TAMPA, Fla. (AP)The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reject the notion that a pair of lopsided losses to opponents that share the best record in the NFL are evidence there’s a huge gap between themselves and teams considered to be among the league’s best.
The sputtering, but still NFC South-leading Bucs (3-2) have dropped two of three games – each by a pair of touchdowns – since starting 2-0.
Still, coach Todd Bowles insists it’s far too early to make any assumptions about how Tampa Bay measures up against either the Philadelphia Eagles or Detroit Lions, who thumped the Bucs 20-6 in a matchup of division leaders that was not as close as the final score on Sunday.
Tampa Bay has performed like a playoff contender in defeating Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans, but has only scored one touchdown combined in double-digit losses to the Eagles and Lions, who at 5-1 share the best record in the league with the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
“I thought our squad matched up pretty good (Sunday). I thought we made a lot of mistakes. It looked like we came off a bye week,” Bowles said after Jared Goff threw for 353 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Lions to their fourth straight victory.
“We don’t compare who we play, and how we play. I think each game is different,” Bowles added. “I do think we have a good football team; I think we’re young, I think it felt like we came off a bye week. We look sluggish and we played like that.”
Bowles reiterated the season is just five games old, and Tampa Bay’s mistakes are correctable.
Baker Mayfield agreed. The Lions limited the Bucs to less than 200 yards of total offense until the closing minutes.
“I’ll fix what I was doing wrong and we’ll get it going. Zero excuse for our offense to come out and lay an egg like that. That was horrible,” the quarterback said.
“We should be putting a lot of points up on the board. … We talk about the standard about winning around here, but offensively we need to look at it in a smaller picture,” Mayfield added. “We should be putting up a lot more points than we have been, and so we need to be accountable with that. It starts with me, and we’ll get that going.”
Despite allowing Detroit to convert 9 of 16 third downs and Goff to throw TD passes on third-and-13 and third-and-10, the defense played well enough to keep the Bucs within striking distance until the Lions finally went up two scores late in the third quarter.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
After showing signs of improvement earlier in the season, the running game has regressed. The Bucs averaged just 2.9 yards per carry while being held to 46 yards on 16 attempts Sunday, Tampa Bay dropped to 29th in the NFL in rushing offense at 78.8 yards per game.
Rookie DL Calijah Kancey returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games because of a calf injury that sidelined him most of training camp and the entire preseason. The first-round draft pick played 11 snaps in the season opener at Minnesota before aggravating the injury. In addition to his first NFL sack, Kancey had a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits against the Lions.
Tampa Bay’s offense was 2-for-12 on third down against the Lions, who limited the Bucs to a pair of field goals and 251 yards. A big chunk of that yardage came on the team’s final possession of the game.
The Bucs didn’t report any significant injuries during the game. Bowles said Mayfield had a left hand contusion, but X-rays were negative.
Zero. The Bucs failed to force a turnover for the first time this season.
With all four teams in the NFC South losing on Sunday, the Bucs retained first place in the division. They host Atlanta next season with an opportunity to bolster their early edge over the Falcons, Saints and winless Panthers.
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