Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Slow starts hurting Bucs

TAMPA — One common trait of the Bucs' two losses in five days was a slow start on both sides of the ball, leading to a 14-0 deficit against the Saints on Sunday and a 21-3 margin to the Rams on Thursday.

The first quarter has been the Bucs' worst this season. Tampa Bay is averaging just 3.4 points in the first. It is averaging more than twice that in the second quarter. And the sooner the Bucs fall behind, the sooner they get away from what they do best: run behind NFL rushing leader Doug Martin.

"It affects your game plan when you're playing from behind, obviously," rookie G Ali Marpet said after Thursday's 31-23 loss. "Our mentality is to run the ball first, and it takes you out of that, which is frustrating."

In their eight losses the Bucs have just one first-quarter touchdown, and in the past two games they have five punts and a field goal in the quarter. The first quarter has been Martin's best, with 490 yards as the Bucs have tried to establish a ground game, but early deficits force them to throw more later in the game.

Said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, "Our plan, our hope, was to get up and get (the Bucs) out of the run game so we could play one-dimensional defense."

LEMON WAIVED: For the third time this season, the Bucs waived Orie Lemon, who started Thursday at strongside linebacker but was replaced by rookie Josh Keyes. Lemon had two tackles against the Rams. No corresponding roster addition was announced after he was waived Friday.

BIG ZERO: For the third time in four games, the Bucs defense didn't produce a takeaway against the Rams, and for the third time in four games, the Bucs lost.

Until now, Lovie Smith had never had a four-game stretch in his 11 years as a head coach with only one takeaway. In nine years with the Bears he had only two four-game stretches with less than four. He is 0-6 as Bucs coach when his team doesn't get a takeaway.

150 CLUB: WR Mike Evans had nine catches for 157 yards against the Rams, the fourth time in his two-year career he topped 150 yards. With two games left in the season, he is one game shy of the league record of five such games in a player's first two years, set by Bill Groman (1960) and matched by Jerry Rice (1985) and Randy Moss (1998).

BAD RECORD: The Rams' Case Keenum went 14-for-17 against the Bucs, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 69 percent of their passes against them, the highest mark for any NFL defense. The Bucs are in position to break the club record set last year, when they allowed opponents to complete 68.6 percent of their passes, also a league high and the highest mark in team history.

THIS AND THAT: Bucs rookie CB Jude Adjei-Barimah was benched after giving up a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Former starter Johnthan Banks took over the rest of the way. "He played pretty good," Smith said. "We'll kind of see how it goes from here." … The Bucs gave up two long kickoff returns to the Rams' Benny Cunningham, a 44-yarder on the opening kickoff to set up a touchdown and a 102-yarder that led to a fourth-quarter field goal. "We didn't give ourselves a chance on special teams," S Keith Tandy said. "I feel like I'm a big part of that. We started the game off with a long return, and it set the tone for the whole game."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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