Maybe they simply aren’t ready yet. Maybe that explains it.
Maybe it was all of those turnovers (three interceptions, a fumble and a random head-butt by quarterback Jameis Winston.)
Maybe it was that the defense wasn’t as sharp as it has been, giving up hugh games to the Cowboys’ star rookies. They surrendered 279 yards passing to Dak Prescott and 153 yards rushing to Zeke Elliott.
Maybe the Bucs aren’t good enough for a six-game winning streak. Maybe it was missed tackles. Maybe it was a horrid running game. Maybe it was wasted opportunities.
“It would be somewhat understandable to a game of this magnitude in this stage,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “There’s a lot of young guys out there who haven’t been in a game of this magnitude before. Like I said, this will serve us well down the road. It hurts a lot tonight.”
Whatever the reason, the Tampa Bay Bucs finally lost again Sunday night. They fell 26-20 to the Dallas Cowboys, a defeat that put their playoffs hopes in jeopardy. The Bucs are now 8-6, one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South and barely out of the wild card position. Games in New Orleans next week and against Carolina at home in two weeks could change things.
The Bucs started sluggishly, falling behind 17-6. Winston threw two touchdown passes, however, to give Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead in the third quarter. Dan Bailey kicked three field goals in the fourth period, however, to wrap up the win.
“We saw the streaky side a little bit of Jameis,” Koetter said. ” He got off to a slow start. Even though we got a good drive and got that early lead, against a team like this, you can’t kick field goals and expect to win. You look at the stats at the end and we’re 1-for-3 in the red zone. Those other eight points would have helped us. The second one was that penalty that you mentioned earlier. That’s been hurting us the last few weeks and it caught up to us tonight.”
The Bucs struggled to run the ball, as Doug Martin gained only 42 yards on 16 carries.
Despite it all, Tampa Bay had the ball five times — twice in the final minutes — with a chance to win. It was stopped an all possessions, however.