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Five Takeaways From the Buccaneers' Week 15 Loss to the Saints

BucsGameday
BucsGameday
 2021-12-20
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The Buccaneers are going to have to wait another week before they can hang their 2021 NFC South championship banner.

Another Sunday Night Football matchup with the Saints resulted in yet another embarrassing loss as Tom Brady and the NFL's No. 1 offense were blanked, 9-0. The win now marks the third year in a row that the Saints have swept the Bucs in the regular season.

As you can imagine, there's plenty to take away from this game, but AllBucs was able to narrow it down to the following five points.

The No. 1 seed in the NFC is pretty much out of reach

The Bucs aren't mathematically out of it, but let's be real. Per FiveThirtyEight, the Bucs currently have a 6% chance to be able to play in Tampa Bay throughout the playoffs. Green Bay's chances currently sit at 78% and Dallas is in second with a 14% chance.

So, you can see why last night's game was such a big deal in terms of both the small picture (NFCS championship) and the big picture (playoff seeding). There's still a lot of football left with three weeks remaining, but the Bucs are going to need a lot of help at the same time.

They can thank a dismal performance and John Harbaugh for that.

Beat-up Bucs

Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, and Chris Godwin all left the game early after taking big hits. Evans' injury is considered a hamstring, Fournette's is also a hamstring, and Godwin's a knee.

Tampa Bay certainly wasn't dominating on offense by any stretch of the imagination, but it was clear Brady and Co. were missing those three guys. I mean, the three of them make up 58% of the team's production in terms of total yards and 54% when it comes to total touchdowns. It's natural if the unit takes a step back without those guys.

But at the same time, the offense still had some chances to make plays and it didn't, which leads to the next takeaway.

Sloppy offense overshadows a strong defensive performance

A bright spot on the night was in fact the Bucs defense. It doesn't matter who was on the other side of the ball when it comes to personnel. The Saints are not an effective offense and the Bucs defense treated them as such. The Bucs defense allowed just three points, four first downs, and 53 total net yards in the second half.

But none of it mattered because the offense couldn't put a single point on the board. There were dropped passes, Brady had two bad turnovers, the offensive line was awful - whatever could be bad was pretty much bad the entire night.

Bucs special teams are unreliable

Ryan Succop is currently carrying the NFL's sixth-highest cap hit among kickers, but it's hard to trust the guy from anywhere outside of 40 yards when it comes to field goals. He missed a 45-yard attempt last night that would've kept the Saints' lead at one possession.

Overall, Succop is 26th in the NFL with an 81% hit rate on year. He's 67% from 40-49 yards and is 80% from 30-39 yards. Per Pro Football Focus, he's made 94% of his PATs, which is 19th among kickers with at least 12 field goal attempts. His numbers this year are much different than last year and he's more expensive. That's never a good equation.

Bradley Pinion continues to remain inconsistent. He's 34th in yards per punt and 28th in net yards per punt.

And Jaelon Darden really hasn't provided a spark on returns outside of his 43-yard punt return against Chicago. He has trouble staying upright when making cuts and looks out of control at times.

The punt return unit allowed a 34-yard return that put the offense in position to get three points, as well. Overall, the special teams unit has been a disappointment this year and it really showed up against the Saints.

The offensive line had its worst game in a long time

Brady was hit a season-high seven times and sacked a season-high four times. The Bucs allowed an average of one sack per game and three hits per game coming into the matchup.

The constant pressure also led to Brady's fumble and interception, even if they were mostly his fault. Brady was trying to scramble away when he fumbled and tried to throw on the run while evading pressure when Chauncey Gardner-Johnson picked him off.

And it wasn't just one guy getting beat. Everyone got beat at some point. Overall, it's easily the worst performance of the year and it'll be interesting to see how the unit responds next week against a Carolina front seven that owns the league's best adjusted sack rate and is 11th in run defense DVOA.

Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.

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