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Within the first half of Sunday’s 34-23 loss to the Bengals, the Bucs truly performed complementary soccer — one thing they haven’t accomplished usually in 2022.
Then, within the second half, it was a lot of the identical previous story that has performed out all 12 months. The offense left the protection out to dry and every part unraveled. It began with a botched pretend punt by Giovani Bernard to open the third quarter. That gave Cincinnati possession on the Bucs’ 16-yard line, which finally resulted in a subject purpose.
From there, Tom Brady uncharacteristically turned the ball over 4 occasions within the offense’s subsequent 4 drives, with all 4 turnovers leading to quick fields for the Bengals. The primary three led to landing drives of 31, 13 and 39 yards for Cincinnati. Identical to that, Tampa Bay’s 17-3 lead was a 27-17 deficit.
In the long run, the protection allowed 34 factors — however solely 237 yards.
“Our protection didn’t play horrible. They performed nicely sufficient to maintain us within the recreation,” Bucs tight finish Cameron Brate stated. “However we’re giving them the ball on the 20-yard line a number of occasions… They completed with underneath 300 yards, proper? … Thirty-four factors and 237 yards, it doesn’t add up. That’s what occurs once you flip the ball over in your finish of the sector and also you simply can’t do this within the NFL and anticipate to win video games. So, you must treatment that.”
Having to defend in opposition to drives that begin deep in plus-territory is sure to put on a protection down. Bucs linebacker Devin White stated it’s the protection’s accountability to choose up the offense in these conditions, however there actually was solely a lot that unit may do for a lot of the second half.
“I simply suppose as a protection, we received to have that bend however don’t break mentality,” White stated. “We will’t management what occurs on particular groups and offense — we wish to play complementary ball. However on the finish of the day, when our backs are in opposition to the wall, we gotta do no matter we gotta to do to carry them to a few to maintain our lead, hold the vitality and hold the main target.”
As a lot because the protection desires to share the blame, it shouldn’t should. This 2022 season has been on the offense.
Offense Accountable For Bucs’ Subpar File
What unfolded on Sunday wasn’t shocking. The Bucs haven’t performed a full 4 quarters all season, and the offense has been the main cause for that. This was only a continuation of what 2022 shall be remembered for: the offense letting the protection down.
Tampa Bay is 6-8 with three video games to play. It nonetheless leads the embarrassment of a division that’s the NFC South, however this group would’ve run away with the division crown way back with an offense that was even marginally higher. The Bucs protection has put the group in place to win virtually weekly.
Wanting on the group’s eight losses, the protection performed nicely sufficient to win in at the least 4 of them:
-14-12 loss to Inexperienced Bay
-41-31 loss to Kansas Metropolis
-20-18 loss at Pittsburgh
-21-3 loss at Carolina
-27-22 loss to Baltimore
-23-17 loss at Cleveland
-35-7 loss at San Francisco
-34-23 loss to Cincinnati
There’s even a case to be made that the protection was taking part in nicely sufficient to win in opposition to Carolina and Baltimore as nicely. The Bucs had been holding the Panthers and Ravens’ offenses in test till they received worn down within the second half — after fixed three-and-outs by their very own offense.
Head coach Todd Bowles stated after Sunday’s recreation that they gained’t blame anybody aspect of the ball. However it’s clear that one aspect deserves extra blame for the group’s 6-8 document this season, and it isn’t Bowles’ aspect of the ball.
“It’s a group recreation,” Bowles stated. “In the event that they flip it over, we have to get stops. If the protection provides up a landing, the offense has to come back again and get one. It’s a group recreation. You realize, we’re not putting blame on one aspect of the ball or the opposite. We’re on this factor collectively and we’re going to struggle. We simply can’t flip the ball over and after we do, we’ve got to make stops.”
Tampa Bay Is Letting Video games Get Away
The worst half is that the Bucs have proven flashes of promise on offense all through the season. They’ve gotten out to leads in some video games, however they in the end end proper round their 17.6 factors per recreation common. And when three-and-outs and turnovers start to pile up, the unit appears to spiral, displaying little capability to proper the ship and get again on observe.
Take Sunday’s recreation, for instance. As soon as issues started to go unsuitable on offense within the third quarter, it by no means felt just like the Bucs may dig themselves out of it.
“It’s a recreation of ebbs and flows and so they simply had all of the momentum there within the third quarter. We simply couldn’t discover a approach to get again on observe,” Brate stated. “It’s a must to do this, you must transfer on, you must neglect in regards to the play you tousled. As a result of, shoot, we nonetheless had a full quarter and a half after that to go and win the sport and it simply form of snowballed from there.”
The identical could be stated for different video games this season. Regardless of the offense’s struggles, the group has been inside one possession within the second half in 5 of their eight losses, thanks largely to the protection. In a sixth — their additional time loss to the Browns — they led within the fourth quarter and easily wanted one other subject purpose to place the sport away. In all six of these cases, the offense couldn’t get out of impartial.
It’s arduous to pin a lot on Bowles’ protection this season. That group has held opponents to 21 factors or fewer in 9 video games. It additionally held the Browns underneath that mark in regulation earlier than giving up the game-winning rating late in additional time. However the offense hardly ever hits 20 itself, which is why the Bucs are the place they’re with three video games to go within the season. Their successful recipe this 12 months isn’t one they’ll proceed to depend on, however at this level, it seems to be all they’ve.
“In soccer, all you are able to do is struggle,” Bowles stated. “You possibly can struggle, you’ll be able to play smarter, you’ll be able to coach smarter and we’ve got to maintain combating. We perceive what we’re doing is just not adequate by far. It’s not even near adequate and we’ve got three video games left to attempt to save our season.”
It’s honest to anticipate the protection to play higher and put the Bucs in place to save lots of their season. However can the offense maintain up its finish?