The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally shook off their four-game losing streak with a big win over the Tennessee Titans.
Tampa Bay generally controlled the game from start to finish and won by 16 points in a 20-6 victory over the Titans. There were some notable adjustments on the offense and the defensive side of the ball and good things overall managed to happen, but it wasn’t a perfect game from the Bucs despite the favorable result at the end of things.
We graded Tampa Bay’s offense, defense, special teams and coaching from Sunday, and you can check out how we scored things below.
This may perhaps be a little harsh for some, but there were still quite a few offensive problems that permeated throughout Sunday’s winning effort.
We’ll start with the good stuff. Running back Rachaad White has proven himself to be a weapon in space, and the coaching staff is beginning to realize that (little more on that later, as usual). Wideout Mike Evans had a bad drop early in the game but made up for it with a vengeance, proving that his dominance even into his late age. Behind these two performances, the Bucs managed to score two touchdowns, which was enough to secure an almost three-possession win over the Titans.
However, problems still remain. Quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t have a bad game, per say, but his deep ball accuracy remains woeful through 10 weeks (either by overthrowing open targets and underthrowing them) and his interception on a ball meant for Deven Thompkins was a rough one. Mayfield’s inconsistencies remain a huge question and will likely be a factor in whether or not he’s re-signed by the Bucs in the offseason. Furthermore, the run game is still awful, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry on the day, and the team was forced to kick twice in red zone scenarios, further displaying some ineptitude when in scoring position.
Overall, enough to win this time, but not nearly enough to legitimately contend for the NFC South like players and coaches remain hopeful for.
Yeah, Tennessee’s offensive line is probably the worst in football, but you’re supposed to take advantage of that — and oh, did the Buccaneers do so.
Tampa Bay had four sacks on the day, and almost every outside linebacker on the active roster got a piece of quarterback Will Levis through hurries, pressures and sacks. That massively disrupted the passing game, forcing Levis to amount to only 199 yards through the air, and a pressure from undrafted free agent Markees Watts caused Levis to throw an interception toward the end of the matchup. The team played more press man and were aggressive in the blitz, things that made it so successful early in the year that the team had abandoned in recent losses. Finally, the Bucs held running back Derrick Henry and the rest of the Titans run game to just 2.6 yards per carry, a solid achievement that allowed them to control the game.
This defense, both in scheme and tenacity, hasn’t shown up in a while. If it shows up more often, the Bucs will definitively win games again.
Special Teams: C-
Jake Camarda had his worst game of the season, with five punts for an average of just 34.2 yards with only one punt downed inside the 20. On the plus side, kicker Chase McLaughlin made both kicks he was tasked with like he always has this year, so little bit of a ratings bump there. The Titans also didn’t do much in the return game despite Camarda’s poor play, so some good mixed in with the bad this week on the third side of the ball.
Changes had to be made on this front to win this game and, credit where it’s due, there were quite a few.
Todd Bowles’ defense became more varied with blitz patterns and played more man coverage to the strength of his players, resulting in a strong pass defense against rookie Will Levis. The run defense was stout, and on the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Dave Canales was able to get Rachaad White in space with effective screen concepts and pitch plays to the outside to earn yards where they weren’t coming previously. These adjustments were big, and they allowed the team to create opportunities on both offense and defense.
That being said, coaching still wasn’t perfect. Todd Bowles remains timid in situations that demand aggressiveness, with a good example being his decision to punt from Tampa Bay’s own 41-yard line instead of letting his kicker in Chase McLaughlin hit a 58-yard field goal. On Canales’ side, his red zone playcalling and concepts still aren’t resulting in points as much as they should and while he did adjust nicely in getting Rachaad White in space, he needs to do it far more often and stop pushing him into the A gap on run downs.