Bucs need to cure their case of the drops vs. the Lions

TAMPA — It was unusual to see in Raymond James Stadium, to say the least.

There was tight end Cade Otton dropping a pass in the end zone during Monday night’s wild-card game. And there was future Hall of Fame wide receiver Mike Evans failing to reel in a deep pass at the goal line.

The Bucs have not been a team that drops passes, but they had to overcome four to beat the Eagles.

In the locker room and the coaches’ offices at the AdventHealth Training Center this week, they were seen as just an anomaly.

“Drops happen. Some drops are inevitable, you know,” wide receiver David Moore said. “... We really just pick ourselves up, go to the next play and just get ready for the next one. And when the ball comes, try to make a play.”

Otton’s drop ended up costing the Bucs points as they settled for a field goal on the opening drive. Moore, however, scored on a 44-yard catch-and-run a couple of plays after Evans’ first-quarter miscue.

The Bucs know they can’t leave points on the field like that against the Lions in Sunday’s NFC division matchup.

“I’d love to see a day where we made all of those plays for the guys that were coming to life — Cade really doing a fantastic job in the game,” offensive coordinator Dave Canales said. “We’ve been talking about that complement to Mike. When teams do stuff to neutralize Mike, everybody else has to contribute. Trey (Palmer), David Moore, Cade, Chris (Godwin) had a couple of (opportunities) in there — and certainly the run game is a big part of that, too. Really not over-emphasizing those things.

“I really don’t like to get into our players’ heads with those types of things. They’re excited, it’s a playoff game, and we’ve just got to learn how to play with composure ... and make the easy ones when they’re there.”

And really, with veterans like Evans and Godwin in the mix, dropped passes had not been much of a concern before Sunday.

Baker Mayfield has been among quarterbacks with the lowest drop rates in the NFL at 5.7% (tied for ninth lowest, according to Pro Football Focus, with at least 213 dropbacks). That 11.1% drop rate on Monday would have been the worst of all qualified quarterbacks.

The misfires handcuffed a pretty special night otherwise for Mayfield, who became the first Bucs quarterback to record 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns in a playoff game. Not even Tom Brady did that.

So the dropped passes were easy to overlook in the jubilation of their wild-card round win. But they can’t happen in Detroit.

Rachaad White, who had a drop against the Eagles as well, said there is an “easy” fix.

“Obviously we want to be perfect, but nobody is perfect,” he said. “So, you’ve just got to make sure ... you just catch way more than you’ve dropped at the end of the day.”

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