Right up until that final kick sailed through the uprights to seal the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ second win of the season, Roberto Aguayo cornered the market on fan frustration.
Two makes on four attempts may be excusable on Friday nights, but it’s abysmal on Monday nights on national television. The third and final conversion did help lessen Aguayo-based irritation, but the Bucs could help themselves out by limiting the frequency the rookie gets his number called.
Getting the ball inside opponents’ red zones and then finishing those drives off with touchdowns is a struggle that’s rolled over from last season. The Bucs moved inside the Carolina 20 four times Monday night and came away with only nine points – three field goals and one missed kick. The final drive can be excused considering it ended with time expiring and Aguayo nailing a 38-yard game winner, but that still leaves Tampa Bay with a zero-percent red zone success rate on the night.
Through five games, only seven of 14 red zone drives have resulted in six points. The 50-percent touchdown rate and 2.8 red zone trips per game are low compared to the rest of the league. The Bucs averaged 3.2 red zone attempts in 2015 but still had a tough time finding the end zone, finishing with a 52.9 percent touchdown rate.
Monday night’s first opportunity came right off the bat. Head coach Dirk Koetter chose to establish the ground game quickly and running back Jacquizz Rodgers helped it pay off by picking up 35 yards on 10 carries. That drive stalled out at the Panthers 17 with a third-down Mike Evans drop on a hook that was short of the sticks, anyhow.
“To have a 14-play drive to start the game was huge,” Koetter said Tuesday evening from One Buc Place. “Hopefully in the future we can end it in a touchdown, not a field goal.”
The first three of Tampa Bay’s red zones drives came in the first half. The Bucs hit the locker room with a 6-0 lead thanks to a solid defensive effort and two fortunate Panthers turnovers, but that advantage could have been much greater had Tampa Bay maximized its potential.
Quarterback Jameis Winston moved the offense down to the Carolina 5 midway through the second quarter. Then came Gosder Cherilus’ third-and-1 false start followed up by Winston’s delay of game that Koetter took partial responsibility for Monday. Winston missed Jackson near the right-front corner of the end zone and then Aguayo’s 33-yarder plunked the right upright.
The final first-half instance resulted in Aguayo’s 35-yard make that put the Bucs up 6-0. That drive ended at the Panthers 17 with a pair of incompletions intended for Evans in the end zone. Carolina managed to move Winston out of the pocket on second-and-5 and third-and-5, and both plays ended in low-percentage pass attempts.