Welcome to my weekly post-game column, where I’ll take a look at the moment(s) the game turned either in favor or against the Buccaneers. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all the reasons the Bucs won or lost, but instead the key moment or two where things went north or south for the team.

The Game-Changer

Despite a horrendous first half, the Bucs found themselves down “just” 20-7 entering the second half. Clearly Tampa Bay couldn’t afford to waste any more possessions, especially when getting the ball to start the third quarter.

A huge 48-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski on an over route off of play-action brought the ball to the five-yard line for the Bucs, giving them a first-and-goal. With a chance to cut the deficit to six points and seize momentum to start the second half, there wouldn’t be a bigger series in in the game. So when offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich offered up two baffling play calls on first and second down, it was the turning point in the game.

For reasons that cannot be explained, Leonard Fournette, he of 16 carries for 36 yards over the past three games, was the weapon of choice on the first-and-goal series. Not Mike Evans. Not Chris Godwin. Not Antonio Brown. Not Rob Gronkowski. Heck, not even Ronald Jones.

Fournette, coming off a game in which he missed multiple open holes as a runner and dropped three of four targets, tiptoed to the line of scrimmage on first down for a gain of one. The All-22 will reveal more of what Fournette saw on the play, but it didn’t look like there was much there on first down.

The Bucs have wasted first down in the red zone consistently all season, yet still converted at the fifth-highest rate in the league. It’s a bad process, but the results have definitely been there nonetheless. The point I’m making here will be a common refrain in this article: don’t give your worst players touches in the most valuable part of the field.

On second down, the Bucs ran Scotty Miller on fake jet motion, then leaked Leonard Fournette out into the opposite flat, hoping to outflank the defense due to the motion. The concept itself is fine, although the Chiefs aren’t fooled at all, and make the tackle for a four-yard loss.

The problem I have with the play-call is two-fold: 1. You aren’t designing a play for one of your good players and 2. Fournette has been totally ineffective as a receiver for the vast majority of the season. At some point, coaches have to recognize players aren’t what you hoped they’d be and stop asking them to be what they are not.

I saw some people saying Gronkowski was open on this play, but he is indeed covered. Maybe a perfect throw scores him due to the leverage, but I think fans were fooled by the defender on him slowing down when the ball goes to Fournette, while Gronkowski continues to run.

Also, as Tony Romo pointed out on the broadcast, the Bucs haven’t really run this play all year (I think it was the first time). It’s designed to go to Fournette in the flat, with Brady eventually progressing to Gronkowski (shallow over route) or Evans working along the back of the end zone as a last resort, but all those options are covered. Brady really doesn’t have any options here, and typically when you have a new play like this one, you’re looking at your first read and then making adjustments off of what the defense showed you in the future.

On third down nobody was open and Brady overthrew a covered Gronkowski anyway, forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal, cutting the Chiefs lead to 20-10. It was a mind-boggling approach to their most important series of the game, giving two designed touches to their worst offensive player on a possession the Bucs had to get in the end zone.

The Bucs played better as the game went on and made it close at the end, but the game was lost on that possession more than any other in my opinion. With the offense finding a rhythm with a steady mix of Godwin, Gronkowski, Jones and some Evans, suddenly deciding to insert Fournette into the lineup and use him as a focal point was a strategy that completely took the wind out of the group’s sails. The Chiefs defense deserves credit for making plays, but Leftwich deserves plenty of criticism for curiously opting away from his best players on the most vital series of the game.

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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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cgmaster27
cgmaster27(@cgmaster27)
1 year ago

100% agree with this. This article is exactly how i felt during these play calls. Its borderline sabotage to keep forcing touches to fournette. The dude is cottonelle soft for his size. Despite there not being much there on first down, as you pointed out, Fournette fucking tip toes his way to the line. Rojo hits that full speed and at least gets 2 or 3 yards out of that. Im am so tired of this fournette venture. Its driving me nuts and its wasted plays.

Ron Potter
Ron Potter(@finalsorbust)
Reply to  cgmaster27
1 year ago

Fournette is good but Rojo is better. Why BA is allowing Fournette to interrupt the continuity of Rojo’s ascension/improvement is beyond mind-boggling when he’s using the same excuse for why Tom Brady is missing open WRs and throwing INTs!! BA’s hypocrisy has reached an all-time high in these last two weeks!

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  Ron Potter
1 year ago

Pass protection and pass catching ability are the reasons BA gave in the past.

Dman
Dman(@dman)
1 year ago

Right there with ya, Jon. Question though, this can’t be all on BL, where is BA in all this. And please don’t forget the TB INT’s. Between scheme, play calling and poor execution this offense is nowhere near playoff ready. Let’s hope the next few games get us there.

