of issues for the Bucs have come on defensive offsides and neutral zone infractions. That’s nothing new, as the Bucs led the NFL with 11 defensive offsides and 14 neutral zone infractions last year. In 2019, the Bucs led the league with 15 neutral zone infractions, and were seventh-worst with seven defensive offsides.

In 2021, it’s been more of the same. Tampa Bay is currently tied for the league-lead with five defensive offsides, and are third with three neutral zone infractions. Offensively, 11 false starts are tied for third-worst in the NFL. Those are all issues the Bucs can control, but simply haven’t. Sloppy play before the snap on both sides of the ball is a big reason why the Bucs aren’t 8-0 at the bye.

Now, here’s a little bit more frustration and a little bit of hope. Right now, the Bucs are beating themselves and getting hosed by poor officiating. Officials almost cost them a game against New England earlier this season, and finally did cost them one against the Saints. Still, the Bucs should have been able to overcome it in Week 8, but weren’t up to the task.

NFL officiating is just bad, period. Don’t buy into any conspiracy theories. No matter what it seems, officials do not have it out for your favorite team. Through eight games this season, officiating has just happened to be brutally bad in favor of the Bucs’ opposition, and rarely in favor of the Bucs. At the midseason point, only one team has benefitted less from penalties and penalty yardage than Tampa Bay.

If the past is any indication, there will be some regression to the mean. Some of the ridiculous calls on the Bucs will cease, and they will start getting a few more calls in their favor. The good news is that, despite the current discrepancy, the Bucs are still 6-2. All their problems are fixable, the schedule is favorable and they should be healthy coming out of the bye. If they can clean up little things like they did last year, Tampa Bay will be just fine.

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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
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TBChucky
TBChucky
8 months ago

I thought at least three Roughing the Passer calls were basically BS.. Seemed like they really overcompensated protecting their backup after Jameis got hurt.

pinkstob
pinkstob
8 months ago

Whether we agree with the penalties in this specific game or not, the penalties have been an ongoing issue with the Bucs all season. Arians has to get this corrected.

fredster
fredster
8 months ago

Calling the horse collar on White was just pathetic officiating. Changed momentum and possibly outcome. Whites hand was 8 inches or more below the color on his jersey. I guess White was just supposed to let him go? Nfl has become a joke in many ways. Bucs have some real work to during the bye. Penalties and poor tackling and poor discipline (White especially) needs to be fixed. They did fix it last year with less talented team so one would think good chance to this year too.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  fredster
8 months ago

A lot of people don’t know this, but tackling a player by grabbing their nameplate and pulling them down with it (which is exactly what White did on that play) is a horse collar tackle. The call was good.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
8 months ago

Yup. That is how the rule is defined today. Perhaps at some point in the past horsecollar calls were limited to grabbing the pads, but that’s not how the rule is defined today.

DaddyJax
DaddyJax
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

comment image
it was his sleeve. In the replays you can see the sleeve being released from his hand as he went to the ground. BS call. As with the rest of the calls and non calls. The unsportsman call after White made a tackle for taunting when several times the NO players did the same or worse.

DaddyJax
DaddyJax
Reply to  DaddyJax
7 months ago

comment image

MWD
MWD
Reply to  DaddyJax
7 months ago

Thats NOT a horse collar by any definition- Im a HS Football official and would never call this a horse collar
A football horse collar penalty is called when a defensive player grabs the inside collar of the back or side of the jersey or shoulder pads of the ball carrier in an effort to bring them to the ground. Notice the key word for initiating the penalty is inside collar whether it be from the side of the neck area or back or the jersey back of the neck area where the collar is used for leverage. NOT the jersey itself.

Last edited 7 months ago by MWD
cozart
cozart
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

No matter which definition you read (NFL,AFA, etc) the keyword is “inside”. The tackler must go inside the jersey and/or pads in order to be a horse collar tackle. Yet another bad call…period

Theydidwhat
Theydidwhat
Reply to  toofamiliar17
7 months ago

“Nameplate”? Are you saying you can’t grab the jersey there?

fredster
fredster
Reply to  Theydidwhat
7 months ago

The rule says you can’t grab and pull them to the ground by jersey from numbers up. White didn’t pull him to the ground. White was standing and stopped him. Jameis fell awkwardly and shit happens. The rule used to be only horse collar if inside the jersey. Imo they have ruined the NFL somewhat with myriad of confusing definitions and crap penalties. Gruden may be a crude immature asshole but he wasn’t wrong about Goodell being a douche bag and an idiot.

fredster
fredster
Reply to  toofamiliar17
7 months ago

If you read the rule it actually says you have to pull them to the ground. He did not pull him to the ground he stopped him from going forward and he fell.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
8 months ago

I agree that the excessive flags on the Bucs are not due to a conspiracy amongst refs … but at the same time, the refs are human. They read the stats and game summaries and study game film too. When the refs believe that the Bucs are more penalty prone than other teams, they are naturally going to be looking harder at the Bucs than their opponents. It’s human nature. Some NFL officiating crews throw more flags than other crews do. I don’t know how that correlation works with respect to the officiating crews who’ve been working Bucs games, but… Read more »

pokerpat12
pokerpat12
8 months ago

Beyond exasperating!!!! Those IDIOT officials DO see Golston run into the QB, but don’t bother to notice that his helmet was just ripped off???? We lose our one and only turnover and it proves to be a game changer. I’m not making excuses for how stupidly we played,but theses refs were officiating as if they were trying to cover the point spread. B.A. had better get a handle on this, it’s been painful to watch.

cozart
cozart
Reply to  pokerpat12
7 months ago

Agree, that was the most blatant call yesterday.

Theydidwhat
Theydidwhat
7 months ago

TV brick all day long! Call the game the same for both teams on DPI, holding and contact. Gholston was late even though it wasn’t much, I counted to 4. White barely touched the facemask going by the Qb. I didn’t think that was a horse collar on Winston, the ref seemed to make the call after he saw him hurt. But lot’s of ill timed penalties and turnover’s.

Mike Pengelly
Mike Pengelly
7 months ago

I recall reading an article about Bellichek and one of his teams preps before a game was to discuss the referee and his team and how they call the game to alert his players on what to watch out for…maybe BA should institute that with his guys. These calls are getting crazy. No excuse for lining up offside though…come on !!

plopes808
plopes808
7 months ago

All year the zebras have had it in for us, especially this game which was extraordinarily biased. But yes, the team has to do better at not giving them any reason