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Buccaneers-Giants, Week 3: What we learned

Thomas Bassinger: This loss is on coach Bruce Arians, not the kicker.
Matt Gay missed three kicks Sunday against the Giants, including the potential game-winner. The game never should have come down to him, though. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Sep. 23
Updated Sep. 23

TAMPA — Observations from the Buccaneers’ stunning 32-31 loss to the Giants:

1. The Bucs should never kick again. Never. Ever. Matt Gay, whom Tampa Bay selected in the fifth round of April’s draft, missed his first two kicks (extra points), then made his next five (field goal, field goal, extra point, field goal, field goal) and missed his last one, a potential game-winning 34-yard field goal. It was the second-to-last one, though, that truly cost the Bucs the game. On fourth and 2 from the 5-yard line, they kicked instead of going for the first-down conversion or touchdown. If Tampa Bay had succeeded, they would have had a 10-point lead, which would have essentially ended the game.

2. True, the field goal extended the Bucs’ lead to 31-25 with six minutes left. The upside of that decision, at least in theory, is that it forces the opponent to score a touchdown to have a chance of winning. As it turns out, a failed fourth-down conversion would have been better. Then the Bucs would have had only a three-point lead, and in that scenario, the Giants’ mentality changes. They likely play for overtime and don’t go for the touchdown on fourth and 5 with a 1:16 left. This one’s on Bruce Arians. Not Jameis Winston. Not Matt Gay. Bruce. Arians.

3. Trailing 32-31. Ball at the Tampa Bay 25-yard line. A little more than a minute left. It was the perfect setup for a dramatic comeback. And Winston delivered, completing a 20-yard pass to Chris Godwin and then a 44-yard pass to Mike Evans. He wasn’t flawless Sunday, but he was good enough.

4. The Bucs jumped on the Giants, scoring on each of their first six drives — touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, field goal. In the past 30 years, the most consecutive Tampa Bay scoring drives to start a game: four, done three times (2000 vs. the Vikings, 2002 vs. the Vikings and 2018 vs. the Saints.

5. The Bucs took an 18-point lead into halftime. Such leads have been rare. Since 2002, which is when the NFL expanded to 32 teams, Tampa Bay has had a halftime lead of 18 points or more in eight games, the third-fewest (the Browns have had four and the Lions have had seven). The Patriots have had the most (40).

6. The Bucs have lost three straight games in which they’ve had a double-digit lead at halftime. Before that, they had won seven in a row.

7. Entering Sunday, Tampa Bay had been 20-2 when leading by 18 or more points after two quarters. The Bucs’ previous losses: a 38-35 defeat in overtime to the Colts in 2003 and a 31-27 meltdown against the Rams in 1992. The Giants had been 1-62, with their lone win coming 70 years ago. They had lost 55 straight games.

8. Tampa Bay wasted a historic effort by Mike Evans, who scored three touchdowns and gained nearly 200 receiving yards. Only two other Bucs players have caught three touchdown passes in a game: Jimmie Giles in 1985 and Morris Owens in 1976. Tampa Bay lost both of those games, too. Teams that have had a receiver catch three touchdown passes in a game have won about 80 percent of the time.

9. The Bucs also wasted an outstanding effort on the other side of the ball. Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacked Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones four times and forced two fumbles. He’s the third player in team history to record four sacks in a game (Simeon Rice did it in 2003, and Marcus Jones did it in 2000). Barrett now has eight sacks this season, already a career high, and the most by a Bucs player through the first three games of a season.

10. The Bucs had been relatively run-heavy early in their first two games, rushing on about 40 percent of their plays during the first half. On Sunday, that rate fell to 32 percent. Winston completed 14 of 22 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions (he was sacked three times). Tampa Bay ran 12 times for 64 yards.

11. The last time the Bucs rushed for 144 yards? Last season against … the Giants. In the 38-35 loss, Tampa Bay gained 150 yards on 30 carries.

12. Hard to ask Bucs fans to keep coming out to Raymond James Stadium to endure gut-wrenching losses and ridicule from visitors. Tampa Bay has lost eight of its past nine games decided by three or fewer points, including four of five at home.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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