I’d like to say a loss like this is a real kick in the teeth, but that one went wide left, too.
Patriots 19 – Bucs 14
The hell, Tampa? You’re hosting in prime time before a national – nay, global – audience. You’re pitting our offense against a defense that’s ranked dead freakin’ last. Your defense is firing on all cylinders. This was really your game to lose.
I guess we should just get this out of the way: Yes, if Bucs kicker Nick Folk makes two of the three field goals he missed during this game, that covers the score gap and Tampa goes home the winner. Sure, making a 56-yard attempt is a tall order. We can give him that one because kickers miss from that distance all the time. The 49-yarder is a little iffy, but hey! We’re playing NFL football, here. And the kicked from 31-yards? Well, it seemed pretty clear that Folk was deep in his own head by the time he was asked to notch that one, late in the fourth quarter and with the Bucs needing two scores to have any chance of stealing the win out from under the Pats.
Wait. I already gave you the final score. Spoiler alert.
Despite Folk’s difficulties navigating the uprights, the Bucs somehow managed to keep things close. The defense handed Tom Brady his first interception of the season, and also recovered a fumble. Unfortunately, the Tampa offense was unable to capitalize on either of these opportunities, which included one of Nick Folk’s aforementioned critical missed field goals. Despite throwing for 330+ yards, Bucs QB Jameis Winston only managed a single TD pass. New England managed to stall and stymie Winston and his crew most of the night. Still, workhorse running back Doug Martin contributed another score and was Tampa’s leading rusher, collecting 74 hard-won yards on 13 carries.
For a brief moment, it looked like Winston might engineer his second last-minute come-from-behind victory in as many weeks, as he guided the Bucs offense to within striking distance of a go-ahead touchdown with just seconds remaining. It came down to the wire with Winston firing one last pass toward the end zone which never found tight end O.J. Howard. End of game.
Despite a valiant effort that more cynical folks might classify as “too little, too late,” the Bucs drop to 2-2 and the cellar of the NFC South Division. New Orleans and Atlanta won’t play this weekend, leaving only Carolina with a chance to improve to 4-1 and retain control of the division.
Next up? Tampa won’t play until a week from Sunday, when they travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals, who are also nursing a 2-2 record going into this weekend’s game against Philadelphia. The Bucs have ten days to figure out what’s what, particularly with Nick Folk. Here’s hoping they get some things sorted.
Sigh. Bucs life.