Looking back at the Bucs’ loss to Pittsburgh

by Gary Shelton on September 26, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

For all concerned, Fitzpatrick needs to start./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

5 Observations

1. Here is why you stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick. It's better for the team, because Fitz has thrown for more than 400 yards three times. It's better for the coaches, who will announce to the team they're doing the right thing. And it's better for Winston. Can you imagine the reaction if Winston comes off of suspension and plays horribly?

2. This is a running game? Remember, Peyton Barber had an 18-yard run early, and he finished with eight carries for 33 yards. That's seven carries for 15 yards the rest of the way.

3. Is there a Bucs fan who wouldn't have taken a 2-1 start against this schedule? And if so, can he please go suck a lemon?

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4. I'm still waiting to see a replay that shows me that Chris Godwin was touched down on the 56-yard touchdown that was called back. I've watched it with both eyes.

5. If someone had a stopwatch on DeSean Jackson on his punt return, I think he covered the first 40 yards in about 2.7 seconds. But I may be guessing.

Koetter won't say who will start./JEFFREY S. KING

(From Dirk Koetter's Tuesday Press Conference)

(On his quarterbacks): “I know there’s a lot of interest in the quarterback thing and I did talk to both Jameis and Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick). Great to see Jameis back in the building. He was here early and working hard. Welcome Jameis back – we’re glad to have him. Short week and he assured me that he (is) ready to go, which I don’t doubt for a minute that he’s been working hard. We know what we’re going to do. Both guys know what we’re going to do. Hope everybody can appreciate that it doesn’t do us any good to tell our opponents what we’re going to do. That’ll work itself out here as the week goes on. We do have a plan and both guys are aware of it.”

(On what made Fitzpatrick better in the second half):— “We protected him better — number one. We had some very uncharacteristic combination of missed protection opportunities. We had a couple of route break offs that we haven’t been having. Missed communication on routes. Fitz tried to make a couple throws with someone right in his face, where he wasn’t really able to follow through. He’s made some throws like that where he’s had his arm up high trying to throw over somebody, but he sort of had to short-arm it. A combination of all those things basically led to three interceptions. You’re not going to turn it over three times in a half and win very many games. We protected him much better in the second half. I thought Fitz got the ball out of his hands quicker in the second half. We went to some — not entirely — but to some quicker hitting plays, more rhythmic passing plays. We got a little momentum going. That first drive in the third quarter was like the longest drive ever. One of the things that hurt us a lot last night is we gave too many points away. The drive in the first half when we got sacked, gave up a sack, knocked out of field goal range. We’re on the 12 yard-line, we throw an interception. You’re almost guaranteed a field goal — you get nothing. Right before the half, we went down there. First and goal at the five (yard-line) we have to settle for a field-goal — possible four points right there. And then that first drive of the third quarter, eight-minute drive first-and-goal at the six (yard-line) — have to settle for a field-goal. Those missed opportunities when you’re looking back at a three-point deficit, those really add up.”

(On the red zone inefficiency): “Like it always is — it’s a combination. On the interception going in, we turn a blitzer free. He’s free right in Fitz’s face. Fitz tries to get the ball out on time. The guy blocks in. This is just how crazy — the ball goes straight in the air, their nickel intercepts it, meanwhile he’s supposed to be covering Adam Humphries in the far flat. Adam Humphries is wide open in the flat — the guy blows an assignment. We’re basically throwing hot off our right side and it ends up being an interception. That’s what happened. That’s a bad ball by us. We had another play where the ball was on the money. I know if Chris Godwin had that a hundred times he’d think he was going to catch 95 of those. The defender made a good play grabbing his arm in there — that was good play by him. We had a couple runs where we didn’t block it clean enough. We had a free hitter in the hole. As we talked about last year when we talked about that — rarely is it one single thing. It’s one single thing on this play then something else on this play then something else on this play.”

