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Takeaways from the Bucs Loss to the Bengals | Week 15

Top notes from the Bucs’ 34-23 defeat against the Bengals in Week 15

Week 15 Takeaways

First Half Dominance

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Week 15 clash as self-inflicted wounds in the second half led to the team's undoing. During the first half, the Buccaneers were firing on all cylinders. Tampa Bay played arguably their best football of the season during the first two frames at Raymond James Stadium, imposing their will on both sides of the football. The Bucs built a 17-0 lead over the surging Bengals, who had won five-straight games. For context up until the two-minute warning prior to halftime, the Buccaneers had 13 first downs while the Bengals mustered just 14 offensive plays. Similarly, Tampa Bay had 20 plays in opposing territory and the Bengals had one in Bucs' territory. The Bucs made changes offensively and relied on pre-snap motion and play-action in the first half, culminating in a Russell Gage Jr. touchdown on a shallow crosser and a Chris Godwin score off a screen.

Mike Evans became the offensive catalyst, amassing 83 yards in the first half – the same total number of yards the Bengals' produced in that span. Tampa Bay took a quick 17-0 lead, blanking the Bengals until the final three seconds of the second quarter. Cincinnati went up-tempo and moved down the field, resulting in an Evan McPherson 41-yard field goal, trimming the deficit before halftime. The Bucs' defense became an impenetrable force through the first two quarters, accumulating two sacks, five quarterback hits and one takeaway (Carlton Davis III interception). Additionally, the unit held the Bengals to an 0-3 third-down conversion rate. Cincinnati's first three possessions resulted in an interception (35 yards on drive), punt (0 yards) and another punt (-6 yards). Without Vita Vea and Shaquil Barrett in the lineup, Todd Bowles dialed up creative blitzes, sending linebackers off the edge and through the interior. The one-sided game quickly turned in the Bengals' favor in the second half.

Second Half Collapse

"It's the same ole song, Bucs versus Bucs," said Head Coach Todd Bowles, a microcosm of the perpetual trend. Both costly penalties and turnovers led to the team's unraveling in the second half. With a series of self-inflicted wounds and situational miscues, the Bucs erased the near-flawless first half. Early in the third, a botched fake punt led to a Cincinnati field goal when Giovani Bernard could not come away with the direct snap. The special teams blunder did not technically count as a turnover but led to the frenzy that followed.

The Bucs then accumulated four giveaways on 10 plays. Trey Flowers intercepted a Tom Brady pass in Bucs' territory, which led to a Tee Higgins touchdown. On that touchdown drive, penalties by Tampa Bay negated a 23-yard sack by Devin White and Anthony Nelson and a third-down stop. On the next drive, Brady lost a fumble at the 13-yard line while taking a third-down sack. The result was a second Burrow touchdown pass to Tyer Boyd, giving Cincinnati their first lead of the game. The Bucs then mishandled a handoff between Brady and Leonard Fournette at the Tampa Bay 39-yard line and the Bengals took advantage with another touchdown drive to make it a 10-point ballgame. Lastly, a hit on Brady as he released the ball on the Bucs' first drive of the fourth quarter resulted in an errant throw and a diving interception by Germaine Pratt at the Bengals' 47-yard line. Tampa Bay's defense was then able to force a punt, but the team's fate was already sealed due to repeated miscues. The Buccaneers saw the Bengals put up 34 unanswered points en route to a 6-8 overall record. It is back to the drawing board for Tampa Bay with three games to decide their destiny.

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