Bucs fall short of expectations in defeat

by Gary Shelton on September 14, 2020

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.


Is there a better way to describe it. After all the hype, after all the expectations, the Tampa Bay Bucs came crashing to earth Sunday afternoon. Despite Tom Brady, despite Rob Gronkowski, despite everybody, the Bucs lost a 34-23 decision to the New York Saints.

And furthermore, splat.

All of the new faces couldn't overcome the old mistakes of a franchise Sunday. At first glance, this year's Bucs really didn't look a lot different than last year's Bucs.

:After the way we practiced for the last two weeks," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "I would have never thought that I’d see us have that many penalties, turnovers and basically a mental error that really cost us once we got back into the game in coverage. It’s round one. We’ve lost round one, and we’ll get ready for round two.”

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For instance:

The quarterback threw a pair of interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

The field goal kicker had an attempt blocked.

Left tackle Donovan Smith had a difficult day trying to block.

Not enough? Well, there was also this:

Running back Ronald Jones gained only 28 yards in the first half.

Gronkowski caught only two passes for 11 yards.

Penalties -- the Bucs led the league last year -- plagued Tampa Bay, including jumping offsides on a fourth-and-two play when the Saints were obviously trying to draw the Bucs offside.

And so on.

“I didn’t see any of that coming. we practiced all of that stuff," Arians said. "We had a poorish protection up the middle on the long field goal. He had good time. He hit it good. We just got beat inside. And then you never go backwards for a football, you learn that [expletive] in high school. Mike Edwards decided to go backwards for a ball and it’s another thing that you practice and you never anticipate guys doing it in the heat of the battle.”

Granted, it was a tough opening-day assignment for the Bucs. Most expect the Saints to win the NFC South this year, and being an experienced team, they were far more cohesive.

Still, the highly anticipated new faces all struggled. Brady, for instance, was brought in to put an end to the interception problems of Jameis Winston. Instead, he was much the same.

"One was a miscommunication between he and Mike (Evans)," Arians said. "He thought Mike was going down the middle. It was a different coverage and Mike read it right. He should have bent across his face but Tom just overthrew it. The other one was a screen pass with an outlet called and he threw the outlet and it was a pick-six. It was a bad decision.

“He came out lighting it up and we go right down the field and scored a touchdown, so I wouldn’t say that he was out of sync at all until we started screwing it up. We didn’t run the ball as well as I thought we would on the edges. We had some success but we had some good drives and we had some really poor drives but the turnovers and the penalties were the key.”

Game Balls

Defense: Devin White had 11 tackles to tie for the Bucs' lead. In his second season, he might be a force.

Offense: Chris Godwin had seven catches for 79 years. He's still a threat.

Special teams: Punter Bradley Pinion averaged 47.6 yards on five punts.


Quarterback: If someone was going to throw pick-sixes, wouldn't it have been cheaper to stick with Jameis Winston? Brady had to be shocked by how little help he got Sunday. Grade: D-.

Running back: Arians keeps praising Ronald Jones II. Here's a suggestion. Maybe Arians should raise his standards. Grade: C-.

Wide receiver: Mike Evans always has a tough time against New Orleans. He has to be better. Grade: C.

Offensive line: The Bucs struggled to run and didn't protect Brady. As a unit, there wasn't a lot to like.

Defensive line: No sacks for Shaq Barrett. But the Saints averaged only 2.4 yards per run. Grade: B.

Linebackers: Both White and Lavonte David had 11 tackles each. Grade: A.

Secondary: The Bucs were at least fiesta, but Brees hit 19 of 31 passes. Grade: C_/

Kicking game: A blocked field goal and a kickoff return that is botched leads to trouble. Grade: D-.

Quarterback Debuts

(Tom Brady isn't the first Bucs' quarterback to scuffle in his first start. A few reminders).

Player Year Opponent Result A-C Yds. Tds Ints Rating

Brady 2020 New Orleans L 23-36 239 2 2 78.4

Winston 2015 Tennessee L 16-33 320 2 2 64.0

Freeman 2008 Green Bay W 14-31 205 3 1 86.1

Garcia 2007 Seattle L 19-27 209 0 0 91.7

Simms 2004 New Orleans W. 5-8 68 0 0. 89.6

Dilfer 1995 San Francisco L 7-23 45 0 1 21.8

Testaverde 1987 New Orleans. L 22-47 389 2 2 70.3

Young 1985 Detroit W 16-27 167 0 0 77.2

Williams 1978 Giants L 1-5 9 0 1 0.0

Steve Spurrier. 1975 Houston. L. 8-21 90 0 2 12.1

5 More Thoughts

I laughed out loud when the Saints piped in fake noise from the invisible fans, and it was booing. So not only are you being Milli-Vanilli with the noise, you're making an editorial position of how the fans would have felt. Right.

The Bucs will be better this week because they play the Panthers, who aren't as good as the Saints. The receivers will look quicker, and the line will block a bit better (not Smith, though).

Rob Gronkowski did unretire, didn't he?

In 2003, Brady threw four interceptions on opening day in a 31-0 loss to Buffalo. Yeah, he's had bad starts before.

What's more cursed? The Bucs at quarterback, the Bucs at running back or the Bucs at field goal kicker? Discuss.

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