Bucs return to the site of their biggest loss

by Gary Shelton on October 12, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Evans faces Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals./CARMEN MANDATO

Evans faces Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 p.m.

Sunday, they return to the scene of the grime.

This is where they lost their lunch money. This is where they fumbled their dignity. This is where they threw their fortunes away.

It was a year ago, and the Arizona Cardinals were the big bully on the block. It was the most lopsided game the Bucs lost all season.

Oh, forget that the Cardinals actually finished with a worse record (7-8-1) than the Bucs (9-7) a year ago. But when the teams met head-to-head on Sept. 18, the Cards' heads finished higher than those of the Bucs.

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It was 40-7, and by halftime, it was 24-0. And that wasn't all of it.

Jameis Winston threw four interceptions.

Mike Evans was targeted 17 times and had only six catches.

Carlson Palmer threw for 303 yards.

Lavonte David had zero tackles.

Roberto Aguayo missed a field goal. Of course.

And futhermore, ouch.

“They just physically got after us and we turned it over way too many times," said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter. "When you lose the turnover battle (5-0) as far as we did last year it’s going to be tough to win. They physically beat us and took advantage of all of our mistakes. We didn’t show up to play that day and we didn’t do a good job coaching either. We’ve got to do a lot better in all phases this year.”

The Bucs had trouble matching up against Cardinals' defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mattheiu.

“He looks pretty good," Koetter said. "We had him on our game-wrecker tape today. We showed him making sacks, tackling runners in the backfield, (grabbing) an interception to win the Colts game. He is a very skilled player. He is good around the line of scrimmage. He is good as a blitzer, but yeah he is really good at reading the quarterback and coming off his guy or undercutting his guy and making plays on the football. Because we don’t see a ton of them – we don’t see all of their games [and] they’re not in our division – but to me he looks really good.”

So, too, does receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“He was one of our game-wreckers too," Koetter said. "He was on our game-wrecker tape. He’s amazing. The guy is going to be in the Hall of Fame. Not only does he make the catches that you talk about, but he is the guy that does all their dirty work. He is the guy that plays when they are in their three-wide, one tight end [sets] – someone has to block the other edge or the edge next to the tight end because everybody is in eight-man boxes now. He does the dirty work and he makes the big plays for them. He is a pro’s pro and he is definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame someday.”

Defensive coorinator Mike Smith said the defense has to play better.

“They have been throwing the ball extremely well," Smith said. "They’re second or third in the league in yards. They’re very explosive. They’re one of the top three teams in creating explosive plays. Larry Fitzgerald is still playing at a Hall of Fame level. They’ve got speed on the outside with their other receivers and they’ve got a good tight end in [Jermaine] Gresham, so it’s going to be a challenge. Then you throw in a new running back (Adrian Peterson) that hasn’t run the ball much this season when he was in New Orleans, but he is a big, strong back. I know that they’re trying to improve their run game and I think that he will be a big plus for them. It will be a challenge. We are going to have to get multiple sets of pads on him.”

Smith said that stopping newly acquired runner Adrian Peterson would be a key factor.

“He is a big, strong guy," Smith said. "He runs violently. He is a violent runner and I think I mentioned earlier, if you don’t get your pads on him and don’t get multiple sets and take good angles, he is going to break tackles. He hasn’t had an opportunity for one reason or another in New Orleans to get many touches, so he is going to be fresh and it’s going to be a challenge. We are going to have to do a very good job of taking care of our gaps and not give him a crease. If he gets through the first level and gets into the secondary, he can cause some problems. He still, I think, runs very violently and I think he still has top-end speed.”

Receiver Mike Evans said the Bucs have to play better.

"You see what they did to us last year," Evans said. "They stomped us out last year. They bring a lot of pressure and a lot of man coverage on the back end. We’ve just got to be real physical as receivers and tight ends. We’ve got to be real physical and get open.”

Evans said that Peterson was the best defensive back he faced last year.

“I’m excited to go up against all of them because they’re all in the NFL," Evans said. "They’re all the best of the best, but in my opinion, he was the best I faced last year so we will see what he’s about this year.”

Game time is 4:05 p.m. on Sunday in Arizona.

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