The Bucs showed fight Sunday night in Dallas, but a few too many flaws made for a somber flight back to Tampa Bay.
There were issues along the offensive line once again, quarterback Jameis Winston would back up a phenomenal play with a head-scratcher, and scoring touchdowns in the red zone continues to be a challenge. Challenges with the ball resulted in the Bucs defense being on the field for more than 36 minutes and going up against 71 Cowboys plays.
Tampa Bay showed it can hang with or beat some of the NFL’s top teams throughout its five-game winning streak and that didn’t change in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football. Below are a few things PewterReport.com believes kept that run of victories from extending to six.
T GOSDER CHERILUS
The big fella from Haiti had been performing well in his role as the team’s swing tackle and coming in for a handful of jumbo package plays.
That same level of success hasn’t followed Cherilus as he’s taken over full-time right tackle duties for injured starter Demar Dotson. Things got so bad Sunday night that Cherilus’ replacement at swing tackle, Leonard Wester, subbed in for some late snaps at right tackle.
One of the roughest moments of the night came as the entire offense unraveled in the fourth quarter. Dallas had just tied the game 20-20 early in the fourth and Cherilus got worked twice in three plays. The first, which coincided with right guard Ali Marpet also getting beat, resulted in Winston getting sacked for a 6-yard loss by Cowboys defensive end David Irving. The second resulted in pressure on Winston and a sailed pass that got intercepted by safety Jeff Heath.
Cherilus wasn’t the only Buccaneer to look overmatched against Dallas’ front four.
In addition to Winston taking nine hits and four sacks, Tampa Bay got next to nothing on the ground. Sunday’s 52 net rushing yards is the Bucs’ lowest output of the season. Running back Doug Martin logged 16 of the team’s 20 attempts and gained just 42 yards. Charles Sims ran three times for four yards. No running play went for longer than eight yards.
Early in the year it was kicker Roberto Aguayo making weekly appearances on this list. Now it’s the Bucs’ inability to put a bow on nice, long drives. At least Aguayo is making more of his kicks.
A golden opportunity to assert themselves as serious challengers and go up 7-0 was squandered when the Bucs’ first drive died at the Cowboys 7.
Then when Dallas was on its 17-point, first-half run, Winston sabotaged another march inside the Cowboys 10 with his inexcusable head-butt of linebacker Justin Durant. The Bucs were at the Cowboys 8 before Martin got stuffed for a five-yard loss. Clearly fired up, Winston committed the unnecessary roughness infraction that pushed the offense back to the 28.
Two drives that need to end in six points each combined to score six points total. The Bucs are now 22nd in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 52.1 percent of trips inside the 20. That number is at 40 percent the last three games.