The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a lot of mistakes against the Cleveland Browns, but one of their biggest mistakes had nothing to do with anything on the field.
It had to do with Todd Bowles’ game management at the end of the game. Before David Njoku made the play of his career, the Buccaneers decided to not call any timeouts.
The Buccaneers elected to let as much clock run off as possible, instead of using one of their three timeouts to stop the clock. Stopping the clock equaled a safety net in this situation. Just in case the Browns scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17.
The clock ran and ran and ran as the Buccaneers awaited the Browns to snap the ball. Even if they just would have called one timeout, they would’ve gotten the ball back with at least 30 more seconds than what they received after Clevelands’ game-tying touchdown.
If the Buccaneers called timeout after Lavonte David’s tackle for a three-yard loss, the clock would’ve stopped round 1:09. Five seconds elapsed between the 4th and 12 snap and the Buccaneers’ first snap of their final drive of regulation.
Meaning, the Buccaneers would’ve received the ball with 1:04 and two timeouts if they just called timeout before Cleveland tied the game at 17.
In case you’re not good at math like I am, that’s 32 more seconds Tom Brady could’ve had to drive for the game-winning field goal.
And that’s not even the worst part: the Buccaneers used just one timeout on their final drive of regulation. They left two in their back pocket as the game went into overtime.
After the game, Bowles was asked about all of the above. And let’s just say his answer wasn’t all that satisfactory.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles on not calling using time outs at the end of regulation in case the Browns scored in order to have time to win with a FG. The Bucs did move the ball to the Cleveland 48 with 8 seconds and two timeouts remaining but had to settle for a Hail Mary attempt. pic.twitter.com/q7wFKj7mIw— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) November 27, 2022
With Brady at the helm, you at least have to take your shot to get into position for a potential field goal at the end of the game.
The Buccaneers failed to do that. And it may have cost them the game.
This wasn’t the only bad decision on Sunday, however.
Early in the fourth quarter, when the Buccaneers were up 17-10 and deep inside Browns territory, Bowles elected to punt instead of going for it on a measly fourth and two at the Cleveland 37.
The Buccaneers haven’t been great in these situations all year, so not electing to go for it can be somewhat justified. But that would only be acceptable if the Buccaneers decided to kick a field goal, which they didn’t.
TB decided to punt to CLE from the CLE 37* on 4th & 2* with 12:41 remaining in the 4th while winning 17 to 10.— Surrender Index 90 (@surrender_idx90) November 27, 2022
With a Surrender Index of 22.2, this punt ranks at the 98th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2022 season, and the 96th percentile of all punts since 1999.
This decision was probably the worst one of all today. I get the idea of not gambling with points when you’re up seven and your defense is playing well.
But with the best quarterback of all time on your side, there has to be an initiative to be aggressive in spots like these so you can kill games off quicker.
However, Bowles apparently doesn’t understand this, and the results of that have once again come back to bite him.
—> TB (17) @ CLE (10) <—— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) November 27, 2022
TB has 4th & 2 at the CLE 37
Recommendation (MEDIUM): 👉 Go for it (+1.2 WP)
Actual play: 🚨 (Run formation) PENALTY on TB, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at CLV 37 – No Play. pic.twitter.com/llbLioZKYt
This staff has smart people on board, but bad decisions like these portray a very negative light however you see it.
That isn’t a good development for a team that wants to win and deserves to win now. Both for the short term and the long term as well.
This staff needs to get it together, before it’s too late.
Featured image via Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports