Behind the scenes photos from the Bucs' matchup with the Houston Texans.
Lovie Smith met with the press on Monday afternoon, approximately 24 hours after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Houston Texans, 19-9, at NRG Stadium in Houston. In the interim, Smith and his team had an opportunity to review the tape from that game and gain a more detailed understanding of what unfolded in Week One of the 2015 season.
So, upon further review, here are a few things Lovie Smith and the rest of us learned from – and/or what new questions were raised by – the Buccaneers' first win of the 2015 campaign.
1. The Bucs' third-down woes were often just a matter of simple execution, or the lack thereof.
The most glaring statistical advantage that the Texans had in Sunday's game came on third-down plays. While Houston converted a respectable eight of 18 tries, or 44.4%, the Buccaneers succeeded on only one of 12 tries, or 8.3%. Tampa Bay had a 9-7 lead at halftime but didn't score again as they failed to convert a single third down in the last two quarters.
Some of that was a function of how well the two offenses fared on first and second downs. None of the Buccaneers' 12 third-down tries was shorter than four yards, while the Texans needed three yards or less on six of their 18 attempts. Fully half of Houston's third-down situations needed six or fewer yards. This was due in large part to the Texans' dominance on the ground, as they outgained the Buccaneers in rushing yards, 186 to 57.
That said, Tampa Bay's offense had opportunities to convert some of their longer third-down attempts. All 12 conversion attempts were passes, and while Houston CB Johnathan Joseph had an extremely good game, breaking up five passes, the Buccaneers sometimes failed on their own. There were a handful of dropped passes and a few third-down tries where the throw was just out of reach, such as a third-down pass in Mike Evans' direction in the end zone in the third quarter. Kyle Brindza missed a 33-yard field goal on the next play.
"You are throwing and catching, simple as that," said Smith. "You have some drops. I would say a lot of it would have to do with that, probably most of it. I don't know exactly, I'll say as you look at it, it was probably that, when we had opportunities to make those plays. That's why I'm excited about where we are. We're not going to always drop the ball. When we have good protection, our quarterback is a good football player and he can get the ball there. In time, that connection, when our guys all get on the same page with that, that won't happen. A lot of those third downs really came down to that."
2. Kyle Brindza had a difficult outing in Houston, but it wasn't his last as a Buccaneer.
Rookie kicker Kyle Brindza came over to the Buccaneers in a trade with Detroit near the end of the preseason and made an immediate impression, hitting on 57 and 55-yard field goals in the preseason finale at Miami. That won him the job over Patrick Murray and Connor Barth, but in the regular-season opener he was limited to two extra point attempts, both successful.
Brindza has been extremely since, with nine field goal attempts over the last two Sundays. He was a huge contributor to the Buccaneers' win in New Orleans, hitting on four of five field goal tries and only missing from 52 yards in a seven-point decision. Things didn't go as well in Houston, as Brindza missed three of four field goal tries (one from 57 yards) and hit an extra point attempt off the right upright.
As a rookie, Brindza obviously has a limited track record, but the Buccaneers will give him every opportunity to show that his New Orleans performance is the type that will define his career, as opposed to Sunday's game in Houston. It's easy to understand why the Bucs want Brindza to succeed – his powerful leg is a weapon on kickoffs and he's already hit on four field goals of 55 or more yards in four games, including the preseason.
"Kyle is a good kicker," said Smith. "He's a good kicker that had an off day yesterday. We'll work on correcting [it] and as far as our kicker, let's give him a little bit of time. He had a 58-yarder yesterday, so all wasn't lost. He'll come back this week. He will get another opportunity. He'll be our kicker this week, so you'll get a chance to see him then."
Brindza said after Sunday's game that a failure to complete his follow-through on his kicks was the reason he left two field goals and one extra point a little wide to the right. Smith spoke with Brindza in the aftermath of the Bucs' loss, not to harp on the rookie's tough day but to pinpoint the reasons for it in order to avoid a repeat.
"We went over the obvious," said Smith. "The obvious is he didn't have a good day. Good players can have a bad day. That's how I started the conversation. You're a good kicker, but when you don't have a good day and you are a good kicker, you have to really search and we have to figure out exactly why that happened. We shifted to the 'why' as soon as we possibly could. A lot of the times the why is just, 'Oh, do this' and all of them go in. We have a little bit of time to work on it before we're on center stage again."
*3. It wasn't necessarily the game plan to throw so many passes in the direction of Mike Evans, but the second-year receiver should remain a favored target for Jameis Winston throughout the season. *
"If you were a quarterback, you would like to throw the ball to Mike Evans too. You would probably be looking for him quite a bit, too. I can't say 'force.' We have more than just Mike. We will need to not force, but throw it to some of our other receivers also."
WATCH: POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCES
That was Lovie Smith responding to the idea that the Buccaneers tried too hard to get the football to Evans on Sunday. Evans was the intended target of 17 of Jameis Winston's 36 throws, and that did produce a 100-yard day for the young wideout, though there were a number of missed opportunities as well.
Still, the Buccaneers didn't specifically intend to throw half of their passes at one player, and it's worth noting that four different pass-catchers recorded a reception of 20 or more yards for the visiting team (Evans, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy and Charles Sims). The Bucs were without one of their more dangerous weapons thanks to Austin Seferian-Jenkins' shoulder injury, but they still have plenty of attractive options in the passing attack.
"That is a lot to focus on one guy, yes," said Smith. "We need to distribute. [Offensive Coordinator] Dirk [Koetter] will be the first guy to say that … we need to distribute the ball around to more of our guys. Sometimes it just happens like that when you feel like you have a favorable matchup. You're not just worried about how it's going to look later on. In this moment, it's a good matchup and we had that throughout. Mike had over 100 yards catching yesterday, right? Add some of the drops in there, it was one of those days. I think as you look around the league, sometimes you can just highlight really one receiver on certain days. We can spread the ball around to some more of our receivers, yes."