1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Bucs’ sloppy win far from Bruce Arians’ desired outcome

Tampa Bay gets the win, but not the improved discipline coach sought
Bucs kicker Matt Gay (9) kicks the game winning 48 yard field goal during the fourth quarter of the preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on August 16, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 16 to 14. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Aug. 17
Updated Aug. 17

TAMPA — The Bucs say they are reloading. The Dolphins have announced they are rebuilding.

A performance like Friday’s 16-14 preseason win against Miami may have everyone reconsidering whether there really is much difference between two of the NFL’s low rung teams.

Rookie Matt Gay, who all but sealed his spot as the Bucs’ new starting kicker, proved to be one of the lone bright spots. Gay’s game-winning 48-yard field with six seconds remaining provided Tampa Bay with the winning points.

Third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin engineered a five-play, 45-yard drive in 28 seconds to set the stage for Gay's heroics.

The fifth-round draft pick already had the edge on returning kicker Cairo Santos thanks to his success in training camp. Friday night’s game revealed, for a night, that he also can kick under game-ending pressure.

"You can’t even put a price on it,'' Gay said of the game-winner. "It’s priceless to get that situation and feel comfortable before you go into the regular season and feel comfortable in that situation.''

But Gay’s success wasn’t quite enough to mask what otherwise was an uninspiring effort by both teams.

The Bucs almost lost when Jake Rudock threw a 8-yard pass to Patrick Laird with less than a minute to pull Miami to within 1. A successful two-point conversion — Rudock to Trenton Irwin — gave the Dolphins the lead.

"When you win, you feel happy, it brings energy,'' quarterback Jameis Winston said. "It doesn’t matter when. A win is tough to get in this league.''

Here’s the thing about the Bucs. Every year, they’re the ones knocking on the door. But too often that pounding is just coming from inside the cellar of the NFC South, where they’ve dwelled for eight of the past 10 seasons.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians, the two-time NFL Coach of the Year, has arrived to change all that.

He’s said Tampa Bay has all the ingredients of a playoff team: A franchise quarterback in Winston to save. A young defense that needed just a few more pieces and a scheme change under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to savor.

In the Bucs’ 30-28 preseason opener at Pittsburgh last Friday, there was reason to celebrate. Winston engineered a near-flawless 81-yard drive for a touchdown. Arians was hoping for another sharp start by his first-team offense while cleaning up the penalties.

It’s hard to find a looser head coach than Arians, but he preaches discipline.

"The continuation of the dumbest penalties I’ve seen by our second and third group,'' Arians said. “And they’re lucky we don’t cut tomorrow.”

MORE BUCS: Columnist John Romano asks, ‘Is that a good Tampa Bay defense looks like?’

The Bucs first-team offense wasn’t nearly as sharp as it was against the Steelers. Winston went 2-for-4 passing for 24 yards, was sacked once and pressured another time when running back Ronald Jones appeared to miss a blitz pickup. This time, the Bucs first-team offense failed to put any points on the board.

Running back Andre Ellington, who is battling to win the job as the Bucs’ third down back, lost a fumble.

There were dropped passes by Justin Watson and Bobo Wilson, a dropped interception by cornerback Jamel Dean and another by linebacker Kevin Minter.

And there were more costly penalties. Oh, those flags. The Bucs had eight penalties, six resulting in first downs.

Deone Bucannon was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct to keep one Dolphins drive alive on third down. A defensive holding penalty on Patrick O’Connor negated a big loss on a blitz by linebacker Kevin Minter.

The quarterbacks have a head for a reason, so you don’t hit them in the head,'' Arians aaid. "We slapped them in the head three times. They got a big first down when we had them backed up and it killed our field position.''

Tampa Bay had 12 men on the field when the Dolphins were preparing to punt. Demone Harris was called for roughing former Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on third down, resulting in a new set of downs. All told the Bucs had three roughing penalties and Harris had two of them.

