After a promising first half of football, everything just came crashing down for the Bucs in their 34-23 loss to the Bengals on Sunday. Tampa Bay just seems lost as a football team. There is no continuity or consistency and even when there are flashes of brilliance, the team returns to its old self. This week, the whole team gets more blame than any player, but there’s plenty to blame.
Here are the most disappointing players of week 15:
Things started well for Brady and the Bucs offense. They were able to move the ball up the field and hold drives, putting them ahead 17–3 in the first half of the game. But after the break, the team imploded. The Bucs had turnovers on four consecutive possessions, and Brady held them all.
Brady’s first turnover was an interception intended for Cameron Brate. The ball was thrown poorly and 100% on the quarterback. The next turnover was a fumble on a strip bag. Brady’s protection gave way and the ball was knocked out of his hands by tacklers DJ Reader and Logan Wilson. On the next drive, Brady was credited with an aborted handoff to Leonard Fournette, resulting in a fumble recovered by the Bengals.
That bad luck continued for Brady and the Bucs as he attempted to drop a pass into the hands of Mike Evans that was picked off by Germaine Pratt.
The Bucs’ first possession at halftime stopped in a three and out. When they tried some trickery on 4th and 1, it looked like the team would try a fake punt with a direct click on Giovani Bernard. However, Bernard looked as if he was unaware of the play call and let Zach Triner’s direct snap go right through his hands. The Bengals took over at the Bucs’ 16-yard line as a result, eventually adding three points to turnovers on downs.
Brate had a ball go straight through his hands that would have converted a third down and put the Bucs in the red zone. The result was a 50-yard field goal attempt from Ryan Succop that was unsuccessful. Brate was also the intended target on Tom Brady’s third quarter interception, although that was a more bad call on Brady’s part.
After turning in a first half in which the Bucs put up 17 points while the Bengals were down to just three, the third quarter was much of what we’ve seen all season. The Bucs were unable to move the ball consistently and turned the ball over four times. First, they had the botched punt faked by Bernard. Next, Brady threw a bad pass intended for Brate that was intercepted by Tre Flowers on the second drive. He then pocketed the ball through DJ Reader and Logan Wilson.
All three turnovers gave the Bengals excellent field position within 31 yards of the end zone. Cincinnati scored on all three possessions and turned the game around on a 17-point swing to put them at 20-17. As if it couldn’t get any worse, the Bucs ended the quarter with another fumble, this one coming on an exchange between Brady and Leonard Fournette. It led to seven points in the fourth quarter and a commanding 27–17 lead for the Bengals.
Sean Murphy Bunting
Murphy-Bunting had two chances to turn the tide of the game, but allowed Tee Higgins to get behind him to score the Bengals’ first touchdown of the game. He also had a chance to create momentum by recording an interception and stopping Cincinnati’s drive in his tracks, but he dropped the ball as he came down with it.
Second half defense
Before the final drive of the first half, in which the Bengals drove 47 yards down the field and kicked a field goal, the Bucs defense allowed only 36 yards of offense in the first half. In the second half, they were gassed with short field after short field of turnover. As a unit, Tampa Bay allowed 31 points to Cincinnati to close out the second half. The result was a second loss in a row.
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