1. Penalties remain an issue… and that's an issue.
There's no way around it. The Bucs committed 11 penalties for 109 yards. They continue to be what plague Tampa Bay in losses like these ones. The good news is that they aren't a question of talent. They aren't a question of football IQ. They are simply a matter of execution and are therefore, fixable.
But man, are they drive killers.
"Well, I think that's, penalties, they're just, they stop drives," said quarterback Tom Brady following the game. "So we had so many third and longs and we just could never get into any rhythm, in the second half certainly, and just poor execution. So if you don't execute well and first and second down, you have third and forevers and those are tough to convert time after time after time. So we've got to tighten that up and just play a more consistent type of football. We obviously have a lot of work to do.
Maybe the one that hurt the most was a roughing the passer call on outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. He hit quarterback Nick Foles just as he got rid of the ball and the two went to the ground. Barrett did what he could in the middle of his momentum to not land directly on Foles but it wouldn't matter. He was still called for it, anyway. It stung because the Bucs had backed the Bears up to a third-and-19 situation after defensive lineman William Gholston sacked Foles for the third time on the night. It would have been a three-and-out and the Bears would have had to punt from their own 16. Now, the defense was still able to get them off the field on the next series thanks to a tipped pass by defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh on third down. But now, the Bears were punting from their own 33 and pinned the Bucs inside their own 20-yard line.
The Bucs were clinging to a two-point lead at the time and with 2:48 to go in the game, they needed a couple first downs to eventually run the clock out. What ensued would give the Bears the game-winning score. Tampa Bay went three and out and punted from deep in their own territory. The result was very favorable field position for the Bears, who started at midfield, essentially. The defense did what they could to hold them up and managed to force a 38-yard field goal try, which former Buccaneer Cairo Santos hit to ultimately make the score 20-19, where it would stay.
The domino effect of a questionable call cannot be understated. But again, you have to think (and hope) that won't continue to happen.
2. Third-down conversion rate and red zone scoring hurt, too.
Football is the ultimate team sport and because of that, most everything is interrelated. The aforementioned penalties led to challenges elsewhere on the stat sheet (and on the field, for that matter). Even after the win over the Chargers last week, wide receiver Mike Evans said the Bucs' offense needed to improve on their 50% third-down conversion rate. That didn't exactly happen tonight and it can be directly contributed to those third-and-longs Brady mentioned above. Tampa Bay converted just four of 14 third-down opportunities but when penalties put you behind the chains to begin with, a lot of times it's just too much to overcome.
Not getting those third downs then snowballed into not getting many red-zone opportunities throughout the game and though the Bucs' boasted the third-best third-down success rate in the league coming into the game, they were only able to convert one of their three trips Thursday night.
More often than not, though, they didn't get inside the 20-yard line to begin with. That really makes scoring opportunities difficult.
"Just pretty poor execution," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "We got down and we had a sack, three penalties. You're not going to beat anybody with 12 penalties or however many we had, and especially when we were down there once and ended up punting because of about six or seven penalties on one drive. So I didn't have our team ready to play, so it's obvious."
3. The defense turned it up a notch in the second half and have been really good at halftime adjustments all year.
Actually, things started in the first half when cornerback Carlton Davis III recorded his third interception of the season at the end of the first quarter, tying for the most in the league, and returned it 33 yards. It also marked a new season-high for the third-year player and he's only five games into it. The Buccaneers then did what they've been doing all year: capitalize.
The Buccaneers have 34 points scored following takeaways this season – tied for the third-most in the NFL this season. The defense itself has generated the fourth-most takeaways in the league since the beginning of last season and has the second-most points off turnovers in that span.
Following the play, the Bucs' defense went into a little bit of a lull, both from a play on the ball standpoint and even from a pass rush angle. They kicked back into gear in the second half after some adjustments. Defensive lineman Vita Vea got the ball rolling with the Bucs' first sack. It was followed by Jason Pierre-Paul and then Will Gholston to give the Bucs a total of 3.0 on the d, after a
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles also had some choice words for his secondary, including cornerback Jamel Dean, who told the media afterward that Bowles told him to be more aggressive in the second half. He proceeded to then record four pass breakups.
Dean's four games with four-or-more passes defensed in his first two seasons tied three-time Pro Bowl CB Marcus Peters for the most-such games through two seasons since passes defensed became an official statistic in 2000. It was another step up for the second-year player and speaks to the secondary's increasing consistency.
And finally, the Bucs again did something they've done all season (and last). They held the Bears to 35 net yards rushing – their third-straight game of fewer than 50 rushing yards allowed, which is the longest-such streak in franchise history. In addition, Tampa Bay's 11 consecutive games of holding its opponent to fewer than 100 rushing yards extends its franchise record and is the longest-such streak in the NFL since Detroit did it in 2014.