Turnovers, penalties doom Bucs in 31-17 loss to 49ers

Luke Easterling

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans have seen this one before.

Despite plenty of promise on both sides of the ball, the Bucs squandered an early lead and couldn't recover from a vast array of mental errors on the way to a 31-17 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's home opener.

A pair of Jameis Winston pick-sixes proved fatal for a Tampa Bay team that also had multiple touchdowns wiped out by holding penalties. Cameron Brate caught a pair of touchdown passes from Winston on the same drive, but both were called back.

At halftime, the Bucs were nursing a slim 7-6 lead, thanks to an impressive performance from their new-look defense under new coordinator Todd Bowles. That defensive showing was punctuated by a pick-six of their own, courtesy of Vernon Hargraves III.

But the visitors would outscore the Bucs 25-10 in the second half, sending the Bucs to an 0-1 start. 

Tampa Bay still had a chance in the game's final minutes thanks to yet another defensive stop, but down six points with just over two minutes to play, Winston's first-down throw floated into a defender's hands, and then into the opposing end zone to seal the game.

Winston completed 20 of his 26 passes for 194 yards and a 10-yard touchdown to Chris Godwin, but his trio of interceptions ruled the day. This came against a 49ers defense that only picked off two passes in the entire 2018 season.

The brightest spot for the Bucs offense was second-year running back Ronald Jones II, who carried the ball 13 times for 75 yards, averaging nearly six yards per attempt. After struggling mightily in his rookie season, the former second-round pick showed off a skill set worthy of his draft slot.

The Bucs won't have much time to lick their wounds from this loss, as they face a quick turnaround for Thursday night's road test against the Carolina Panthers.


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