MORE BUCS: Ill-timed penalties plagued Tampa Bay

Even when the Bucs did have a big play on offense, like when running back Dare Ogunbowale turned a short pass from Griffin and turned it into a 40-yard gain, it was called back by a questionable holding penalty on guard Zach Bailey.

Last season, the Bucs had the sixth-most penalties in the NFL with 117. It’s something they can’t afford to repeat.

Okay, time for the big disclaimer.

Preseason games don’t count, and for the most part, they may not matter. There wasn’t a Bucs starter on the field on either side of the ball after only a few minutes.

The Bucs got plenty of work against the Dolphins during the week, and to the untrained eye, they seemed to win more of the battles than they lost.

But around here, where Bucs fans look for any signs of life from the team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 11 years, it helps to do more than play a sloppy game on a sloppy field after a day of sloppy weather.

If you’re looking for any morsels of hope, nobody got hurt Friday.

Ogunbowale took a screen pass 42 yards from Griffin in the fourth quarter, the longest play of the game, to set up Cairo Santos’ game-tying 23-yard field goal. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett had one sack and flushed Josh Rosen into the arms of O’Connor for another one. Dean intercepted a pass from Rudock in the end zone with the scored tied and 6:23 remaining.

Griffin threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tanner Hudson with 3:35 to play, his second in as many weeks.

Look, Mike Evans has yet to catch a pass, so yes, preseason games are the cubic zirconia of the NFL.

But as a team, whether it’s during joint practices or preseason games, the Bucs have to learn how not to play down to the level of their opponent.

That’s what the Bucs have done too often and there are no easy outs in the NFC South.

What the Bucs put on the field Friday wasn’t a great product. Arians warned before the game he was prepared to cut from 90 to 60 players. After Friday, you have to wonder if he has 53 he wants to keep.


  1. Emphasizing the role of Cameron Brate, who scored against Carolina last week, should just be one change the Bucs coaching staff should consider. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    Bruce Arians and his staff need to consider making some changes during the bye week to save a 2-4 season
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) and right wing Luke Witkowski (28) celebrate with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after the Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: There was bad news Thursday in the Tampa Bay penalty box, for USF’s Blake Barnett, for the Yankees and the NFL’s reigning MVP.
  3. Teddy Bridgewater (5)  will look to stay unbeaten as Drew Brees' fill-in when the Saints play the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  AP
    Here are our picks for this week’s NFL games.
  4. San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch, a former Bucs player and Ring of Honor member, celebrates with 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) after Sherman broke up a pass during the 49ers' 31-17 victory over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    After two seasons of second-guessing, general manager John Lynch has it going with the 5-0 49ers. | Martin Fennelly
  5. The Tampa Bay Vipers kick off their inaugural season in February. XFL
    The Vipers’ initial 71-man roster features numerous players who have ties to Tampa Bay. Plus, why coach Marc Trestman drafted big receivers and why 77-year-old defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville...
  6. Indianapolis Colts running back Aca'Cedric Ware runs during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) MICHAEL CONROY  |  AP
    The move comes days after the team went through a series of roster transactions.
  7. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill will supplant Marcus Mariota as the starter in Tennessee. JACK DEMPSEY  |  AP
    The Bucs chose Jameis Winston over Mariota in 2015. Now both the No. 1 and No. 2 picks from that draft appear to be at a crossroads.
  8. Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spends time with new homeowner LaToya Reedy and her son, AnTrez, at 918 43rd St. S. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back partnered with Habitat for Humanity and others to give a hardworking nursing assistant and her son the home of their dreams.
  9. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Bobo Wilson (85) during the second half of a preseason game against the Browns on Aug. 23. MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    Wilson muffed two punts Sunday vs. Carolina, losing one. The team also released LB Devante Bond.
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after making a touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter in London. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    Journal: Also, the 2015 NFL draft is looking like a bust for quarterbacks. Could the Bucs have taken someone else at No. 1 overall?