Have you exhaled yet? The drama was at an all-time high, as the Bucs pulled out a 19-17 win in a sloppy, rainy game. Millions were watching with anxious anticipation, as Nick Folk lined up to kick a 56-yard go-ahead field goal. The long boot hit off the left upright and bounced away – no good.
The Bucs prevailed in a back-and-forth game over the Patriots on Sunday Night Football to increase their record to 3-1 on the season and get in a tie for first place in the NFC South. It was not all pretty, though, as Tampa Bay once again committed many mistakes. Had it not been for a strong drive with four minutes to go by Brady and the offense to take the lead, Tampa Bay would be holding a loss.
Here were the most disappointing players from the game.
P Bradley Pinion
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You really can’t start much worse in a game then kicking the ball out of bounds before the end zone on the opening kickoff. Pinion isn’t on the field that often, so when he makes a mistake, it’s more noticeable than others. With the power he has in his leg, I’m curious why he didn’t just kick it out of the end zone. We’ve seen Pinion do that multiple times this season, so it was surprising to not see him do it there. Pinion averaged 42.5 yards per punt on four attempts, with none landing inside the 20. There’s been a decline in his punting since a great first week.
CB Richard Sherman
It was clear that the Patriots were picking on Sherman to start the game. You can’t really blame them, considering Sherman only began practicing with the Bucs on Wednesday. I’ll back Sherman up that his pass interference penalty on third down was a bad call, but he also got beat multiple times by Kendrick Bourne and company on a Patriots scoring drive. The Patriots later attacked Sherman, as they once again took the lead in the fourth quarter after another touchdown. I wouldn’t be too concerned about Sherman moving forward. Once he’s more familiar with the defensive scheme and in playing shape, he’ll be fine. He finished the game with seven tackles and a fumble recovery.
RG Alex Cappa
Cappa and Ronald Jones were responsible for allowing a sack to Matthew Judon during a play where they were supposed to double team him as Cappa pulled on a play-action pass. It’s inexcusable that a sack should occur that quickly when you have two men blocking a pass rusher. Cappa later got dismantled by Lawrence Guy on a second-and-1 play that stopped Leonard Fournette at the line of scrimmage, with the following play being an incomplete pass to force a punt. This came right after the Bucs got a big turnover. You can’t have poor blocking like that and not convert on a first down when you have second-and-short.
LT Donovan Smith
Judon appeared to be trouble for the whole offensive line. Smith had an extremely costly illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty while negating what was a 45-yard completion from Brady to Antonio Brown down the field. It pushed the Bucs too far back to regain the first down, ending with a punt. It’s costly penalties in big moments such as this that have hurt the Bucs all season long despite their 3-1 record.
TE O.J. Howard
With Rob Gronkowski out for the game, one would think there would be a bigger role for Howard. This was not the case, as Howard has been relegated to the third string (now backup) tight end. His lone contribution to this game was a false start penalty that moved the Bucs back and eventually forced them to punt. We’ll see if he’ll get more opportunities depending on how long Gronkowski is out for.
TE Cam Brate
Brate was the go-to tight end with Gronkowski out, but didn’t bring a ton to the table. He had an egregious drop on a pass that hit him right on the hands over the middle. It would have went for a first down and kept the Bucs drive going down 7-6, but they had to punt instead. He made up for it later with a big third down catch in the red zone, but he was wide open. Earlier in the game, Brate was bodied by Kyle Dugger in man coverage, giving Brady no window for a throw on 3rd down. He caught two passes for 29 yards on Sunday night.
KR Jaydon Mickens
Mickens has been solid in the return game this season, though it was not the case on Sunday night. His lone kick return attempt got him a 13-yard gain and put the Bucs way back in field position. He fumbled on a punt as well, which he was bailed out on because the Patriots committed a penalty. A fumble at that point could have prevented the Bucs from coming away with the win.
Bucs Red Zone Offense
The Bucs didn’t have too many issues moving down the field, it was in the red zone where their drives stopped. They failed to score on all but one of their trips to the red zone, which came on a touchdown run by Ronald Jones II. Credit the Patriots defense for tightening things up when it mattered most, but there were dropped passes, missed throws and poor execution that kept this game closer than it should have been.