There wasn't much that went right for the Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football against the division-rival New Orleans Saints. The Bucs' only points in the 38-3 loss came from kicker Ryan Succop, who now has the third-most points of any kicker in the league with 74. He has an 89% field goal success rate this season, hitting 16 of 18 tries. That's something, right?
Not enough. I know. And the players and coaches know it, too. They were upset after that nationally televised showing. It's not representative of who they are. Head Coach Bruce Arians called it uncharacteristic. So did inside linebacker Lavonte David on Monday. David said they went through the film and evaluated the game as a whole. Let's do the same thing.
1. Slow start doomed the Bucs from the beginning.
The Buccaneers started with the ball in their hands after the Saints won the toss and deferred. Tampa Bay went three-and-out. Conversely, New Orleans came out swinging with their first offensive possession, likely feeding off their defensive shutdown. They scored a touchdown. The Buccaneers couldn't answer. The defense then kicked in and was able to stop the Saints at the Bucs' two-yard line with a forced fumble by safety Jordan Whitehead that was picked up by David. But while it kept points off the board, it placed the Bucs' offense in bad field position and they weren't able to get anything going then, either.
What all this did was put the Bucs in a state of playing catch up. They needed yards and needed them quickly, so they all but abandoned the run in favor of the pass to try and gain some chunk yardage. Solely passing is no one's gameplan. Take it from Arians himself.
"Offensively, we got out of that gameplan so fast [that] I felt terrible for the left side of the line because there was no threat of the run," he said. "I thought we had a really good plan for the running game, but when you go down 21-0, we tried to jumpstart it with the two-minute drive just to get something going. It just didn't work. We got our [butts] kicked pretty good."
It was a domino effect from there. The stress put on the offensive line that was already down one of its best players yielded more pressure on Brady and caused the offense to sputter. The defense was then on the field too much as a result and with fatigue setting in, couldn't seem to get off of it. Punting seemed to be an issue on special teams. Just like complementary football can work in your favor, it can work against you, too.
View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 9 matchup against New Orleans on Sunday Night Football.
2. Uncharacteristic means it should be an anomaly.
You might have found yourself thinking: this doesn't even look like the Bucs. Especially the ones we have come to know this season. And you'd be right. The common sentiment among every player who spoke to the media and Arians himself was again, that this was uncharacteristic.
And there were still some characteristic things that happened. The defense managed two takeaways - both on forced and recovered fumbles. Not only did David recover the ball at the two yard line as was mentioned above, but outside linebacker Shaq Barrett got his hands on the ball as he went to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The ball still went forward as Brees swatted at it after it had already left his possession and truthfully at first, it looked like a forward, incomplete pass. But safety Mike Edwards wasn't fooled. He picked up the ball after a bounce and ran with it, returning it 41 yards. It was a great heads up play by a guy that keeps making plays on the ball game in and game out. The Bucs now have 16 takeaways this season - the most in the league.
All that is to say - this team should bounce back. And with the short memory of the NFL, this loss will seem less important the more wins removed they are able to get. At the end of the day, the Buccaneers are sitting at 6-3 with a manageable schedule ahead, save for a couple more tough contests including a matchup with the defending Super Bowl champs and a Monday Night Football appearance against the Rams at home. But what's in front of them now is most important: another division opponent. How the team responds this coming Sunday will be very telling.
3. This gives the Bucs a chance to adjust at the halfway mark.
There is still a lot of football left to be played this season and this game forces the Bucs to take a long look in the mirror. And what they'll see is a good football team that could maybe use a couple tweaks but is still on the right track. Bad games happen. That's the reality of this league and it's far from the end of the world. The Tennessee Titans just lost to the Cincinnati Bengals a week ago. The Miami Dolphins are on a hot streak. The Bucs beat the Packers a week before that in a very lopsided game for Green Bay.
I'd much rather the Bucs learn from this loss now than later in the season. They aren't at their peak – and that's ok. Great teams get better as the season goes on.
I know it wasn't ideal that it had to happen against New Orleans, but hey, the year the Bucs won the Super Bowl, they went 0-2 against them in the regular season. That's not said as a jinx or to suggest the Bucs will go to the Super Bowl (even though that is the goal). It just means that this kind of stuff can happen to good teams. It's just one game.