Bucs defense batters a rookie QB

by Gary Shelton on November 13, 2023

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.

This time, they treated the kid like a rookie.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, a week after soft coverage against C.J. Stroud got them beat, came out with a different attack Sunday. They assaulted rookie Will Levis, harassing him, knocking him around. 

The Bucs knocked Levis down a dozen times, and they sacked him four times, and they intercepted him once (it could have been several more) in a 20-6 victory over Tennessee Sunday.

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"We were knocking the hell out of Number 8," said Bucs' linebacker Devin White. "I think that got them rattled a little bit. We could have had more turnovers than we had -- we've got to get on those JUGS guns."

The Bucs' defense was bold, predatory. The week before, against Houston, they played it safe, and the soft approach doomed them.

"We just had a clunker last week," said Bucs coach Todd Bowles. "They came back focused in practice, determined to win a ball game, we cut out a lot of mistakes. The penalties were light early, I know we got a couple late that I didn’t like, but for the most part the guys played a clean ball game. I thought offense did a good job on third down. Defense did a good job getting to the quarterback, at least trying to harass him and [Derrick] Henry didn’t go off on us.”

Levis hit seven of his first eight passes, but he hit only 13 of his next 31, and his Titans never go into the end zone. 

The win improved the Bucs’ record to 4-5. More important, it kept the Bucs in the race for the weak NFC South win.

It broke a four-game losing streak for Tampa Bay.

It was a marked improvement by the defense, which gave up 39 to Houston last week. Derrick Henry, the Titans' star running back, had jjust 24 yards on 11 carries.

Bucs’ quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 278 yards and two scores. The second of those as to Mike Evans, who caught six passes for 143 yards. He dropped a potential touchdown, however, but redeemed himself by fighting his way into the end zone on a 22-yard reception.

It was the sixth time in nine games that Mayfield has had a quarterback rating of above 90.0.

"We lost te last couple of home games, so this one was god for us," Mayfield said. "Still, we've got some things to work on. That first interception, I was just late with the ball. (Devin Thompkins) ran the right route. He was hauolin down the field. I'e just got to e on time with that."

Rachaad White scored the Bucs’ first touchdown on a 43-yard run with a screen pass.

"It was huge," Evans said of rebounding after his drop. "We just kept playing. That's what this game is about -- adversity and overcoming that. That's waht life is about."

The Bucs travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers at 4:04 p.m.

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