Ron Potter
Ron Potter(@finalsorbust)
1 year ago

Winston would’ve thrown to Gronk. Winston is the no risk it no biscuit QB that would’ve attempted the TD throw. Yes, it might’ve turned into an INT or it might’ve been a TD, but Winston would’ve made the throw. BA’s excuse for continuity is grounds for his termination. Keeping Winston a second year with BA is called continuity. You don’t sign the GOAT and beg media and fans for patience to establish continuity. BA should be fired. I expect more out of a coach who is supposed to be wise and proven. BA’s press conference a few days ago now… Read more »

MWD
MWD(@mikewestdominguez)
Reply to  Ron Potter
1 year ago

Ron- Gronk was open- I commented that the read on this play is the safety- if you watch the clip- he comes down and attacks the flat route (Fournette) which leaves Gronk coming from the backside open. Brady just needed to be patient for one more second and then lead Gronk to the corner where either he gets it 1-1 with a backer covering him or no one does.

StPeteB
StPeteB(@stpeteb)
1 year ago

I remember when I thought Fournette was the next Adrian Peterson..im still waiting…

Knightrider79
Knightrider79(@knightrider79)
1 year ago

So this may not be popular but it is what I think. I think we should let this coaching staff go at the end of the year. We’re consistently out coached against old teams. We don’t make adjustments when we need to and by the time we do, it’s too late. Arians is being too head strong and not running an offense that Brady is comfortable with. No motions during pre-snap so Brady can get a feel for the defense. If we could bring in someone like the OC from the Patriots, someone that Brady is comfortable with, then I… Read more »

Virtual_Camel
Reply to  Knightrider79
1 year ago

I think most people agree with you.

Buc76
Buc76(@jjjj)
1 year ago

This is what I thought too. Why in the hell was Fournette in there and what garbage for play calls. Byron Leftwich is not getting it done and it’s Arian’s fault for keeping him in that job. If this team misses the playoffs which there is a good chance they might, the coaching staff needs to evaluated starting with Bruce Arians. Chances are no matter what happens he’s back but they are getting out coached every week

cgmaster27
cgmaster27(@cgmaster27)
Reply to  Buc76
1 year ago

Screw that, we miss the playoffs with this team, everyone needs to be fired. Bring in Erik Bienimy, not sure if I spelling that right and reboot. Id hate to see that happen ,but if we miss the playoffs, its reboot time.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  cgmaster27
1 year ago

With the expanded playoffs to 14 teams and the possibility of going to a 16 team playoff, there is no way the Bucs will miss the playoffs. Now if it was a 12 team playoff, it would be up in the air, but it isn’t.

The problem is once the Bucs get to the playoffs…they will have to hit the road. I’m guessing New Orleans gets a bye and the Bucs have to face Green Bay or Seattle. That could easily be a “one and done” if that’s the case.

MrFootball
MrFootball(@mrfootball)
Reply to  cgmaster27
1 year ago

Reboot again? Seems to be all this team does. Bucs are full of rentals anyway so it will happen in 2 years if we want it to or not.

chefboho
chefboho(@chefboho)
1 year ago

Said the same exact thing to my brother after the game. Rojo is lighting it up and you put the 230 pound tip toe ballet dancer back there instead. Makes no sense at all. These coaches are truly what’s holding this talent back. Yes the players themselves make mistakes but these coaches aren’t playing the players to their strength and that’s just the reality.

RW
RW(@rwp111)
Reply to  chefboho
1 year ago

The weird thing in all this is they are keeping McCoy as the 3rd back but he doesn’t get in the game. If that’s the case give the rookie Vaughn a chance. At least he runs hard.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  RW
1 year ago

His will to compete was murdered on the Will Fuller tackle in the Chicago game. It literally broke his confidence. The Bucs will have to draft another RB in the 3rd or 4th next year.

Pete Wood
Pete Wood(@littlebrownjug)
1 year ago

Y’all may have noticed that I tend to be the voice of optimism in the pewter report fan universe. But, damn it, I found myself screaming at the tv during these four downs. Horrendous play calling. Absolutely the turning point of the game.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  Pete Wood
1 year ago

Turning point of the game from the optimist was when they figured out how to cover Hill and Kelce, or when the 1st quarter ended. The Bucs were on pace to lose 58-0 after one quarter. Somehow they made it a game and fell just short.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
1 year ago

I was never a big fan of Romo as a QB but he does great analysis of a game. If you listened to him describe the game you could tell exactly where the blame was being placed. To many GO routes sticks out in my mind specifically when he described the Bucs offense. He put the blame on Mike Evans on a few plays, specifically on the one INT. When you looked at Evans and Brady talking on the sideline you could tell Evans was at fault.. I heard Romo rave constantly about Eric Bienemy and Andy Reids innovative approaches… Read more »

4CTheMarket
4CTheMarket(@4cthemarket)
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

It´s amazing how bad our receivers are understanding simple offensive things. Evans does not turn around to give Brady the easy throw when the blitz is coming. Johnson not continuing to run vs. man coverage. Those are all missed throws because Brady expects them in certain areas where they should be but are not.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

Easy to be innovative with Mahomes, Kelse and Hill. Me thinks Andy would be a bit less creative with say Trent Dilfer, Dave Moore and Riedel Anthony.

German Buc
German Buc(@german-buc)
Reply to  scubog
1 year ago

Maybe. But is some creativity really asked too much whith Brady, Evans and Gronk or Brady, Godwin and Brate??

