1. The Bucs beat the Bucs.
I know, you've heard this before. The Bucs couldn't get out of their own way. And while we could say that once again, turnovers were the reason for Tampa Bay's downfall in Tennessee as the Titans forced a total of four; two fumbles and two interceptions, it might not tell the whole story. Look closer and the struggle to capitalize and untimely penalties compounded the Bucs' inability to overcome the turnover battle.
Tennessee unsurprisingly capitalized on both the Bucs' first two turnovers with touchdowns given the field position in which Tampa Bay committed them. Just over five minutes into the game, the Titans recovered a fumble at the Tampa Bay 10-yard line. A neutral zone infraction by the Bucs moved the Titans up another five yards and a play later they were in the end zone. The first interception came at the end of the same quarter but at the very beginning of the Bucs' drive – meaning Tennessee got a first-and-goal at the Tampa Bay six-yard line. It took them three tries, but they landed in the end zone on a six-yard pass to Tajae Sharp from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, giving the Titans a 14-3 lead, none of which was their offense's doing.
In fact, the Titans had just 48 yards of total offense in the first quarter, with the defense forcing two punts and denying them two out of three times on third down. The defense once again rendered a top-tier running back in Derrick Henry nearly ineffective and allowed just 72 net yards on the ground all game. They even held the passing game in check, allowing Tannehill to pass for just 174 net yards. But the Titans were able to capitalize on the opportunities the Bucs gave them.
That's where the Bucs fell short, starting with the first drive of the game. They got down to Tennessee's four-yard line before settling for a field goal. It happened again in the second quarter where the Bucs again found themselves at the Tennessee four, but settled again for a field goal, down 14-6 prior to the kick.
But then coming out of halftime, safety Andrew Adams gave the Bucs a jolt by forcing a fumble on Tennessee's first drive of the second half. Adams punched the ball out of Henry's hands, which was then recovered by Vernon Hargreaves right near midfield. It led to a drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, giving the Bucs a 23-17 lead and seemingly turning the tide.
The Bucs could have punctuated that capitalization with another takeaway on the Titans' next drive – twice. This time, it was penalties that got in the Bucs' way. On back-to-back plays, cornerback Carlton Davis intercepted Tannehill, yet both were negated by defensive pass interference penalties, one of which Head Coach Bruce Arians challenged. The call stood and so did the Titans' drive, which ended in just a field goal as the defense held, able to preserve the 23-20 lead for the time being.
Then of course, there was the fake field goal. Up 27-23, the Titans elected to fake a field goal to extend their drive on fourth-down and two in the fourth quarter to put the game away, but punter Brett Kern was met in the backfield by rookie Devin White, who knocked the ball loose instead. It was scooped up by Adams who ran it in to the end zone, but an early whistle negated the advancement. While it wasn't a penalty, it was still an officiating call that affected the game after the offense couldn't capitalize on the ensuing drive, turning the ball over on downs with 1:53 left in the game.
2. Mike Evans had another monster day.
It was another tremendous effort by Evans that will go largely unnoticed given the outcome of the game, but the Bucs' veteran wide receiver continues to show why he's simply one of the best in the game. In the first half alone, Evans had 137 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Tennessee had no answer for the 6-5 receiver. The aforementioned second touchdown of his that came after the fumble recovery by the Buccaneers wasn't just a momentum-builder for the team heading into the half, it actually moved Evans into first place in the franchise record books for receptions, surpassing James Wilder, while simultaneously moving him into second place all-time in touchdowns. He finished the day with 198 yards, catching 11 of 12 passes thrown his way and scoring two touchdowns, his second multi-touchdown game of the season.
Evans has 662 yards receiving this year and is on pace to nearly match his over 1,500 yards from 2018. With the two touchdowns in Tennessee, Evans is also tied for the team-lead in touchdowns with Godwin, each amassing six. It not only ties them with each other, but it ties them for the league lead through Week Eight, too.
3. JPP picked up right where he left off.
His first snap, his first sack. Just like that. Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul was activated to the team's 53-man roster on Saturday, meaning he would make his return to the team as soon as he was able after being placed on the NFI list. Week Eight had been his target and he hit the nail on the head… and then hit the quarterback in his very first snap with the team in 2019, bring Tannehill down for a loss of four yards. JPP had three tackles for loss on the day, in fact. That first play was a truly remarkable moment given the severity of his offseason neck injury. Most players don't come back from a neck fracture. But it's nothing new for JPP who said earlier this week he had no doubts about his return and now, no one else does either.