Final: Arizona 40, Tampa Bay 7
It was a rough afternoon for Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston and company as they got crushed in the desert by a superior Cardinals team. The Winston turned the ball over five times with four interceptions and one fumble. Meanwhile Carson Palmer looked like himself with 308 yards and three touchdowns. Let’s take a look at the top performers in this game.
Offensively, there were many standouts on offense for Arizona, but the top performer had to be Larry Fitzgerald. He showcased strong hands with his six grabs for 81 yards and a touchdown that saw him haul in a laser with defender Brent Grimes in his pocket. David Johnson did struggle to find room to run the ball against what has looked like a very stout Tampa Bay run defense in the early goings of this year, but his speed out of the backfield as a receiver killed the Buccaneers this afternoon. He actually lead the Cardinals in receiving yards with 98. He did, however, almost cause Carson Palmer to throw an interception in the third quarter when being covered by the aforementioned Grimes. Had he run the proper route, he likely would have beaten the veteran corner as he had lots of space to the inside of the field with no safety help. Jaron Brown had a 51 yard score, but that was more the result of bad defense than anything else.
Arizona was swarming on defense. The first match-up that went noticed in this contest was that of Mike Evans versus Patrick Peterson. This was a fun, competitive battle that saw each star making impressive plays against the other. If the lone bright spot from Tampa’s offense was taken away in this game, the beautiful back-shoulder fade to Evans for a third quarter score, it would be easy to say that Peterson won the contest between the two. However, watching these two closely showed that Evans may have actually been slightly better than the all-pro, if it may only be for his sheer size. He ran crisp routes and Peterson was beaten on a couple of plays. That said, he had his fair share of victories as well with a couple of pass breakups in what was probably the best corner versus wide receiver battle so far this season. Football junkies should go back and check out the tape on NFL Game Pass; it was entertaining to watch.
The big standouts for the Cardinals on defense were Deone Bucannon and, believe it or not, Brandon Williams. Williams looked strong in coverage after getting picked on a week ago, and forced Jameis Winston to go elsewhere with the ball. Winston instead targeted Marcus Cooper who had a mixed afternoon. His stats looked pretty with two picks, however he was beaten quite a few times by the Tampa Bay wideouts. Bucannon was easily the best defender on the field this afternoon. He was knifing in and making plays at the line of scrimmage and breaking on the ball any time it was thrown in his direction. This former cornerback converted to a near full-time linebacker is one of the more exciting players to watch on defense.
Tampa Bay had a dreadful day on offense and it started up front. The offensive line, while looking good blocking for Jameis Winston on pass plays, created almost no push in the running game. Arizona’s defense was able to stuff the run on nearly every play. Doug Martin was lost for the game early on in the first quarter and things did not get any better with Charles Sims in there. This made Tampa’s offense one dimensional, and that is a recipe for disaster on the road. Mike Evans, as stated before, looked very good in this game. Outside of him, there weren’t many performers for the Buccaneer offense. Vincent Jackson looked lost at times and was slow in and out of his breaks while Austin Sefarian-Jenkins was completely blanketed for the most part. Adam Humphries did a nice Julian Edelman impression for a lot of the game, but did run some bad routes in the process. Jameis Winston was very erratic with his throws. He rushed many of them and sailed a lot of them high. Despite throwing four interceptions and missing many throws, he did look good at certain times under pressure connecting with Mike Evans for a couple of nice plays. Unfortunately these moments were too few and far in between for the Buccaneers to show any success.
On defense, the linebackers and safeties were absolutely torched. The front-four was actually very good, mauling in the run game and creating pressure for Carson Palmer. Gerald McCoy shined with a couple of pressures and tackles for losses in this contest. The secondary for the Buccaneers was a mixed back. Brent Grimes had a tough afternoon, being picked on by Carson Palmer multiple times and losing many of his match-ups. Alterraun Verner and Vernon Hargraves looked very good actually. Verner had multiple PBUs and was excellent in coverage. Hargraves was awesome in man-coverage as well and showed that he is a solid tackler, making a couple of those on bigger players in the open field. He struggles a bit in zone coverage, and that is something that will improve with experience. Speaking of zone coverage, the Bucs were awful in zone not just in this game, but the one last week against Atlanta as well. Chris Conte was beaten badly deep by Jaron Brown in a busted coverage where he just did not get deep enough on the zone. Hargraves passed Brown off and Conte allowed him to run by without any issues and Carson Palmer did not miss him on a deep bomb. The linebackers were not good in either man or zone coverage. Lavonte David did not have a tackle in this game at all, which snapped his league-high streak of 56 straight games with five or more takedowns. Kwon Alexander missed a couple of open field tackles and was not able to run with David Johnson. The unit was not fast enough to defend the speed of the Arizona Cardinals receivers.
Simply put, the Buccaneers got it handed to them in Glendale. There is no doubt who the better team is out of these two. The Cardinals looked like the juggernaut they were last season on offense in this game after looking a bit sluggish last week against New England. On the flip side, Tampa Bay showed us all why they are not quite ready to take that next step and become a top-tier team like Arizona. There were too many mental mistakes on their part and it was a very sloppy game from Jameis Winston overall. They hope to rebound nicely at home against a Ram team that is fresh off of a 9-3 win over Seattle in Los Angeles next week. Arizona will be taking on a desperate Bills team in Buffalo. Each squad should be favored in these games.
- After throwing four touchdowns and one interception a week ago, Jameis Winston reverses those stats this week with four picks and one score. He looked uncomfortable and was off target with many of his throws in this game while turning the ball over five times.
- Doug Martin left the game early with a quad injury. He did not return to the field after the second series. His health status is unknown at the time this article is being written.
- Tampa Bay struggled in zone coverage yet again and were beat deep because of it. The safety play has been bad, but the cornerbacks have looked good so far this season.
- The Arizona offensive line was pushed backward a bit, but they held their water nicely against a solid Tampa Bay four-man rush.
- Brandon Williams looked very good after being harassed a week ago by Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots.
- Patrick Peterson was beat by Mike Evans but still contributed to a very good defensive effort. Tyrann Mathieu is still working his way back from the ACL tear, so until then, Peterson is going to be at the forefront with this unit.