Buccaneer takeaways
Through the first quarter of the season, the Buccaneers squeaked by opponents with meager offensive production thanks to a stifling defense adept at taking the ball away. But against better opponents, like the Bills on Thursday night, the defense just hasn't been able to carry the weight as the offense can't get moving, resulting in a three-game slide.

The Bucs scored two offensive touchdowns but could not consistently extend drives. Offensive coordinator Dave Canales said earlier this week, "We should feel frustrated. We should feel like there's more out there for us," but they haven't found it yet. Meanwhile, on defense, third down continues to be a major problem, with the Bucs allowing 7 of 13 conversions. Their league-leading red zone defense also gave up two touchdowns.

Quarterback breakdown
Baker Mayfield completed 25 of 42 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Against one of the fiercest pass rushes Mayfield has seen all season, Mayfield was sacked three times, while running back Rachaad White was their leading receiver with six catches for 65 receiving yards. Up until 2:44 to go in the fourth quarter, Mayfield completed just two passes on five attempts to Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans, finding him a crossing route for a 24-yard touchdown and punctuated by a two-point conversion to tight end Cade Otton. With Canales' offense specifically designed to get the ball in their top two playmakers' hands, Evans and Chris Godwin, they can't afford to have Evans shut out nearly the entire game.

Troubling trend
Penalties. With an offense predicated on incrementally moving the ball downfield rather than explosive plays and a high-risk, high-reward defense that takes a lot of chances, the Bucs can't afford to rack up penalties. Right tackle Luke Goedeke had three false starts, including one as the Bucs attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter. Later, a holding call on rookie guard Cody Mauch wiped out a 42-yard completion to Evans. This is two weeks in a row that the Bucs have had double-digit penalties after averaging six per game through the first three weeks.

Promising trend
The Bucs' last-ranked rushing attack showed some signs of life, averaging 4.6 yards per carry: an end around from Godwin got 14 yards, a 4.3 yards per carry averaged by White and a 15-yard run off left guard Aaron Stinnie, who stepped in for injured Matt Feiler, and left tackle Tristan Wirfs. For the second straight week, a Trey Palmer holding penalty wiped out a big run for White, with a 26-yard rush nullified by Palmer. And the Bucs could seldom turn to the ground game given they spent nearly the entire game trailing, including a 14-point deficit less than 5 minutes into the third quarter.

Jenna Laine, ESPN.com, published 27 October 2023