By: Travis Politakis
After the red hot 2-0 start, the Bucs were handed their first loss of the season as they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-27. This was a highly anticipated matchup as the Pittsburgh Steelers came into town looking for their first win of the season. The Bucs and their fans were riding high on the teams early success and were looking to make this Monday Night Matchup one for the books. Many people wondered if Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would be able to continue to perform at a high level. In the last two games, Ryan Fitzpatrick had thrown for a combined nine touchdowns and over 800 yards passing, the best start of his fourteen year career.
The game started off perfect for the Bucs, as cornerback Justin Evans intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, placing the offense in great field position. Following the interception, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the offense down the field, and connected with tight end Cameron Brate for a touchdown, giving the Bucs and early 7-0 lead. But things went downhill quickly for the Bucs, as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with tight end Vance McDonald for a highlight worthy seventy-five yard touchdown, making it a 6-7 game. The Steelers then claimed the lead as kicker Chris Boswell made a 38 yard field goal, giving the Steelers a 9-7 lead.
The Bucs had a horrendous second quarter, plagued by turnovers. Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin fumbled, setting the Steelers up with great field position. This led to Ben Roethlisberger connecting with all-pro wide receiver Antonio Brown for a twenty-seven yard touchdown, extending Pittsburgh’s lead to 16-7. The woes kept coming for the Bucs, as Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception that was ran back for a touchdown by Steelers cornerback Bud Dupree, as the Steelers mounted a 23-7 lead. The Steelers tacked on one more touchdown at the end of the second quarter, extending the lead to 30-10 going into halftime. The Bucs had four turnovers in the second quarter alone, their worst quarter of the season by far.
The Bucs were able to mount some good offensive drives, as Ryan Fitzpatrick made some key competitions to wide receiver Chris Godwin, setting up a field goal by kicker Chandler Catanzaro, cutting the lead to 30-13. The Bucs defense was haunted by Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, as he lead the Steelers in receiving, hauling in nine receptions for 116 yards, giving the Bucs defense all kinds of problems.
The Bucs were able to gain some momentum in the fourth quarter, as Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with wide receiver Chris Godwin on a four yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 30-20, giving the team and fans hope. The Bucs were able to make a stop on defense and gave the Bucs an opportunity on offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to connect with wide receiver Mike Evans on an incredible twenty-four yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 30-27, making Steelers fans nervous. The Steelers offense however, was too much for the Bucs as the Steelers turned to running back James Connor who was able to rush for three consecutive first downs, securing the win for the Steelers. The game finished as 30-27 Steelers.
It was an exciting Monday Night football shootout, but the Buccaneers came up short. Despite the three interceptions, Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 411 yards and three touchdowns. This was Fitzpatricks third consecutive game with over 400 yards passing, making him the first player in NFL history to achieve this landmark. Wide receiver Mike Evans also had a terrific game as he hauled in six receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger however, was MVP of the game as he tossed for 353 yards and three touchdowns, leading his team to the win.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter explained his thoughts postgame as he said, “We did so many things to beat ourselves,” said Dirk Koetter, head coach of the Buccaneers. “From turnovers to blown coverages, the first half essentially costed us the game. If we clean that up, we win the game.”
This loss puts the Bucs at 2-1 overall, but they still remain in first place atop the NFC South division. The Bucs have some decisions to make as quarterback Jameis Winston returns week four after an earlier suspension. Will they stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick or throw in Jameis Winston? Only time will tell, as the Bucs travel to Chicago to face the Bears on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Travis Politakis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org