TAMPA — The Bucs’ 34-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday -- the team’s fifth loss in the past six games — had coach Bruce Arians again wondering why the coaching his players are receiving during practice isn’t carrying over into games.
“It’s frustrating as a coach because I see us practicing and preparing extremely hard,” Arians said Monday. “The guys are staying extra hours to prepare but then it’s not showing up on Sundays, and as a coach, it’s my job to figure out why. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
The Bucs fell behind 20-0 midway through the second quarter on Sunday— the script of playing from behind is a familiar one — and came within 10 points twice in the second half.
Arians points to two key defensive lapses that played a part in the early deficit. Both miscues were by rookie defensive backs.
The Bucs moved safety Mike Edwards into the nickel back role, a change made in part because they wanted to utilize Edwards’ ability as a blitzer. But Edwards was exposed on the Saints’ first drive of the game, when tight end Jared Cook, lined up in the slot and beat Edwards on a route over the middle for a 30-yard gain, setting up a 44-yard field goal for the game’s first points.
“Sometimes, it’s just basic fundamentals,” Arians said. “You’re in two-man (coverage), you don’t get beat inside.”
After tight end O.J. Howard bobbled a pass behind his back and into the arms of Saints linebacker Demario Davis for an interception, the Saints scored again on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Michael Thomas.
Thomas was wide open on the play because cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, lining up on Thomas on the inside, gave the receiver too much cushion, allowing him to get picked by receiver Tre’Quan Smith.
“Get up there (closer to the line of scrimmage) where you can’t get picked,” Arians said. “Don’t back up.”
Moving Edwards out of the positions he’s been all season long was a peculiar one, especially when Murphy-Bunting began to find his footing at the nickel back position. That rookie corner Jamel Dean, who made a game-changing interception and graded as the team’s top defensive player last week rebounding from a rough outing in Seattle two weeks ago, didn’t play a single defensive snap was even more strange.
“Just a lot of different moving parts here and there, so it’s just something that we’ve got to hone in on,” inside linebacker Lavonte David said Sunday. “I can’t really pinpoint what the issue is, but it’s frustrating at the end of the day. When we’re out there, we’ve got to be able to find a way to play together.”
Murphy-Bunting’s mistake was particularly frustrating for Arians because they knew that might be coming and worked on it in practice leading up to the game.
“Todd kept them after practice on Friday to walk them through that exact play,” Arians said. “And when they don’t do it. It’s called youth. I’m glad I don’t have any hair (to pull out).”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieIntheYard.