You’re going the wrong way, Tampa. You’re going the wrong way!
Bills 30 – Bucs 27
Oh, the pain. The pain.
Seven weeks into the season, and I’m already running out of ways to express disappointment. It’s going to be a long haul the rest of the way, isn’t it?
First, some good news: After being pulled from last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals for a possible shoulder injury, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was back at the helm yesterday. He showed no evident signs of being hampered as he went on to complete 32 of 44 pass attempts and collecting 385 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also threw interception, which thankfully ended up not costing Tampa anything in the long run.
On the other side of the ball, to say that the Bucs defense has some work to do is putting it mildly.
Up 27-20 late in the fourth quarter and with just over three minutes to play, the defensive scheme for the Bucs should’ve been straightforward: Don’t give up anything deep. Keep the Bills contained, and either force a punt or surrender no more than a field goal. Somebody didn’t get a memo.
Unfortunately, it was first-year Tampa safety Justin Evans, who (somewhat understandably) got caught up in the confusion that’s meant to happen from a pretty impressive play call by the Buffalo offensive coordinator. The Bills receivers basically did their best to fake out their coverage in unison in the hopes that someone would miss picking up whatever guy ran through their area. Evans was the one who took the bait, failing to glom onto Buffalo receiver Deonte Thompson. Result? Thompson is wide open and pulls in a sweet pass from Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and collects 44 yards on the play.
Okay, that hurt, but it’s not a fatal wound, right? Even the extra 15 yards tacked onto the end of things thanks to an unnecessary roughness call stings like a mofo, but the Bucs can still hold, right? RIGHT?
It only took two more plays for Buffalo to punch it in and tie up the game. So, here we are: 27-27 with two and a half minutes left in regulation. What do you do? If you said, “Grind it out, kill as much clock as possible while trying to position for a field goal if you can’t store a touchdown, maybe force the other team to burn any time outs they might have, and don’t do anything stupid,” then you’d be pretty close to being right.
If you said, “Fumble it away on the first play of your next possession,” you’d be Nostradamus, because that’s exactly what happened. The Bills recovered said fumble, then went on to execute the plan outlined in the previous paragraph. With 14 seconds left in the game, Buffalo booted a chip shot field goal to pull ahead 30-27.
We don’t even bother discussing that ridiculous lateral-palooza the Bucs attempted on the ensuing series. End of game.
The loss drops Tampa to 2-4 on the season and a comfortable grip on the bottom rung of the NFC South Division standings ladder. The good news is that both Carolina and Atlanta lost, so the Bucs maintain their gaps behind those two teams. The bad news is that New Orleans is on fire and celebrating a 4-game winning streak. So, you know…none of this is getting easier for Tampa anytime soon.
Next up for the Bucs? They’re at home to host the aforementioned Carolina Panthers. At the Week 8 mark, it’s not exaggeration to say that this will be a must-win situation for Tampa. Period. Division games at this point are critical. Gotta have ’em, yo. More importantly, the Bucs absolutely have to fix the holes in their defensive scheme – and pretty damned quick – or the rest of this season is going to be long and miserable. I’ll be keeping my fingers and my swords crossed.
Bucs life. Grr. Argh.