It started when White ran the ball during a 10-play scoring drive instead of Fournette during the Bucs’ 16-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, November 6. CBS Sports sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson said the Fournette was “extremely frustrated” but that White told him “we need you” after that drive.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said on Monday that he “didn’t see or hear anything about that” incident with Fournette getting frustrated or White consoling him. White led Bucs rushers with 27 yards on eight carries while Fournette mustered 19 yards on nine attempts.
Fournette eventually got his head back in the game and caught the pass that gave quarterback Tom Brady 100,000 career passing yards. Fournette also caught a pass during the game-winning drive, and he finished with five receptions for 41 yards.
Fournette’s Issues Mounting?
Tampa Bay invested $21 million for three years in Fournette this offseason, and the Bucs haven’t received a return on that investment.
Fournette rushed for 127 yards in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Since, he couldn’t gain more than three yards per carry in all but one of the following games this season. He also has only two rushing touchdowns this season.
Now, the Bucs see signs of a previous issue with Fournette. He got down on himself in 2020 when he didn’t get carries behind Ronald Jones II, and it took former head coach Bruce Arians and players encouraging him to right the ship. It paid off that time as Fournette had a monster playoff run where he became known as “Playoff Lenny.”
Whether or not White’s encouragement to foster a turnaround for Fournette remains to be seen. That Bucs squad in 2020 had Pro Bowl-caliber players across the offensive line, and this year’s squad has a young offensive line instead.
Bucs Running Game Issues Persist
Though the Bucs went to White a little more on the ground, it didn’t alleviate the season-long rushing issues for the Bucs. The team mustered on 51 yards on 20 attempts overall. The Bucs remain in the NFL cellar for run production at 60.7 yards per game.
“Some good, some bad from the run production,” Bowles said. “We missed a few blocks here and there, I think that had a lot to do with it. Again, we’re making an effort to do it, but not at the expense of losing the ball game. So we’re going to continue to work on it and go from there.”
The bad arguably made the Bucs’ last-second comeback necessary from the first possession of the game. Fourentte couldn’t gain three yards to cross the goal line for a touchdown on third down. It resulted in a chip shot field goal for 20 yards by kicker Ryan Succop.
Brady and company didn’t bother running the ball on the second trip inside the Rams’ 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Chris Godwin mustered one yard on first and goal, and Brady threw two incomplete passes after that.