(On the possiblity of the team picking a side in the quarterback race): “It’s possible — yeah, it’s possible. I worry about a lot of stuff, but I also trust our guys. I trust our guys that they’ll know that we’re making the move that’s in the best interest of our team. I think our guys just want to win and I think the second half last night was a good example. When you go in three touchdowns, three scores down at halftime and the fight was still there in our guys. Just in the locker room. Proud of the way they competed and came back. No matter what the adversity is, I think our guys will try to fight through it. This quarterback issue we have right now is not an adversity. We are blessed. I think we have three good quarterbacks on our roster right now and not all teams in the league can say that. I think we can win – Griff hasn’t proven it yet, but I think we have two guys that we can win with and a third guy that I’d love to get him a shot some time.”

(On the injury to safety Chris Conte): “Unfortunate that Chris is going to be out for a while and we had to put him on IR today. There’s a chance — we’re hopeful that he’d be a guy that we could possibly bring back later in the season, but that totally depends on health. As we’ve said many times in this room, that’s one of the most difficult parts of this game, seeing guys that have worked hard and are playing well not be able to keep playing. Jordan Whitehead has come in and played in these first few games and he’s off to a good start in his career and then Isaiah Johnson filled in a little bit last night. Right now, that would be the remaining part of our depth. We’ll just have to see what happens with the roster here in the next couple days.”

Vance McDonald ran over Chris Conte./JEFFREY S. KING

5 of the Best Takes

"Had Fitzpatrick been as sharp as he had in the season’s first two weeks, the opportunities were there for another half-dozen touchdown passes or so. Nor was it lost on the veteran quarterback that if he just kept banging on this defense, he could drag the home team back into it late.

"Which he did, because of course he did. This was the Steelers defense when it walked into Raymond James Stadium, and it was the Steelers defense when it walked out 30-27 winners on a night when it was good and bad and lucky. Tampa Bay had a punt return touchdown by DeSean Jackson in the second half called back on one of the game’s 22 penalties (13 by Pittsburgh) or the Steelers might still be winless this morning."

-- Gene Collier, Pittsbirgh Post-Gazette

"The emphasis on officials calling roughing-the-passer personal fouls isn’t going away. Whether it’s applying too much body weight or giving the quarterback an extra nudge – or bop on the head in one instance –the NFL is continuing its crackdown on perceived late hits on passers. Each team was flagged twice for roughing the passer, including Stephon Tuitt and Sean Davis of the Steelers. Jason Pierre-Paul of the Bucs was called for roughing when his hand came down on Ben Roethlisberger’s head after a pass.

"Some of the calls were borderline at best, ridiculous at worst. There was some griping about it after the game, but the NFL has shown no signs of relaxing its rules on protecting the quarterback. Until that happens, teams that thrive on rushing the passer – such as the Steelers – will have their efforts undermined by a sea of yellow flags."

-- Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"Vance McDonald's stiff arm during this touchdown run while down 7-0 might have been the play to turn around the season.

"Chris Conte was the one who got shoved down there. He'd later leave the game with an injured knee. I didn't realize your pride was located in your knee."

-- Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

'The roughing the passer penalty is broken. Pete Morelli's crew called four roughing the passer penalties Monday night, including two that came as a result of pass rushers landing on opposing quarterbacks with their body weight -- a la Clay Matthews, and just as egregious. The four roughing calls were the most such penalties called in a single game since 2001, according to the ESPN broadcast.

"I don't want to criticize officiating especially when you're talking about a penalty that's helping the quarterback out," Roethlisberger said laughing after the game. "But there sure are a lot of them. I can't imagine the fans at home are enjoying it too much." Damn right."

-- Jeremy Bergman, NFL.com

"It was interesting to hear Tomlin say last week that he isn’t calling the defensive plays. I’ve heard the exact opposite, that he is calling plenty and has been since late last season after Ryan Shazier’s spinal injury in Cincinnati. You might remember the season ended with a 45-42 home playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars when the defense allowed 378 yards.

It’s hard to put too much blame on Butler if Tomlin isn’t allowing him to do his job. Bottom line, as head coach, Tomlin is responsible for the entire team, including the defense. But not even the great LeBeau could work magic with this Steelers defense. In fact, it was pretty bad in his final couple of seasons with the team. Many of the players aren’t good enough."

-- Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The Steelers are the most-penalized team in the NFL after three weeks, and it’s not really close. Those yellow flags ejected from the waistbands of officials are now more visible than Terrible Towels at Steelers games.

