Bucs’ offense unplugged in loss to Baltimore

by Gary Shelton on December 17, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

Jameis Winston had passes dropped, but he wasn't sharp./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 4 a.m.

It was right here. Right on the way to the end zone.

You've seen it. It was fast. It was dangerous. It was special.

It was the offense of the Tampa Bay Bucs, back before someone kicked its plug out of the socket.

These days, the Bucs sputter. They rattle. They creak. What they do not get is first downs or score touchdowns. These days, no one needs a highlight reel.

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David had 12 tackles Sunday./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

The Bucs ran in place most of Sunday afternoon in a 30-12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. They plodded and they waded, but they did very little to resemble an offensive football team. It is as if they have changed so drastically to try to cut down on Jameis Winston's bad turnovers that they have sacrificed their big plays to go along with it.

For whatever reason, they are shooting blanks these days. Consider this: Going into Sunday the Bucs were averaging 430.1 yards per game; against the Ravens,  they got 241. They were averaging 25.5 points per game; against the Ravens, they got 12. They managed just 72 yards in the second half. They kept the ball only 8:47 of the 30 minutes of the playing time in the second half. They dropped passes. They committed penalties. Third down confused them.

Evans had big yardage, but also had drops./CARMEN MANDATO

"We knew we needed to get at least 21 points today, and we didn’t do it," Koetter said. "We had our chances to do it and we didn’t. I thought that was a tough call on the PI (pass interference) that they gave Mike (Evans) down there, we did have a chance to overcome it. We had our chances down there, we can only look at the things we weren’t able to do, and we got down there enough times, but you got to be able to get in the end zone.”

Otherwise, you lose. Sunday's loss was the team's ninth of the season, insuring a losing season for the seventh time in eight seasons.

The worst moments of the bad offense?

After Mike Evans caught a 64-yard pass in the second quarter, the Bucs had a second-and-three at the Ravens' four. Two plays got one yard, and led to a field goal.

Barber rushed for 85 yards../TIM WIRT

In the third quarter, a muffed put gave the Bucs the ball at the 14. That led to a field goal, too.

But the killing blow came midway through the fourth quarter with the Bucs down by eight points. On a third-and-one play at the Baltimore 30, Ryan Jensen was overwhelmed by Brandon Williams, who stuffed Peyton Barber for a three yard loss. Winston's third-down pass was off-target. (The Bucs were just three of 10 for the day on third downs).

"Every game, you've got to play good enough to win those games," Koetter said. "The last two weeks, it’s been the same story --  the offense. I think we were oh for three on third down in the second half and we couldn’t sustain. Our defense has to be on the field too long, and our defense with our depletion at linebacker, it’s tough to hold up against a team that runs the football like that.”

Winston, in particular, had a tough day in the wet weather. He threw for just 55 yards in the second half. His 157 yards were his lowest since he threw for only 145 against Chicago, but he played just a half in that game. His 54.9 rating was his second-worst of the season, behind only his four-interception day against Cincinnati. Of course, the drops were a factor.

“I thought Jameis really threw the ball well in the first half," Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said. "We didn’t do a very good job catching it, it wasn’t a throwing issue, it was a caching issue, and we didn’t have the ball for very much in the second half.”

Godwin struggled once again./STEVEN MUNCIE

The Bucs didn't figure out the red zone. They didn't figure out third down. They didn't figure out how to catch a pass. If you're counting, Chris Godwin has been targeted 13 times in the last two weeks and has one catch, which he fumbled.

"That's been the problem since I've been here," Evans said. "The red zone, we have to be better. It's not one man's fault, it's not the coaches' fault. As a collective group, we have to be better, and I don't know what we have to do to be better, but we have to figure it out, or else it will be the same every year."

Of course, it wasn't all an offense that ran out of gas. It was also a defense that couldn't slow the Ravens down. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson had some bad throws, but the Bucs had no answer for his running. The Ravens ran for 240 yards, including 104 by Gus Edwards and 95 by Jackson. We're used to seeing a bad secondary; we're not as accustomed to being trampled.

Think about this: The Bucs complain that they were on the field too much in the second half. But if they had stopped Baltimore more often, they could have sat for a while. The Ravens played keep away only because the Bucs allowed it.

"I thought our defense did a good job in the first half of containing their run game, but, similar to last week, our defense was just on the field too much in the second half," Koetter said. "So, it ends up at 37 minutes of time of possession, you can sort of see that coming there in the second half, they are a running football team, but we got to hold the ball more on offense to keep our defense off the field.”

Koetter did like the long pass to Evans, however.

“That was a scramble play," Koetter said. "That was an awesome play by Jameis. You know, Jameis, we actually had a combination on one side and then Jameis kind of in a scramble situation. To throw it down the field and be that accurate, I’m going back to what I said in the very first question I think you asked me there, in the first half, I don’t think you could have asked Jameis to throw the ball any more accurately then he did.”

The Bucs face a challenge to avoid going 5-11 for the second straight season (despite a 2-0 start). They play at Dallas next week (1 p.m. Sunday) before returning home to face Atlanta in the finale.





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