TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sunday posed another frustrating loss for the Buccaneers as they fell 39-37 to the Houston Texans, who lost to the Carolina Panthers (1-7) just a week prior. While Week 9 ended in heartbreak, players and coaches are taking a look in the mirror before Week 10.
After falling to the Bills (24-18), the Bucs’ defense and offense were prepared to clean up their past mistakes. They had fewer penalties than Houston, they got off to a fast start, and they managed to score 37 points – the most points they’ve scored all season. So what needs to change?
“The effort is there, they want to win, they work hard, [and] they understand what to do.,” Bucs’ head coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “Coach communication to player has been there all the way throughout, we’ve just got to play better. We’ve got to coach better, and we’ve got to play better on Sunday, and we understand that. The last four weeks, we have not, whatsoever. We own that. We’ve got to look in the mirror. Players have got to look in the mirror, and coaches have got to look in the mirror. We’re one game out of first place. We haven’t won in it feels like quite a while, and it probably has been quite a while, and we have to do it better. We have nobody coming to save us. We have got to stay together in this building, we have to go out and work, and we have to put in on paper on Sunday.”
While the Bucs are still in a good position to claim the NFC South, the race is too close for comfort following Sunday’s loss. However, a fourth consecutive loss can blind all the success that was presented early on in the season.
Bowles, like many Tampa Bay fans, shared his frustrations, pinning that the team needs to play how they practice because practicing well means nothing if you can’t execute.
“You’ve got to carry it to the game. We practice hard all week, we practice [well] all week, and in the game, we’ve got to make plays. We’ve got to make plays, we haven’t made them. It’s been a struggle. It’s been a struggle. We didn’t play well yesterday at all – giving up too many big plays – I think there were nine big pass plays over coverages we have been doing since day one. It’s not a communication thing. Sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror – as a player, as a coach, as a team – and we’re doing that. We’re doing that today and we’ll make sure it gets done,” he said.
CAN’T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER
Coming into the Week 9 matchup, the Buccaneers knew the offense was the main focus to clean up since the defense had been doing its job in previous contests by forcing turnovers and having clutch stops in critical moments.
But the Bucs defense was off against the rookie quarterback, allowing Stroud to throw 470 yards and five touchdowns with no turnovers. Tampa Bay knew the former Ohio State star would be a problem, just not that much of one.
“It’s very disappointing, especially since they have been keeping us in games the past couple of weeks, but yesterday it fell apart. It was the offense’s turn to play well and defense didn’t play well. We’ve got to play well together,” Bowles said Monday.
Former Buc and Hall of Fame cornerback Rondé Barber also weighed in on the Bucs’ defensive performance, saying the team’s secondary was “embarrassing” in Houston.
“A lot of confusion, I don’t want to say they’re not coached well, but when you break down all those touchdowns, you’re going to look at a secondary that doesn’t look coached well,” he said. “To give up that many yards – in a Todd Bowles defense – something that [Bowles] takes a lot of pride in, is embarrassing. To me, this was an embarrassing watch from a guy that studies a lot of Bucs film. They look like the worst secondary in football, and they have one of the best safety’s in football in Antoine Winfield Jr.”
The bottom line is if the Buccaneers want to have a shot in a winnable NFC South, both the offense and defense have to be clicking. It just can’t be one or the other. The hard part for both sides of the Bucs ball comes with new additions to the coaching staff, but could the team see changes coming soon?
COACHING CHANGES COMING SOON?
While the frustrating loss has fans calling for a coaching change, it’s likely that won’t happen – at least for right now.
Following the defeat, Pewter Report posted on social media that Bowles is “firmly on the hot seat,” adding that the 39-37 loss alone stood as a “fireable offense.”
Tampa Bay Times NFL writer Rick Stroud replied to Pewter’s post, saying he’s seen defensive coordinators lose their jobs the next day for performances like the Bucs had on Sunday. However, the only problem for Tampa is their DC is also the head coach.
“I’ve seen defensive coordinators lose their jobs the next day for performances like that. The problem is in this case the DC IS the Head Coach,” he posted.
Host of “Fully Loaded: A Tampa Bay Buccaneers Podcast,” JC Cornell, also shared his thoughts on the coaching situation, asking at what point is enough with the current staff.
“Can we talk about CJ Stroud throwing for 470 yards and 5 TD’s as a rookie against what is supposed to be an “elite” Todd Bowles defense. At what point can you say enough is enough with this coaching staff?” Cornell said.
But Bowles knows changing staff in the midst the season isn’t the answer.
On Monday, when he was asked if he’d consider letting run game coordinator/defensive line coach Kacey Rodgers or pass game coordinator/inside linebackers coach Larry Foote call defensive plays, Bowles said it wouldn’t fix the team’s current issues.
“I consider it all the time, but it’s not the answer to the problems we have,” he said.
Bowles also stated that the problems come down to execution, and the players and coaches just need to do better.
“All of it [falls] under execution. It all falls under that, and it’s all things that we’ve done a million times. We’ve got to play it better, and evidently, we’ve got to coach it better.”
Tampa Bay (3-5) will have to own the loss and come in with a clean slate in Week 10 as they take on former Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and the Tennessee Titans (3-5) at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.