The penalty issues are so significant that coach Mike Tomlin opened his Tuesday news conference lamenting the penalties that plagued his team in their 30-27 victory in Tampa Bay on Monday night. The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 155 yards. Half of those penalties were for 15 yards for roughing the passer, unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness.

The Steelers have committed 44 penalties in the first three games, 12 more than any other team in the NFL. Thirty-seven of those have been accepted. The 361 penalty yards against the Steelers are almost 100 more than any other team in the league. The next closest team is Philadelphia, which has accumulated 266 yards in penalties."

-- Ray Fittipaldi, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Evans is second in the NFL in yardage./JEFFREY S. KING

Game Balls

Offense: Mike Evans, it seems, is up for the award every week. He caught six passes for 137 yards against the Steelers, and I'd like to see him have another shot at pass in the three-and-out series late in the game.

Defense: Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger Sunday night. Yes, he was called for two roughing the pass penalties, but in today's sneeze-at-him penalty calls, it's hard to hold that against him.

Kicker: Chandler Catanzaro did everything right.

Barber hasn't broken free this year./JEFFREY S. KING


Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three picks in the first half,  but he rallied in the second to make a game of it. He becomes the first NFL quarterback in history to have three straight 400-yard days. Grade: B.

Running back: I'm still not sold that the Bucs can move the ball on the ground. That begs this question: How bad must Ronald Jones be? Grade: D-.

Offensive line: Not much running room and three sacks. Not a great night. Grade: C.

Receivers: The Bucs can play, even when teams go out to take the deep ball away. Grade: B+.

Defensive line: The Bucs controlled the run and sacked Ben Roethlisberger three times. Grade: B.

Linebackers:  Tackling machines Lavonte David (9) and Kwon Alexander (8) were among the Bucs' leaders once again. Grade: B.

Secondary: The Bucs still give up far too high a completion percentage. Grade: C.

Kickers: All in all, it was a good night for the Bucs. Grade: B.

Dungy joins the Bucs' Ring of Honor./JEFFREY S. KING

5 Guys Who Need to Be in the Bucs' Ring of Honor

1. Ronde Barber

2. John Lynch

3. Hardy Nickerson

4. Batman Wood

5. Simeon Rice

Cameron Brate caught a touchdown pass./JEFFREY S. KING

5 Best Plays

1. 1-10-44 -- Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Mike Evans with a 51-yard pass to set up a first and goal at the Steelers' five.

2. 2-10-24 -- Fitzpatrick hit Evans again, this time for a 24-yard touchdown. Those were the last yards the Bucs gained all night.

3. 1-10-22 -- Peyton Barber hasn't had a lot of success this year, but on this down, he burst for 18 yards -- more than half of his rushing total -- to set up the Bucs' first touchdown.

4. 1-4-4 -- The Bucs have been slow to get tight end Cameron Brate involved in the passing game. But he completed a Harvard-to-Harvard touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown pass.

5. 3-3-27 -- It isn't easy to sack Big Ben, but Jason Pierre-Paul got him twice. On this one, he also forced a fumble, but the Steelers recovered.

Jackson's punt return was called back./JEFFREY S. KING

Five Worst Plays

1. 2-10-2 -- The thing is, it was supposed to be a safe pass, just a little flip to Jaquizz Rogers for a little breathing room. But Bud Dupree picked it off and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown.

2. 3-10-25 -- It was bad enough to Vance McDonald broke open for a huge gain, but 40 yards downfield, he crushed safety Chris Conte, knocking him to the ground with a stiff-arm.

3. 4-11-37 -- The Bucs might have used this play to ignite a comeback. DeSean Jackson fielded a punt on his own 17 and sped down the sideline to the end zone. Alas, there was a holding call on Isaiah Johnson.

4. 2-10-12 -- The Bucs, trailing 16-7, seemed to be headed for at least a field goal, maybe more. But a pass by Fitzgerald was batted at the line and intercepted by Terrell Edmunds.

5. 2-11-23 -- The Bucs were moving midway through the second period. Fitzpatrick had just hit Mike Evans for 27 yards, then he hit Chris Godwin for 12. But Godwin fumbled the ball, and two plays later, Pittsburgh took a 16-7 lead.

