Stay the Course Out of Houston

The Buccaneers’ loss to the Texans on Sunday falls on Tampa’s offense. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

There’s no question the Bucs were sloppy in nearly every phase of the game. Kicker Kyle Brindza left seven easy points on the field with three missed field goals and extra point. The receiving corps dropped numerous catchable balls, particularly Mike Evans. Once again, missed tackles and soft coverage plagued the defense.

Despite their miscues, the defense actually played a strong game. Until the fourth quarter, they allowed only seven points, one field goal attempt, and four third-down conversions.

They matched that in the fourth quarter, but that’s going to happen when the offense only possesses the ball for 18 minutes prior.

The Bucs’ only touchdown came from a short field courtesy of a Kwon Alexander interception. Their performance almost conjured the Bucs teams of the ‘90s that relied on the defense to make it as easy as possible for the offense to score.

Obviously, Lovie Smith’s defense is not those great defenses that carried the Bucs into the playoffs. The pass rush was again nonexistent and dumb penalties in the secondary kept a few Houston drives alive.

There’s no question the defense has a long way to go before they look like Lovie’s Bears defenses, much less the Bucs Super Bowl defense. But, it’s also clear that it’s the offense that has a longer way to go.

Believe it or not, that’s okay.

The Bucs are starting three rookies and two second-year players on offense. They have a new offensive coordinator and yet another reconfigured offensive line. There isn’t a piece of the Bucs offense that isn’t a work in progress.

While the Bucs’ four dropped passes were the big story of the day, the whole pass offense was out of sync. Blame cannot be placed on the offensive line for a change as it held JJ Watt and the Houston defensive line without a sack and only seven pressures per Pro Football Focus.

Winston often had room to throw, throwing 29 of 36 snaps without pressure according to PFF. Still, Winston was woefully inaccurate, completing only 17 of those 36 passes.

He often missed open receivers in favor of a returning but rusty Mike Evans. His three drops killed a few drives, and Winston’s lone interception came trying to force the ball to Evans.

Obviously Evans should play a big part of the pass offense, but he was as much a hindrance as help on Sunday.

Doug Martin’s renaissance continues to be squandered by poor blocking up front. He breaks far too many tackles just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage than a quality running back deserves.

Charles Sims fulfilled his Tedford-ian destiny against Houston, flashing that “speed in space” so ballyhooed last year with his nifty 32-yard touchdown run. Sims could be the cure to the Bucs’ storied woes with screen plays.

The offense had numerous opportunities to put the game away. What they were missing was seasoning. Chemistry between Winston and receivers, along the offensive line and in the backfield.

Chemistry takes time and patience. The Bucs loss to Houston proved they need all three.

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