Before Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard could leave the locker room on Sunday, December 18, he had to answer for his game-changing fumble.
Bernard botched a fake punt when he fumbled the ball on fourth down against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Bucs’ 25-yard line. It led to big rally by the Bengals from 17-3 down amid a slew of Bucs mistakes in a 34-23 defeat for Tampa Bay.
Once reporters caught Bernard, who was already dressed and on his way out, the 10-year veteran questioned the reporters on being asked anything after not questions all season according to Heavy. One reporter pointed out to Bernard that he hardly played this season and therefore didn’t get interviewed yet.
Bernard only touched the ball once on offense and once on special teams this season due to an ankle injury. ESPN’s Jenna Laine caught video of the incident.
“Can I go to my family that I have outside?” Bernard asked the reporters.
“You can. Just don’t say we didn’t talk to you all year,” on reporter said in response.
Bernard acquiesced talked about the the play.
“Miscommunication, that’s all it was on my part,” Bernard said. “I take complete fault for that.”
“It was complete fault — my fault, that’s it. It’s on me, all me, something I did wrong,” Bernard added. “It was all on me. No. 25 out there, that’s me. I was the one who did it. It was just me. I messed up. I messed up. Thank you, guys.”
Todd Bowles Reveals Concerning Facts About Botched Fake
Bucs head coach Todd Bowels explained the fake punt afterward — a controversial call to begin with in Bucs territory and a 17-3 lead.
“Yeah, we needed one yard,” Bowles told reporters on Sunday. “We had it. We practiced it all week. We just didn’t handle the football.”
Bowles was also very clear and specific about what went wrong on that play.
“He missed the ball,” Bowles said of Bernard.
More ‘Bucs vs. Bucs’
Bowles reiterated that his team simply beat themselves in the loss to the Bengals.
“We’re pissed off,” Bowles said. “We can’t have, you know … it’s the same old song — Bucs vs. Bucs. We play a good first half and we come out in the second half and shoot ourselves in the foot – either by turnovers or by penalties or field position on special teams. It was the tale of two halves, and the half we played in the second half was Bucs vs. Bucs.”
Tampa Bay had everything going its way with a 17-0 lead in the first half, and the Bengals didn’t get on the board until the end of the half with a field goal. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady threw for two touchdown passes, and the Bucs defense contained Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and company.
Bernard’s fumble in the third quarter started a chain reaction of mistakes as the Bengals rolled up 31 unanswered points. Brady led a late touchdown drive, but the Bucs couldn’t get the onside kick back afterward.
“We turned it over, in six possessions we probably played them all on the plus-50 going in in the second half,” Bowles said. “Field position from that standpoint, turnovers, not getting red zone stops with some penalties had a lot to do with it.”
Bowles credited his team’s effort, but a complete game still eludes them, he said.
“We play hard and we play tough,” Bowles said. “We’ve got to play smart for four quarters.”