Fitzpatrick is sacked by the Steelers./JEFFREY S. KING

Quarterback Yardage Leaders

1`. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bucs         78   111     1,230      11     4

2.  Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers   92   139     1,140       7     4

3. Drew Brees, Saints             104   129     1,078       8    0

4. Kirk Cousins, Vikings           95   139       965       7     2

5. Jared Goff, Rams                71  101       941       6     2

Bucs finished 2-1 with three tough games./JEFFREY S. KING

Power Rankings

ESPN                                        13

CBS Sports                              13

Sporting News                        15

Bleacher Report                      12

Sports Illustrated                   17

Evans usually turns catches into first downs./JEFFREY S. KING

Receiving Yardage

1. Michael Thomas, Saints                       38           398

2. Mike Evans, Bucs                                  23           367

3. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh      27            356

4. Adam Thielen, Vikings                         32            338

5. Brandin Cooks, Rams                            19            336

Passing Yards After Three Games

Fitzpatrick goes over the play charts./JEFFREY S. KING

Most Passing Yards in Three Games

Player (Team) Year Yards

1. Tom Brady (NE) 2011 1,327

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick (TB) 2018 1,230

3. Kurt Warner (STL) 2000 1,221

4. Drew Bledsoe (NE) 1994 1,166

5. Peyton Manning (DEN) 2013 1,143

Evans tackled after making a catch./JEFFREY S. KING

Most Receiver TDs, Bucs' History

1. Mike Evans, 2014-Pres        35

2. Jimmie Giles, 1978-86.         34

3. Kevin House, 1980-85        31

4. Joey Galloway 2005-07      28

5. Mark Carrier, 1987-92        27

Davis played well against Pittsburgh./JEFFREY S. KING

Ranking the Second Round Picks

(Under Jason Licht)

1. Ali Marpet

2. Donovan Smith

3. Justin Evans

4. Carlton Davis

5. M.J. Stewart

6. Noah Spence

7. Roberto Aguayo

8. Austin Seferian-Jenkins

9, Ronald Jones

McCoy has been better than people think./JEFFREY S. KING

2013-18 NFL Sack Leaders

(Defensive Tackles)

Rank         Player             Sacks

1.  Gerald McCoy, Bucs                41.5

2. Geno Atkins, Bengals 41.5

3. Aaron Donald, Rams                39.0

4. Jurrell Casey, Titans             36.5

5. Kawann Short, Panthers            31.5

Kwon Alexander makes a stop for the Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING


         Rank                          Players                  Tackles

8                   Lavonte David                    27

15                  Kwon Alexander                24

63                 M.J. Stewart                       18

74                 Justin Evans                       17

124               Chris Conte                          14

Fitzpatrick is expected to start again./JEFFREY S. KING

5 Closing Thoughts

1. Good news, Jamies. You're in! The thing is, you're going to play free safety.

2. It still challenges belief that the Bucs have gotten zero out of their first two draft choices. It isn't like they are deep at defensive tackle or running back. It's hard to blame Vita Vea for being hurt, but Ronald Jones is starring in a version of Where's Waldo.

3. Do you think the San Francisco 49ers, who lost Jimmy Garoppolo, would call about Ryan Fitzpatrick?

4. Fourteen teams have won more games than the New England Patriots.

5. People who have a more physical lifestle than today's quarterbacks: 1. Gymnasts; 2. Grocery shoppers; 3. Cheerleaders.

Looking Ahead

5 Best Bears

1. Walter Payton

2. Dick Butkus

3. Gayle Sayers

4. Mike Singletary

5. Dan Hampton

5 Favorite Bears

1. Peanut Tillman

2. Doug Atkins

3. Wilber Marshall

4. Bronco Nagurski

5. Red Grange

5 Famous Bears Fans

1. Barrack Obama

2. Oprah Winfrey

3. Bill Murray

4. Jim Belushi

5. Mila Kunis

Best Game

Sometimes, there are games that longtime fans just will not believe. The victory over the Bears in 1989 was one of those.

The Bucs won a 42-35 shootout, and for one afternoon, the world worked the way the Tampa Bay brass planned it. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Lars Tate (yeah, him) rushed for 112 yards. Receivers Bruce Hill and Mark Carrier caught passes for 107 and 105 yards.

There weren't many such afternoons for Tampa Bay. But this one counted.

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