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  scubog
1 year ago

At least your two tickets were worth 1100 dollars this time.

MrFootball
MrFootball(@mrfootball)
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

When they showed Brady talking to Evans, Evens didnt even look at Brady. It was like he was pouting on the sidelines and plays like he is going through the motions. If Evans would have blocked 1 guy Gronk would have had a TD along the sideline, instead he just watched Gronk get tackled. Would not want Evans in a foxhole with me!

Bucco-Bruce
Bucco-Bruce(@jnitinthornatt-net)
1 year ago

Obviously we aren’t going to win the Super Bowl this year and we won’t be able to keep all our good free agents next year due to the Cap being lower because of covid, so let’s start over with new coaches and Eric Bienemy would be great coming from the Andy Reid coaching tree!!!

4CTheMarket
4CTheMarket(@4cthemarket)
Reply to  Bucco-Bruce
1 year ago

Not sure he is the answer. He has Reid and Mahomes. That´s the best QB and best offensive mind in football to help you. He will be more creative with the offense but I don´t know if he can assemble a coaching staff that can win a lot of games.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
1 year ago

Good analysis Jon. For me it is the Defensive Scheme which was the game changer because it was the same ole Bucs in the first half.
We have two slow to react CB’s, Safeties and we got burned continually;
Hey Horse Whisper, your Defense/Offense schemes need to be adjusted; we’re getting worse, not better.

Ron Potter
Ron Potter(@finalsorbust)
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

Biggest blame really needs to be on offense but you’re right that the defense has issues too. The defense however, did hold the NFL’s best scoring offense below their average. Offense should’ve been better against a Chiefs defense that is ranked mediocre at best.

BrooklynBucsFan
BrooklynBucsFan(@brooklynbucsfan)
Reply to  Ron Potter
1 year ago

I think the offense had three three and outs to start the game, while the defense held them to ten points. That, plus the interceptions and the stalled 1st and goal drive are the biggest reason we lost this game, not the defense. Defense did ok considering who they were up against.

bucballer
bucballer(@bucballer)
1 year ago

U know there is a constant and steady drumbeat of we got out coached again. This is a red flag indicative of something wrong with the coaching. Does BA even take part in the game planning at his age? Does he just let the coordinators do what they do with little oversight? Why doesn’t he step in and make changes? All I see is his very red face on the sideline. Dude looks old and spent. We will have two weeks to gameplan for our next opponent. I bet we will still talk about how we got outcoached again. It’s… Read more »

Virtual_Camel
1 year ago

100% none of this is fixed for the next game. It’ll all stay the same. Garbage play calling. Garbage coaching. Garbage time management.

surferdudes
surferdudes(@surferdudes)
1 year ago

You know this is a two year experiment with Tom, and Bruce. It might be a one year experiment if things keep going this way. By the end of December we may be talking about new G.M., new coach. That’s a lot better then discussing those things in Oct so I guess we improved. What do the Glazers think of their investment in this season? That’s the real question. I can’t believe they’re happy with where we’re at. They really wanted to be the first to host the S.B.. If that’s what they expected, I would think anything less then… Read more »

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  surferdudes
1 year ago

I saw a lot of “12” jerseys in the stands. Exactly zero of them were Trent Dilfer’s #12. So sales are good.

revfish
revfish(@revfish)
1 year ago

We were at that game and totally baffled as to why Fournette came in. On second down,I thought Evans on an isolation Or a slant when he crossed the line backer that was never considered.

Underappreciated is how big the loss of OJ Howard is. Regardless, These play calls not set us up for success

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  revfish
1 year ago

I always thought a teams reticence to make changes to personnel groupings mid game or mid season was befuddling, but then Dirk Koetter gave us all a quote during Hard Knocks that speaks to the philosophy of most coaches.

“Teams are like rockets, most of the work is done beforehand.”

lambeau
lambeau(@pbmd)
1 year ago

It’s disturbing that BA is now saying it’s all on Brady–the game plan and play calling. This is not only absurd deflection, but if he can’t take resonsibility, it is unlikely to get fixed.

MWD
MWD(@mikewestdominguez)
1 year ago

First of all- Fournette half the time doesn’t even know which side the back is supposed to be in regards to where Brady is- he’s dropped several balls and as one put it- tip toes to the line where Jones hits the hole. Even if that pass was completed it was going absolutely nowhere. You have weapons for a reason- use them, especially in key and critical situations in a game or pass the damn headset to someone who can. A 20-14 game at this point changes things a little in my opinion and is huge and we found a… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by MWD
FilmBuc
FilmBuc(@filmbuc)
1 year ago

We fan sometimes think we know more than we do. But what this article is saying is painfully obvious… I have never seen such a disparity in quality between two RBs on a team before. The difference in the way Rojo runs vs Fournette is astonishing. One has all the juice and elusiveness while the other plows into the line and falls down. Look at what Rojo did on his lone reception, dodging defenders acrobatically while somehow staying in bounds. Look at Fournette above – zero ability to make a guy miss and he just falls at first contact every… Read more »