We all knew the storyline coming in to the 2021 season for the Bucs: The biggest obstacles for the defending champs were going to be staying healthy and not beating themselves.
Well, the Bucs weren't been able to stay healthy or stay out of their way for the first three weeks of the season. Tampa Bay led the league with 12 pre-snap penalties heading into the Week 4 matchup with New England. The team has a problem with penalties as a whole, evidenced by their second-highest total in the NFL, but pre-snap penalties are especially frustrating because the offending player(s) completely controls the situation. It's all mental/lack of focus when it's all said and done.
"Pre-snap penalties, that’s just concentration," Bruce Arians told reporters on Wednesday. "Like I said, it’s an effort by the players to eliminate it because coaches talk about it all the time. September football you find out what your football team is all about. We talked a lot about it Saturday night, about what we were as a September football team and what we need to be better at in October.”
The Bucs showed improvement on Sunday night against the Patriots. They had just one pre-snap penalty called on them after averaging four per game through the first three weeks.
"We eliminated the pre-snap penalties," said Arians. "We had one that really wasn’t a penalty. That was a major emphasis last week."
As well it should be. Tampa Bay knows all too well about how penalties can affect a game. The Bucs were tied for the lead league in penalties last year through five weeks and things came to a head during their Week 5 contest with Chicago. The Bucs lost, 20-19, largely due to the 11 penalties for 109 yards that were committed. But they corrected course and were called for the fewest amount of penalties from Week 6 - Week 17.
But even if the Bucs cut down on the pre-snap penalties, they still committed six other penalties that cost them 69-yards on the night. Those included three defensive pass interference calls, two of which directly led to a touchdown for the Patriots. The third also helped the Pats move into range in order for Nick Folk to try the 56-yard attempt that would've given New England the lead with under a minute to play.
There's still a long way to go, but at least there is a sign of improvement. The question now becomes whether or not the Bucs can continue to improve on pre-snap penalties -and penalties in general- this week when the Dolphins come to town.
"Just continue to grow in that area and again eliminate mental errors," said Arians.
As long as the Bucs continue to grow, then we've seen everything will turn out alright.
And the Bucs know this.
"As previously mentioned, we’ve dealt with some penalties," Chris Godwin told reporters on Wednesday. "I think the great thing about football is it’s a long season, and as you saw last year, it takes awhile to kind of build things up. Obviously, we don’t want it to take that long this year. But I think with the guys we have on our team and the experience we have, I’m confident that as the year progresses, we will continue to get better, cut down on the penalties, cut down on the mental errors and just start to find our groove and figure out exactly what we want to be as an offense.”
Main photo credit: John A. Babiak/@Photog_JohnB
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