The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were feeling good entering the game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. The Buccaneers had won two straight, had pulled to .500, and were getting one of their premier pass-rushers back just in time to take on the high-flying offense of the Raiders.
But the Buccaneers couldn’t get much pressure on Derek Carr, who threw for a franchise-record 513 yards as well as four touchdowns in the 30-24 overtime victory over the Buccaneers. Carr was 40-for-59 and did not throw an interception against Tampa Bay.
While the Buccaneers’ secondary will get a lot of the blame for allowing two 100-yard receivers (Amari Cooper had 12 grabs for 173 yards, while Michael Crabtree had eight catches for 108 yards), Carr was virtually playing 7-on-7 against the Buccaneers’ defense.
Despite Carr dropping back more than 60 times to pass, the Buccaneers sacked the quarterback just twice and hit him just one other time in the contest that had him rushing just once for 13 yards. Now, compare that to Oakland’s Khalil Mack, who had two sacks and four quarterback hits and caused a fumble in the win.
“I thought our (defense) was out on the field too long, No. 1, and then No. 2, we played some bend but don’t break,” said Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter. “Those are two really good wide receivers. We said all week (Carr was) a quarterback who gets the ball out (fast). We couldn’t get enough pressure.
“He finds those guys and they do a good job catching it,” Koetter continued. “I thought (cornerback) Brent Grimes was in position several times and (cornerback) Vernon (Hargreaves III), they were working it over there. I’m still real confident in both of our corners. Coverage’s best friend is a good pass rush.”
This is something the Buccaneers did not have on Sunday, which was somewhat surprising. Tampa Bay knew Carr likes to get the ball out of his hands quickly. They were hoping that by using a combination of blitzes as well as four-man rushes, along with the return of Ayers, the Buccaneers would be able to affect Carr. That didn’t happen.
Ayers was credited with one tackle in his first game back after missing the previous four with an ankle injury. Signed as a free agent for his pass-rushing ability as well as the toughness he gives to the line, Ayers was not much of a factor in his return to action Sunday.
He wasn’t alone, however. The Buccaneers have been up and down in terms of pass rushing the entire year. They entered the game 18th in the league with 13 sacks, but 11 of those sacks were recorded in just three of their contests.
They knew they needed to get pressure on Carr. Mission failed.
“Yeah man,” said defensive tackle Akeem Spence, shaking his head. “We definitely up front wanted to get more pressure, get in his face. But the way they protected made it hard on us. We had a lot of double-doubles inside and some of the outside guys had doubles as well.
“I felt we did a great job but we just ran out of gas at the end,” Spence said. “We just needed one more play, needed one more stop and we’ve got to be able to find it. Even if we’re tired or even if we’re dead, we’ve just got to find a way to make a play.”
While that may be impossible, Spence’s intentions were accurate. The Buccaneers need to find a way to be more consistent in their pass rush, and they need to find it quickly. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is coming to town on Thursday. He threw for 322 yards in his first meeting against the Buccaneers this season.