The 3-5 record is deceptive. At least two of the losses in the current streak were winnable. The Buccaneers lost on a field goal by Atlanta in Week 7, then lost in Houston in Week 9 thanks to a lightning-fast touchdown drive by the Texans in the final seconds. Tampa Bay was outclassed in Buffalo in Week 8, but still had a chance to win on the final drive.
Only a handful of plays separates 3-5 from 5-3. The inability to make those plays has frustrated Bucs fans, but it has also frustrated Buccaneers players.
“I wouldn’t say anger,” Mayfield said in his press conference this week. “Frustration – we expect to win these games that we’ve lost, so that’s the biggest thing. It’s the same message. Look at what exactly went wrong, get that corrected and move on from there. When we start playing as a team … there is a lot of ball left. We’re just through the halfway mark of the year. We’ll learn a lot of lessons from these games that we’ve lost in a row, and we will be stronger for it.”
Baker Mayfield: Buccaneers’ Wounds ‘Self-Inflicted’
Certainly, for Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers, Week 10 is shaping up as a must-win to keep themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, even in the relatively weak NFC South. They are a half-game behind the Falcons and a game-and-a-half behind New Orleans.
With a road game against one of the Super Bowl favorites, the 49ers, looming in Week 11, the Bucs can’t afford to let this streak get to five games, because it could easily balloon to six thereafter.
Adding some extra fuel to the Buccaneers’ frustrations has been the fact that so much of what has gone wrong has been their own fault. Penalties are a good example. The Bucs average 55.9 penalty yards against them in 2023, which ranks 24th in the NFL. In the last three games, they’ve racked up 76.7 yards per game of penalties, worst in the NFL in that stretch.
Mayfield said that the offense petering out in the third quarter against Houston and the mistakes down the stretch were the keys to the Week 9 loss.
“I think the tale of it was not scoring in the third quarter,” Mayfield said. “Then on that (final Buccaneers) drive alone, yeah, we overcame some things, but they were self-inflicted – some penalties. A third-and-23 is not where you want to be on a critical drive in the fourth quarter needing to score a touchdown. … We showed that we can get it done when we need to, but there is still the same story of the self-inflicted things that we need to eliminate.”
No Players-Only Meetings for Bucs
Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers have not taken any drastic actions in response to the frustration of the last few weeks. In other places around the NFL, we have seen players-only meetings and other teamwide airing of grievances, but those rarely seem to work.
Mayfield shut down that type of talk immediately.
“I think a lot of people make a big story about the players only meetings, but for us – yes, we have captains, but we’ve got a lot of leaders,” he said. “Guys know we just need to do our job. That’s the biggest thing. It’s not like it’s a lack of discipline throughout the week or being on the same page – it’s just a matter of translating it from the practice field and the meetings to the game on Sunday and trusting in that.”