-There has been a lot of talk about aggressive playcalling and whether or not to go for it on fourth downs, or go for two points instead of kicking the customary point after. I thought the Bucs had a good mix of aggressiveness against the Bengals. They were successful on both fourth-down attempts in the game, and are actually perfect on the season in such plays, which the Fox broadcast so kindly pointed out on the pivotal fourth down conversion that ended in the game-tying O.J. Howard touchdown reception. No thanks to the jinx, of course. That fourth-down attempt was out of necessity. The Bengals would have won had the Bucs not converted, but the first fourth-down attempt came on the Bucs' first possession of the game. That was entirely elective and was a tone-setter – something I'm in support of. But let's not get carried away here. I saw a lot of people on Twitter (my own fault for scrolling, I know) that criticized the call to kick a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter and what ended up being the first score in a very unlikely comeback.
Listen, the Bucs were down 18. No matter which way you shake it, you need three scores. Two touchdowns and a field goal. It doesn't matter what order you get those points in, you just need them. Why risk coming away with zero points and effectively ending your chances at coming back instead of taking three points? It doesn't make sense and while I'm not a math person (I went into writing for a reason), I can guarantee you the math doesn't tell you to go for it there, either. So while I'm happy to see more teams getting creative and ~ a g g r e s s i v e ~ let's not go crazy, mmkay?
View photos of the Week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
-The Bucs' defense continued their trend of effective second-half adjustments, forcing four straight three-and-outs from the Bengals to start the second half. They allowed just 45 total yards up until Cincinnati's game-winning field goal drive at the end. It was frustrating to see that happen but something they had been doing all game that made a big difference were tackles for loss. They are the sixth-ranked rushing defense and it showed especially in the second half, with eight total tackles for loss, including two Jason Pierre-Paul sacks there at the end. The rookie safety Jordan Whitehead came up with a big one on fourth-and-one in the first series of the game, stopping Cincinnati in their tracks to force a turnover on downs. They also forced the Bengals out of field goal range in the fourth quarter that led to the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. On first down at the Tampa Bay 33, DeVante Harris dropped running back Joe Mixon for a loss of one. The next play, Jason Pierre-Paul notched his second sack of the game, backing Dalton and the rest of the Bengals' offense up five more yards. Cincinnati was then faced with a third-and-16 situation during which they failed to gain any yardage, therefore forcing a punt instead of a field goal that would have probably sealed the game right there. The defense did a good job getting pressure when they needed to in the second half but unfortunately, the Bengals' hurry-up offense on the last drive proved just a little too much.
-Put simply, you can't be -4 in turnover margin and win a game. It's a near impossibility and the Bucs nearly pulled it off. They won despite being -3 last week over the Cleveland Browns, which probably aided in whatever football karma exists to why the same didn't happen this week. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game at the end of the third quarter. It took him a little bit of time to get going, managing a field goal on his first drive but then connecting with Mike Evans on a spectacular (and quick) 72-yard score to pull the Bucs within one possession. The defense did its job and held, getting the ball back to the offense to drive 88 yards down the field and after a successful two-point conversion, tie the game up with a minute left. Unfortunately, the defense couldn't hold in the last minute and the Bengals were able to get into field goal range to win the game on a 44-yard attempt.
The Bucs were in such a hole due to the aforementioned turnovers, though the Bengals actually capitalized on just two of them. The thing about turnovers is, not only can they result in points for the other team, they limit your own opportunities offensively. In an offensive shootout where the Bucs actually broke their franchise record for total offense with 576 yards and the Bengals had 402 of their own, you need to come away with points on nearly every possession to get the edge. It was still an incredibly executed comeback before the last minute, making the game a roller coaster of emotion for anyone watching it. Just too bad to see the Bucs fall short.