By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida
A repeat performance for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they lost 34-3 to the Tennessee Titans in their second preseason game. Head Coach Bruce Arians was disappointed with the start of the game offensively.
After seeing a strong running game at practice, Arians explained, “I just wanted to evaluate quarterbacks and offensive linemen in the passing game more than I did the running game.” However, the plan backfired when dropped passes repeatedly killed drives down the field.
The Buccaneers completed 207 yards of offense, and matched the Titans with 61 plays, but they never made it into the end zone. In fact, they never even made it into the red zone.
Quarterback Ryan Griffin, who came in the game with 19 second left in the first and played through the second quarter, said “different people are playing, it’s tough to get in a groove. Obviously, different quarterbacks are going in, different receivers, but still obviously you want to find the end zone.”
The game was also fraught with Buccaneers fumbles from start to finish. In the first quarter, rookie receiver Jaelon Darden fumbled a punt return but managed to recover the ball, while on the first play of the next drive, Quarterback Blaine Gabbert fumbled at the Tampa Bay 32 yard line recovering it for a loss of 1.
In the second quarter, Griffin went down with a sack for loss of 6 yards and fumbled the ball again. The Bucs recovered and managed to end the drive with a 49-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop. The only points the Buccaneers offense put on the board all night.
In the end, there were 3 Bucs turnovers, including a questionable fumble in the third quarter by Tight End Tanner Hudson. Quarterback Kyle Trask threw a 26-yard deep pass to Hudson who snatched the ball out of the air and quickly tucked it into his right arm. As Hudson was tackled to the ground, the ball popped out and the fumble recovered by Titans Safety Bradley McDougald, McDougald ran the ball back 42 yards for a Titans touchdown.
The play went under review and, according to the refs, Hudson was not down by contact, so the ruling on the field would stand. Arians was visibly upset on the sideline while arguing with the refs. After the game, Arians was asked about the call and said “I left that up to New York [replay officials].” However, as Arians headed out of the post-game interview, he added, “[the refs] have got preseason for a reason too.” This is the second week in a row the refs have made questionable calls against the Bucs with a direct impact on the scoreboard.
Despite the fumble, Hudson had the most receptions of the night for the Bucs completing 74 yards. Receivers Cyril Grayson and OJ Howard completed fifty percent of their passes for 57 and 24 yards, respectively.
Howard had a few dropped passes in the game, but is still coming back from an injury last year. Arians said, “OJ’s shaking off a hell of a lot of rust.” Quarterback Griffin added, “I’m glad I got the ball to OJ again, just because he had those drops. . . . He’s a good player, so just getting the confidence back for a lot of people as always.”
For the defense, the Buccaneers started strong but couldn’t get away from slipped and missed tackles. Arians explained, “defensively I thought we had a really good ballgame to start the game, in the trenches, and then as reserves started coming in we missed a couple runs. Overall, grade the tape, so you either get exposed or exposure.”
And speaking of exposed or exposure. At the end of the fourth quarter, in a last ditch effort to add points on the board, the Bucs sent in kicker Bradley Pinion to line up for a 61-yard field goal. It was no good. Arians said, “Pinion made that field goal in practice a bunch, so . . . let’s see if he can make it in the game. He shit the bed too.”
It wasn’t all bad for the Buccaneers, however, and the head coach recognized several players he felt stepped up, including defensive end Patrick O’Connor, linebacker Grant Stuard, cornerback Dee Delney, and receiver Cyril Grayson.
O’Connor had several tackles for loss including a sack on Titans Quarterback Logan Woodside in the second quarter. One of O’Connor’s tackles was recorded with rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon, who also landed a sack in the second quarter for a loss of 10 yards.
While the first two preseason games afforded the rookies, reserves and new players a chance to earn a spot on the 53-man roster this year, expect to see a different game from the Bucs next week.
The starters will return for the Buccaneers final preseason game against the Houston Texans. Because there’s a large gap in time before the first game against Dallas in week 1, Arians explained “we can’t go against Dallas who is really good and all of a sudden play game speed. We gotta have some game speed under our belt before we show up against the Cowboys.”
Buccaneers play the Texans on August 28 at 8:00pm, before kicking off the NFL season at home against the Cowboys on Thursday, September 9th.
The videos used in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube channel.