The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, expressed their frustration after losing three consecutive games, including a 24-18 defeat to the Buffalo Bills on “Thursday Night Football.” This downturn followed their promising 3-1 start to the season, which was the first without retired quarterback Tom Brady since 2020.
Despite low expectations for their matchup against the Bills on a short week, the Bucs had a golden opportunity to take control of their division when they faced the Atlanta Falcons in the previous week. However, they let the Falcons slip away with a 16-13 victory, despite Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder’s three turnovers in the red zone. Nevertheless, the Bucs’ players displayed determination and resilience, vowing to turn things around.
In terms of their standing in the NFC South, the Bucs are only half a game behind the division leader, with the Falcons and New Orleans Saints both having 4-4 records. To understand what caused this sudden slump in the Bucs’ performance, we need to look at a few key factors.
Firstly, the Bucs’ early success was built on their ability to create turnovers, but during their losing streak, they managed only four takeaways, with three of them occurring in the game against the Falcons. Additionally, they have accumulated 26 penalties over the last three weeks, which, combined with their struggle to move the ball effectively, particularly in their running game (ranked fourth worst entering Week 8), has led to a significant drop in their points per game, ranking them 25th in the league.
Players like right tackle Luke Goedeke acknowledged that crowd noise can be challenging but labeled the penalties as “inexcusable,” emphasizing that they are the kind of mistakes the team should avoid. Quarterback Baker Mayfield echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of eliminating pre-snap penalties, which are controllable.
Receiver Mike Evans, a Pro Bowler, was relatively ineffective until the final moments of the game against the Bills, which is surprising for an offense centered around him and fellow receiver Chris Godwin. Mayfield pointed out that it was only when they switched to a hurry-up offensive strategy that the Bills stopped focusing their coverage on Evans.
When asked about using a faster tempo in future games to counter opponents targeting Evans, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles mentioned that they’ve used tempo before, but it has sometimes led to more penalties. So, they will reconsider this approach.
The Bucs have also struggled to establish a successful running game, with a league-worst 63% run block win rate entering Week 8. Running back Rachaad White has shown his value as a pass-catcher but has been less effective as a rusher.
Furthermore, Baker Mayfield, known for his mobility and ability to throw on the run, has been facing increased pressure from opposing defenses, particularly against blitz-heavy teams like the Bills. This has limited his ability to use bootlegs and rollouts effectively.
In conclusion, the Bucs believe they have the fight and preparation needed to reverse their losing streak. They emphasize the importance of executing their plays effectively and maintaining accountability and responsibility within the team.
Despite their defense performing well in the red zone, they struggle on third downs, particularly against zone defenses. Additionally, the team has been conservative on fourth downs, as seen in their decision to take a delay-of-game penalty rather than attempting a long field goal against the Bills.
The Bucs will have some time to address these issues before their Week 9 matchup against the Houston Texans.