TAMPA — The Bucs defense needs to bring it. They must play with energy and put people on their backs, impose their will and prove they belong on top.
Coach Bruce Arians said they certainly can’t let a team hold the football for 19 plays and nearly 10 1/2 minutes while driving 80 yards for the clinching touchdown.
The Bucs allowed Washington to push them around after cutting the lead to four points early in the fourth quarter and convert 11 third-down situations, including four on the final drive during Sunday’s 29-19 loss at FedEx Field.
“I think when you practice as well as we did last week, I think they assumed they were just going to go out and play good,” Arians said. “And then that’s something we’ll address. Just because you have a great week of practice, you’ve got to show up on Sunday. If everybody played with the passion and the energy that Devin (White) played with, we wouldn’t have any problems.”
White put up some monstrous numbers, recording 18 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and three tackles for loss.
But he also was part of a defense that couldn’t get off the field, allowing Washington to have a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (39:08-20:52).
What was most surprising to Arians was how the defense yielded touchdowns in the second half after the Bucs cut their lead 16-13 and 23-19.
“When we had momentum in the second half and got it to three, they scored,” Arians said. “We scored, missed an extra point and never got the ball back. So we didn’t capitalize. The energy level on defense ... That was the most disheartening thing for us, to have a 10-minute drive against us — it can’t happen.”
Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke again created problems for the Bucs. Despite sacking him five times, Heinicke was able to scramble around and buy enough time to convert 26 of 32 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Linebacker Lavonte David created the only turnover, forcing a fumble by Dax Milne that was recovered by Antoine Winfield Jr. David was pretty active overall with 14 tackles.
But when it mattered most, the defense couldn’t get off the field and let Tom Brady win the game. The Bucs had only 47 total offensive plays to Washington’s 71 snaps.
In fact, Washington went 6-of-10 on third down in the second half because of the success they had on early downs. They only needed 4, 1, 2, 1, 4, and 5 yards on their conversions. The only one they missed on the final drive was on third and 4, but they made up for it on the next play when Antonio Gibson scored a fourth-down touchdown.
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“I think the big thing was 10 of them were third and 1 to 5 (yards),” Arians said. “So our first- and second-down defense wasn’t good enough. If you give somebody 10 third and 1 to 5′s? You’re going to get about 60 percent or 70 percent completed on you. That’s the part that was very frustrating.”
The defense also is ailing, and it may get worse before it gets better. The Bucs feel like they may have gotten a break when they learned defensive tackle Vita Vea, who was injured on the final defensive play of the game, suffered a bone bruise and slight MCL sprain. Cornerback Richard Sherman, however, could miss some time after suffering a calf injury in pre-game warmups.
Arians said he doesn’t believe his team will have trouble rebounding from back-to-back losses heading into their Monday Night Football game against the Giants at Raymond James Stadium next week.
“It’s normal. That week is over,” Arians said. “This is a whole new week. Practice as well as we did last week and put all the energy in it but show up Monday night with the passion and the energy it takes to win in this league.”
Did Arians believe his team lacked passion Sunday?
“Totally,” he said.
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