Bowles may need to win NFC South to stay
It’s time for Scott Reynolds’ 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two big statements, two probing questions, and two bold predictions. The Bucs fell to 6-8 this season after leading by 17 points against the Bengals on Sunday. Four turnovers and a turnover on downs helped Cincinnati beat Tampa Bay 31-6 in the second half. Despite the loss, the Bucs still have a one-game lead in the NFC South division and look forward to getting back on the winning track in Arizona on Christmas night.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT #1: Bowles may need to win NFC South to keep his job
There are two schools of thought within the walls of the AdventHealth Training Center when it comes to head coach Todd Bowles’ future. While the Bucs have certainly had a disappointing 6-8 season thus far, chances are Bowles will survive this poor year after a 13-4 season a year ago.
The first line of thought is that the organization knows that the offense and lack of point production have been the culprit for the team’s sub-.500 record. Not the Bowles defense, who was placed in a tough spot again and again in the third quarter as the Bucs turned the ball over on five straight possessions – the Tampa Bay side’s first four. For the most part, the Bucs defense has played well enough to win weekly and ranks 10th in the league in scoring defense, with only 20.6 points per game.
After scoring about 30 points per game in 2020 and 2021, Tampa Bay’s offense is averaging 17.6 points per game this year — almost two less touchdowns weekly. That ranks 28th in the NFL and falls on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich’s poor play-calling and lack of creativity in 2022. Leftwich has been exposed as a below-average play-caller and was given a significantly less talented offensive roster to play with. to work. year.
Remember, Bowles inherited this coaching staff – Bruce Arians coaching staff – on March 30. That is two weeks after the start of the free service. Any assistant Bowles would have wanted to add would have been on a staff elsewhere this late in the off-season. So, Bucs ownership and general manager Jason Licht should be willing to allow Bowles to make some changes to his staff next year, including finding his own offensive coordinator.
The Glazers have also given every head coach they’ve hired two years to win and set the record straight. Lovie Smith got two years – even after a dismal 2-14 in his first year at Tampa Bay in 2014. Greg Schiano got two years for Smith.
But the other line of thought is that if Bowles’ Buccaneers don’t make the playoffs after leading the NFC South all season, that could be a real source of contention for the Glazers. Remember, the Glazers fired Jon Gruden in 2008 after the Bucs started the season 9-3 and were in the driving seat to win the division, but fell to 9-7 after a 0-4 finish.
Part of the reason for the collapse was due to Monte Kiffin deciding to leave the Bucs at the end of the season to coach at the University of Tennessee with his son, Lane. The Glazers had also given Gruden a four-year extension earlier in the year. But the fact that Tampa Bay missed the playoffs after a 9-3 start was enough to fire Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.
So if Bowles goes 0-3 or 1-2 on the stretch and the Bucs don’t make the playoffs, it could put him in jeopardy. Especially if Tom Brady doesn’t return before 2023 and the Bucs might be forced into a reset/rebuild mode.
The next three weeks will be interesting in terms of how Bowles is perceived – inside and outside the organization.
EXPLANATION 2: Bowles is looking for cookies
Lost in Tampa Bay’s 34-23 loss to Cincinnati, which was marked by the Bengals defeating the Bucs, 31-6, in the second half was the fact that head coach Todd Bowles might have found some biscuits.
As in “no risk, no cookie” – Bruce Arians’ slogan and coaching style.
Bowles scoffed at the idea of being a conservative coach this season, but he’s proven he is way too often. Look no further than the end of regulation in the Cleveland game when the Bucs weren’t aggressive in their effort to go for a game-winning field goal. Bowles and the Bucs settled for overtime and lost to the Browns, 23–17.
Facing second and third from the Bengals’ 4-yard line early in the first quarter, offensive coordinator Leftwich called for two consecutive passes that nearly resulted in an end zone interception and a 1-yard run by Tom Brady then his options were covered. After settling for a field goal on fourth and the goal from the Bengals 2-yard line to go 3-0 up, Bowles decided to go for it on the next fourth down – and ended up doing it twice on Tampa Bay’s second drive.
Bowles, that “Mr. No risk,” finally found some cookies.
The gamble paid off as Brady found Russell Gage in the back corner of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth, and more importantly, a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. Early in the third quarter, Bowles even went for a fake punt on fourth-and-1 on the Bucs’ own 26.
A false punt?
Who is this man?!
Yes, it didn’t work. For some reason Giovani Bernard didn’t get the call and failed the fake punt attempt and was tackled for a 2-yard loss at the Tampa Bay 16-yard line. But the process was good, and perhaps an encouraging sign that Bowles is moving forward.
“It was a fourth and one and they had a front we could take advantage of,” said Bowles. “It was well blocked. We could have run four or five metres, but we missed the ball.”
Let’s hope Bowles doesn’t get dismayed by the Bucs losing the game and sticks to being more daring in his decision-making going forward. Chances are it will pay off for Tampa Bay — and Bowles — if it goes ahead.
2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Was this the best game Davis played?
Pro Football Focus gave Davis a questionable 68 overall mark and a 71.3 coverage rating for his efforts to defeat Ja’Marr Chase on Sunday. Davis scored even higher in coverage against Dallas in Week 1 (73.6), versus Atlanta (75.8), in Pittsburgh (80.7), and against Seattle (72.3). But Chase is probably the best receiver Davis has handled this year.
And Davis exclusively covered Chase.
It’s rare for Davis to deviate from his left cornerback spot, but from the first moment of the game, in which Davis lined up at right cornerback, the Bucs’ star cornerback followed Chase wherever he went. Chase was targeted eight times when covered by Davis and only came up with three receptions for 32 yards when that matchup took place. Chase ended up catching a touchdown in zone coverage, but safety Keanu Neal was credited with allowing that TD.
Davis also broke out a career-high four passes and came up with his first interception of the season. It was Davis’ first interception since Week 1 in 2021 and it was a fine performance against Chase. And hopefully a sign of things to come from Davis.
QUESTION 2: Is Tryon-Shoyinka ready to break out?
Not only did Davis have a career game against Cincinnati, outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka also had one of his best efforts. Tryon-Shoyinka had a season-best 82.6 PFF mark with a 75.5 pass rush mark. That’s the second best grade of his career with only his 88.8 (80 pass rush grade) against New Orleans last year at the top.
The first crop of the Bucs for 2021 has had an up and down season in terms of production. Before Sunday’s game against the Bengals, Tryon-Shoyinka had just seven tackles and one sack in his previous four games.
Against Cincinnati, Tryon-Shoyinka had four tackles, which tied his season high, in addition to a half sack he shared with Anthony Nelson. The sophomore edge rusher now has four sacks on the season to tie last year’s total with three games left.
Although he is asked to rush the passerby more than he is asked to cover, Tryon-Shoyinka’s athleticism has come to the fore there too. JTS had a pass breakup in coverage against the Bengals, finishing the game with 81.8 coverage. During the season, Tryon-Shoyinka has been targeted six times and allowed only three receptions for 14 yards.
Is he ready to turn the corner and make more plays that affect the quarterback, either with his pass rush or his coverage? The organization hopes so, as there has been some disappointment that he hasn’t been a force since Shaquil Barrett went on injured reserve after Week 8.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTIONS 1: Aided by bad QBs, Bucs ends 9-8
Granted, my predictions weren’t right this year, and I’m going out of line here, but I think the Bucs will rally along the stretch and win three in a row to finish 9-8. Of course, that means Tampa Bay wins the NFC South for the second year in a row and automatically makes the playoffs.
Due to deficiencies on offense, any win will be by a slim margin (think comeback wins against the Rams and Saints), but the fact that the Bucs will be playing lesser QBs helps. Tampa Bay takes on Trace McSorley in Arizona, Carolina’s Sam Darnold and rookie Desmond Ridder in Atlanta to close out the season.
PREDICTIONS 2: Brady will return to Tampa Bay for another season
Just a hunch, but Tom Brady returns at age 46 for one more season as the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And he will have a new offensive coordinator to work with. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Bucs fans.
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