Bucs’ lead was gone in less than 60 seconds

by Gary Shelton on October 23, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston threw for 385 yards, but his team lost./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston threw for 385 yards, but his team lost./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 4 a.m.

Forty-five seconds. The lead lasted 45 seconds.

You can't sell a new car in a TV add in 45 seconds. You can barely walk from your bedroom to your living room. You can't play a short song. You can't go to the bathroom.

Forty-five seconds. All you can really do in that time is break a heart.

Think about it. You spend an afternoon trying to dig yourself out of a hole, and miracle upon miracle, you manage it. You fight your way from 11-points down, and you lead in the late going.

And it lasts all of 45 seconds. In that time, the Buffalo Bills went 75 yards to tie the game, and then won it. And a team's suffering continues. The Tampa

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Normally sure-handed, Humphries fumbled late./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Normally sure-handed, Humphries fumbled late./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Bay Bucs dropped a 30-27 game to the Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon in about enough time to fall from a very tall building. Forty-five seconds? Heck, the clock between plays is almost that long.

Forty-five seconds. And a lot of bad plays can run through a team's memory.

Oh, there are games in which a team walks off the field wondering how it lost. This was not one of them.

In a season that is slipping away, that was the frustration of the Bucs' lastest defeat. Despite Jameis Winston leading a comeback, despite O.J. Howard breaking out, despite Lavonte David all over the field, the Bucs gagged on another game. And throughout, it made enough bonehead plays to lose, then lose again.

Howard had a big day for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Howard had a big day for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

– There was Robert McClain, giving up a 44-yard reception to Deonte Thompson, then compounding it with a 15-yard helmet-to-helmet hit.

– There was Donovan Smith, whiffing on a pass rush and allowing a sack-fumble.

– There was Adam Humphries, fumbling away a chance for Winston to lead the Bucs downfield again in the fourth quarter.

– There was settling for field goals on their first drives of the game, a familiar shortcoming of the Bucs.

– There was Winston, throwing long and incomplete. Granted, a deep pass is a low percentage pass. But shouldn't you hit one every now and then? Maybe one where there isn't a penalty on the play?

– There was a face mask by Demar Dotson.

– There was a holding call on Smith that negated at 53-yard completion to DeSean Jackson.It all added up to yet another loss for the Bucs. Yes, there are some plays where the Bucs remind you of the talent on the roster. Then there are some that remind you of the flaws. Once again, there wasn't nearly enough pass rush. The run fits still didn't fit. And Buffalo receivers had a lot of room.

David had 14 tackles to lead Tampa Bay./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

David had 14 tackles to lead Tampa Bay./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Granted, the Bucs made enough good plays to win. And it failed to make enough plays to keep them from it. Losing teams always do. It's usually that when the Bucs lose; their gaffes outnumber their good plays.

“Our personnel is good enough,” said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter. “Our execution isn't. We missed too many tackles and gave up too many big plays.”

You want to know who is having the season that the Bucs expected? The Rams. Maybe the the Eagles. Maybe the Vikings.

And maybe the Bills. All of those teams are overachievers. No one would ever look at the Bucs and think “overachievers.” They are too limited in too many areas.

Part of the reason is that the defense simply can't slam the door on anyone. Remember how the Cardinals made

Evans had a big touchdown catch./CARMEN MANDATO

Evans had a big touchdown catch./CARMEN MANDATO

a highlight reel against Tampa Bay? Against the Rams – who won less than half as many games as the Bucs last year – Adrian Peterson had 21 yards (after 134 yards last week against the Bucs). Larry Fitzgerald had 29 yards catching (instead of 138 against the Bucs). Before he broke his arm, Carson Palmer had 122 yards (instead of 283 yards against the Bucs).

Against a non-explosive team, the Bucs kept giving up explosive plays. Tyrod Taylor made you want to count to see if the Bucs indeed had 11 players on defense. Overall, the Bills converted six of 10 third downs.

All of which means that it isn't yet Halloween, the Bucs have turned into pumpkins. Only three teams in the league have won fewer games than the Bucs.

"I feel like we are the only ones who can dig ourselves out," Koetter said. "It hurts when you lose. It hurts a lot. But no one is coming to save us. We dug in and we've got to dig out. Your guys are your guys. I believe in those guys. All we can do is come back next week.

"My biggest concern is (that) we're 2-4. That's my biggest concern, were 2-4 and of course, when you're not playing up to expectations, it's easy for your team to shatter from the inside out. I talked to the guys about that, but talk is talk; we've got to live it, we've got to fix it ourselves."

Sure, there were some moments Sunday. Those are the fooling kind of highlights, the ones that make you think things add up. Winston, for instance, threw for 385 yards with a sore shoulder. Howard had 98 yards. Mike Evans had 88. Defensively, Lavonte David had 14 tackles, 12 of them solos. Patrick Murray kicked two field goals.

But it isn't the highlight plays that doom the Bucs. It's all of those plays in between.

"Everybody would like to be 6-0," Koetter said. "I don't think anybody is. We had a good week of preparation to come back like that and take the lead late, and give that lead up like that, that's very disappointing. It's football. We've got no one to blame but ourselves.

The Bucs were perhaps as healthy as they have been going into the Buffalo game, which is another letdown.

"They made a good play," said Humphries. "I've got to take better care of the ball."

But that's the thing, isn't it? Everyone seems to make a big play against the Bucs. Peterson. Case Keenum. Fitzgerald. Da;vin Cook. This team will be on a lot of highlight films this season.

"We stopped ourselves on every single drive," Winston said. "Every drive. So we have to fix that. I have to fix that and do a better job there. We just need to execute."

Winton has a point. The Bucs had the ball for 11 drives Sunday.  They scored on five of them (three touchdowns, two field goals). They had two fumbles and an interception. They punted twice after third-down incompletions. And they ended the game on a trick play. In the end, it wasn't enough. They didn't run the ball well enough (14 of Doug Martin's 20 carries gained three yards or less).

Once again, the Bucs said that the opponent didn't surprise them. Is that a good thing? If the Bucs knew what was coming, why didn't they do a better job of stopping it?

"We didn’t tackle," said Gerald McCoy. "They didn’t do anything weird, last week it was people out of their gaps, today we are missing tackles. They have an elusive running back, one of the best in the league, one of the best of our generation in Shady (LeSean McCoy) and an elusive quarterback. We’ve been playing (Mike) Tolbert for the past however many years he’s been in Carolina, we knew what he was capable of. We just didn't tackle."

Eventually, shouldn't someone? Shouldn't someone from the home team make a good play?

And shouldn't someone else avoid making a terrible one?

The Bucs try again Sunday against the Carolina Panthers as they begin division play. Game time is 1 p.m.

Koetter has to turn his team around in a hurry../JEFFREY S. KING

Koetter has to turn his team around in a hurry../JEFFREY S. KING


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