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Bucs embarrassed by Titans in 42-14 loss

Posted: 2:09 AM, Sep 14, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-14 06:09:51Z
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were absolutely destroyed by the Tennessee Titans, who won 42-14 in one of the ugliest games in recent memory for the Bucs -- which is saying something for a team that held the first overall pick this year, was coached by Greg Schiano for two years, and saw the entire team collapse under Raheem Morris in 2011.
 
 
Where Marcus Mariota looked sharp and collected against a terrible defense, Jameis Winston looked unprepared to handle the NFL level in his debut. The number two pick clearly outplayed the number one pick, though Mariota faced far easier circumstances than Winston did in this game. It's far too early to say anything about either player's career, but we can certainly say that Winston got outplayed in this individual game.
 
For the Bucs, this game was a total disaster on every level, and they'll hope and argue that this is an anomaly -- the result of players adjusting to their new roles, a new defense, a new league -- anything. But this may be a sign of things to come given the level of play -- a level of play we've seen before over the past years, and it led to a disastrous season every time.
 
With the Bucs traveling to New Orleans, this won't get any easier for them next week. If they thought Marcus Mariota presented a challenge for their defense, wait until Drew Brees gets a hold of them. And if they think Dick LeBeau is a blitzing coordinator, they haven't faced a Ryan defense. They'd better get it together quickly.
 
Here are the main takeaways from the game.
 
Jameis Winston wasn't ready for this game
 
Jameis Winston never looked comfortable in this game. He started the game with a pre-determined pick six and added a terrible overthrow and while he didn't quite sink to those depths for the rest of the game, he was clearly not ready for the Tennessee Titans. From his first throw to his last, he looked overwhelmed and uncomfortable. He didn't react well to pressure, backing up instead of stepping up to avoid the rush, but he didn't react well to a lack of pressure either, choosing to run early or just hold onto the ball forever until late in the second half.
 
Winston was sacked three times, and chose to run on a scramble six more times. He completed 16 of 33 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. And he played worse than that statline suggests. Sure, he didn't have Mike Evans, but his problems went way beyond missing his top receiver.
 
Winston did look better toward the end of the game, though that mostly happened with some backups on the field for Tennessee. Still, he did throw two touchdowns on the day, and actually had another two taken off the board through no fault of his own. Then again, he also threw another couple of near-interceptions on the final couple of drives as well.
 
It's important to remember that this is just one game. It's not the end of the world -- it's just a rookie who's not ready. We saw that in the first preseason game, too, and Winston was much improved in the scecond and third game. Winston often struggled early in games in college. And he turned it around plenty of times. No one game is the final word on any quarterback's career.
 
It certainly is a bad start, though.
 
The Bucs defense is terrible
 
Remember when we talked about  how the Buccaneers defense would be good this year? They finished last year strong! They added talent! Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks are going to have a great season! Sure, they don't have quality edge rushers, but they've got so much talent at defensive tackle they'll get something going, right?
 
Reality bites.
 
Four touchdowns given up on five drives in the first half. Lovie Smith was embarrassed by Ken Whisenhunt and a rookie quarterback, and the Tampa Bay defense looked completely unprepared. The only defensive players to do anything in the first half were Kwon Alexander and Gerald McCoy. This defense almost looked as bad as it ever has since Monte Kiffin left town, and that's saying something. And most of that is on Lovie Smith, who took over play-calling and got more involved with the defense this year.
 
Here's a fun fact: Marcus Mariota put up a perfect passer rating in his NFL debut, completing 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns. He was given rest for the entire fourth quarter for Zach Mettenberger. That's how bad this got.
 
Tampa 2 isn't the problem, but Lovie Smith got schooled
 
The Tennessee Titans came out and absolutely destroyed Lovie Smith's defense on the first two drives of the game, and none of it required Marcus Mariota to do anything special. He was just making easy throws to wide-open players, not being asked to do too much and getting some decent protection. That was all Ken Whisenhunt out-scheming a mostly healthy Tampa Bay defense in fifteen different ways. They just couldn't stop anything the Titans tried until the third drive, and then they got schooled all the same on the fourth and fifth drives.
 
Note that most of those easy throws didn't actually come against Cover 2 variants, though, as Stephen White pointed out repeatedly on Twitter. The Bucs got beat playing man, playing Cover 3 and playing Cover 1. This is not a case of the Tampa 2 being outdated. It's just Lovie Smith getting completely outcoached, down after down. That's probably worse.
 
Seferian-Jenkins is ready to break out
 
There weren't many silver linings in the first half, but Seferian-Jenkins' play was one. In addition to that excellent one-handed catch there, he caught Jameis Winston's first two NFL touchdown passes, breaking away from defenders on the second. He didn't drop a ball all game long and ended with five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, easily the best player on offense for Tampa  Bay.
 
Seferian-Jenkins can be a very valuable tight end, as long as the Bucs give him opportunities. So far so good.
 
Doug Martin is back to form
 
Doug Martin's participation on offense was limited by the massive deficit the Bucs faced, forcing them to pass over and over again, but when the game was within reach he looked like his rookie self. Martin had 48 yards on 10 carries in the first half -- the Bucs just couldn't keep giving him the ball.
 
The offensive line wasn't horrible
 
The Bucs' offensive line wasn't exactly good, with far too many plays where Winston faced pressure. Jurrell Casey in particular had his way with Tampa Bay's interior offensive line. But it wasn't the reason why the Bucs offense was terrible either. None of Winston's interceptions happened on plays where he was pressured, and Winston had some time on most dropbacks. The offensive struggles were mostly about Jameis Winston adjusting to the NFL level -- which is to be expected, really.
 
Penalties are back
 
There's one exception to the offensive line not being the problem: penalties. The Bucs had a whopping 12 penalties for 97 yards on the game, most of those coming on the offensive line. That's something that has to get cleaned up, and it has to get cleaned up quickly.
 
Bucs fans are done being patient
 
I think this is the first time I've seen a Bucs team booed during the season opener. These fans sold out this game, have been through four miserable years, haven't seen a playoff game in almost a decade and have every right to be angry. They're done being patient. And they're done sitting through blowout losses, especially at home. The team hasn't won a regular season in Tampa since 2013.
 
If this keeps up, we might be seeing Greg Schiano levels of disgust.
 
Bucs suffered a few injuries
 
Danny Lansanah left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury that may turn out to be serious -- that was a little unclear. Other than him, Major Wright had to leave the game with a hip injury, while Bruce Carter left with a rib injury. Neither of those injuries looked overly serious, though it might keep them out for a few games. We'll have more details on that as soon as they're available.
 
What's next?
 
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints next week, then head to Houston for the Texans.