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Bucs' loss proves a kick in the gut (w/ video)

Kyle Brindza kicks a field goal for the Bucs' first points of the game. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
Kyle Brindza kicks a field goal for the Bucs' first points of the game. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
Published Sep. 28, 2015

HOUSTON — Kyle Brindza kept his head down, but no matter how many times he looked up to answer a question, the kicks were forever going to the right. There was nothing he could do to change their course now. The missed extra point. The field goals from 41 and 33 yards that would've each given the Bucs a lead, both helplessly drifting. Wide. To the right. One hit the upright. The others didn't come that close.

"I mean, it's devastating; it's disappointing," said Brindza, the Bucs' rookie place kicker from Notre Dame. "I let my team down. I'm supposed to do my job. I didn't get my job done.

"Just didn't follow through. It was just not following through all the way."

Brindza stood at his locker, his fists clenching a towel wrapped around his shoulders. Put Sunday's 19-9 loss to the Texans on his shoulders, too, he said.

The day had started with so much promise, too. He made his first field-goal attempt from 58 yards, the second longest field goal in team history. The three missed kicks were bookended at the other end by a 57-yard field-goal try that was short and left in the final seconds of the game.

But the truth is that the entire Bucs team — with dropped passes, missed tackles, penalties and bad throws on third down — was like so many of Brindza's wayward kicks.

No good.

"A lot of lost opportunity plays," coach Lovie Smith said. "Offensively, we couldn't establish our run. Dropped balls. We had opportunities that we didn't get enough from.

"It's tough when you miss that many field goals and you miss an extra point. A day like (Sunday), all points are important."

Wide receiver Mike Evans said to put the loss on him. Looking rusty in his first full-time action after missing the first game and much of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Evans was targeted 17 times. He caught seven passes for 101 yards. But on third down, quarterback Jameis Winston was 0-for-7 throwing to Evans. The Bucs were 1-for-12 on third down overall.

In the first quarter, an Evans penalty for pass interference negated a 30-yard completion. At the end of the first half, Evans dropped a pass on the Texans' 33-yard line to stop a drive. On the first drive of the second half, Evans butterfingered a screen pass. On the next play, Winston threw his only interception.

"I put this on me," Evans said. "There were a lot of plays I should've made on third downs that I didn't come up with. The offense played great. It was up to me to make a couple of plays. That could've put us over the hump.

"There were a couple of tough catches I could've made. If I want to be the best, I've got to make those plays, and I didn't make most of them."

The loss also could be put on the defense. Texans running back Alfred Blue rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries.

"You can't allow a team to run the football that way," Smith said.

The Bucs also failed to get any pressure on Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett, who passed for 228 yards and a touchdown. A pass intercepted by Bucs rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander that was tipped by linebacker Danny Lansanah set up the Bucs' only score, a 32-yard touchdown screen pass to running back Charles Sims.

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That's when Brindza had his first major hiccup, missing an extra point from the new distance of 33 yards.

"Their field-goal kicker kind of helped us out a little bit," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "I appreciate that. We didn't block any of them. They just didn't go through those yellow things.'

After the game, Winston put an arm around Brindza.

"To have all that pressure on him in the game when all I have to do is put the ball in the end zone?" Winston said. "This guy has been carrying us the whole year. Fifty-eight yards? I miss throws every day. … He doesn't get as many chances as we get."

Smith said the Bucs won't be looking for a new field-goal kicker this week.

"No. Kyle is our kicker," Smith said. "He, like a lot of us, had a disappointing day (Sunday). That hasn't been the case. You're going to have off days, and this was an off day.

"When a player has an off day, we need to rally around him in other ways, and that's what we weren't able to do (Sunday)."

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