You never want to start your season with a loss – especially at home. Yesterday’s season opener saw a tremendous performance by the defense, in which they allowed just a 38% efficiency rate on third down from San Francisco and held them to no points on three red zone possessions. Second-year safety Jordan Whitehead led the team with eight combined tackles and veteran inside linebacker Lavonte David had seven himself, including one for a loss in his first week back following a knee procedure. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves had the second interception of his career that he took back to the end zone for the Bucs' only first half points. The game, unfortunately, came down to penalties and turnovers, with the Bucs losing the latter battle 4-2.
“We talked all week about winning the turnover battle and when it’s four to two, it’s always going to be tough,” Head Coach Bruce Arians said immediately following the game. “Especially, [when] we get a pick-six, then we give up two. There’s a lot of good things we’ll build off of. [With a] short week, it’s not going to be easy. But, we’ll be at work tomorrow and watch this film. Learn from it.”
Turnovers added to the 11 penalties the Bucs incurred on Sunday, two of which negated touchdowns. They also resulted in extended drives and better field position, putting the defense in bad positions. The message after the game was simple: the Bucs have to stop beating themselves.
“I don’t think there is any doubt about it,” Arians said of the loss being a result of ‘Bucs beating Bucs’. “That’s what we talked about it at the half even and before the game. Right now; that was the message. When we stop beating ourselves, we’ll be pretty good.”
“We definitely had a lot of opportunities,” Quarterback Jameis Winston continued. “Our defense played great. We just turned the football over at some unfortunate times and they went back for touchdowns so we gave them points.”
The team won’t have to wait long to get the bad taste out of their mouths. They play the division-rival Carolina Panthers on Thursday night – which is three short days, if you’re counting at home. Perhaps the only silver lining of such a short week is it simply doesn’t allow you the time to sulk on the loss. You immediately have to get refocused and that’s what the players plan on doing.
“We want Week 1 to be perfect,” wide receiver Mike Evans said after Sunday. “We want to come out and just be hitting it in stride. We want the quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards, everyone wants to have 100-plus yards receiving, running backs want to run for 200 yards, but it didn’t happen. We are off to a slow start, but we’ve got a game Thursday night – we’ve got to be ready for a division foe.”
View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 1 matchup against San Francisco.