The Buccaneers stubbed their prime time toe once again on Monday Night Football, losing to the Rams, 27-24.
There was plenty of blame to go around and here are the most disappointing players from a frustrating loss to Los Angeles, which dropped Tampa Bay to 7-4 on the year and down to the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff race.
QB Tom Brady
For being one of the most successful prime time quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady has been bad this season in night games. On Monday night against the Rams he was awful. Like rookie quarterback awful. From his two interceptions – the Rams should have had three – to his decision-making, like attempting a 30-yard pass to Antonio Brown on third-and-9 – to his ball placement where he threw deep balls twice down the sideline that didn’t even give his receivers a chance to catch the ball in bounds – it was a terrible night for Brady.
Brady’s most egregious mistake of the night was getting greedy with 1:49 left on the clock and one timeout and just needing a field goal to send the game to overtime, he attempted a deep ball to tight end Cam Brate of all people. That was the biggest head-scratcher of the night for myself and most Bucs fans. You expect a decision like that from former QB Jameis Winston, who threw 30 interceptions last year, but not a six-time Super Bowl champion. Brady ended the night going 26-of-48 (54.1 percent) for 216 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
OC Byron Leftwich
I am becoming more and more convinced the Bucs won’t win a Super Bowl with Leftwich as the Bucs’ play-caller. Monday night he was clearly over-matched and out-coached by Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, as the Bucs finished with just 251 yards of total offense. In a game it was never out of, Tampa Bay attempted 18 running plays as opposed to 48 pass plays. So much for trying to stay balanced just a week after running for over 200 yards at Carolina. I understand the running game wasn’t going well, but to abandon it for long stretches, it makes you wonder why Leftwich did that.
And maybe more puzzling was the fact Leonard Fournette saw so many snaps despite dropping three passes. Ronald Jones II is the superior running back on this football team with four games over 100 yards rushing, and it isn’t even close. So Jones get 10 carries but Fournette gets seven and four targets as a receiver?
The Rams defense is good, really good. But the Bucs offense is just as talented as any in the NFL and yet it only came away with 251 yards?
Each member of Tampa Bay’s secondary had lapses and moments of bad play at some point on Monday night against the Rams. Early in the game it was safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield, Jr., who allowed a completion to Cooper Kupp in front of them but to make matters worse, both missed the tackle and the play went for 37 yards and led to the first Rams touchdown.
Cornerback Jamel Dean was beaten in man coverage by Van Jefferson on a slant play for a touchdown as he displayed terrible technique on the play. Nickel cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, while decent in run support with 10 tackles, was beaten on a number of passes, and even Carlton Davis III was made to look silly by Kupp on a third down reception that was good enough for a first down.
It was bad night by the secondary as Rams QB Jared Goff passed for 376 yards and completed 76 of his passes on the night with Kupp and Robert Woods both going over the century mark.
Two moments in the game summed up the night for the secondary, the first was just before the half when the Bucs allowed Goff and the Rams offense to drive down the field to get into field goal range and take a half time lead on a 35-yard screen pass to Woods. The second frustrating moment was the Rams’ go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter where they were able to quickly drive 53 yards on eight plays to take the lead for the final time on a Matt Gay field goal.
OLB Shaq Barrett
Thank goodness the Buccaneers didn’t give Barrett the long-term, big-money deal he was looking for this offseason. After a 19.5-sack season last year, Barrett has completely disappeared from games at times this season and Monday night was a perfect example. Goff got rid of the ball quickly more often that not, but on the rare occasion he took a deeper drop and held the ball for a while, Barrett was a non-factor in applying pressure.
To make his night worse, Barrett also had a neutral zone infraction on third-and-4 that extended a Rams drive, giving them a first down. Barrett registered four stops, no sacks, and no QB hurries or hits on the night.
RB Leonard Fournette
As noted above, Fournette had four pass targets but only one reception. Why? Because he dropped the other three. Fournette did score on touchdown on the evening but averaged just 2.4 yards on his seven carries.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org