2-Point Conversion: The Bucs’ Chance to Make the Playoffs Is Now or Never.

2-Point Conversion: The Bucs' Chance to Make the Playoffs Is Now or Never
2-Point Conversion: The Bucs’ Chance to Make the Playoffs Is Now or Never

It’s time for Scott Reynolds’s 2-Point Conversion column after the game, which consists of two daring predictions, two insightful questions, and two large assertions.

The Bucs lost to the 49ers in San Francisco for the second consecutive year, this time by a score of 27-14, which dropped them to 4-6.

Due to injuries, Tampa Bay was forced to play many rookies on Sunday in lieu of its three starting players. However, Todd Bowles and the Bucs still have time to turn things around and make a run at a third consecutive NFC South championship, or possibly a postseason appearance.


Statement 1: Bucs’ Playoff Push Is Now Or Never

I believe we were all expecting the Bucs to fall short against a superior and more skilled 49ers squad.

Before the Tampa Bay coaches and players left for San Francisco, we decided that this was a loss, didn’t we?

Therefore, the result of the 49ers’ 27-14 victory over the team on Sunday wasn’t shocking.

The Bucs lost 35-7 against San Francisco in a landslide, but they played better and more competitively than they did the previous year. And that was with Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady at quarterback.

But no moral victories, as head coach Todd Bowles rightly pointed out after the game.

“We fought as a team again,” Bowles said. “We don’t have any moral victories.

We lost and we’re pissed about it, but we’re going to fight and scrap and cut out some mistakes and be a better team because of it. We just didn’t do it today, but we’re always going to fight so that should be standard for us.”

So where do the 4-6 Bucs go from here? Tampa Bay lost ground in the NFC South with New Orleans and Atlanta both having a bye week.

But believe it or not, the race for the division title or a Wild Card playoff berth is far from over for the 4-6 Buccos. Four of Tampa Bay’s remaining seven games come against division foes.

The games against the Falcons and Saints have a double-whammy effect. A Bucs win in those games knocks the Falcons and Saints down a peg in the division simultaneously with each occurrence.

Winning those two games and sweeping the Panthers is imperative for the Bucs to have a shot at winning the NFC South for a third year in a row.

It’s also imperative for head coach Todd Bowles to get his team into the playoffs to have any chance of saving his job.

Winning six of the remaining seven games should be enough and would show some significant progress over last year’s 8-9 record. But that seems improbable given how mercurial this team this season.

It’s getting serious – it’s getting down to the wire,” Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. said. “Coming down to these final games, we’ve got to make sure that we get some wins under our belt so we can make this playoff push.”

Going 5-2 down the stretch even seems like – well, a stretch – given the fact that the Bucs have only won four of their first 10 games of the season.

For Tampa Bay to suddenly get its act together, while necessary, seems questionable.

A 9-8 record in the NFC probably gets the Bucs into the playoffs, as it did for the Seahawks last year. And 9-8 just might win the division for Tampa Bay.

The NFC South is the hot-potato division. Like last year, nobody seems to want to win it.

Three different teams have been in the division lead so far (the 5-5 Saints are the current leader), and every team outside of the one-win Panthers is still a contender

Should Todd Bowles win the NFC South once more in order to save his job and make a comeback in 2024? Perhaps not, as I go into further detail in a recent Pewter Pulse video that I strongly recommend you see.

Statement No. 2: The Bucs used ten rookies. On Sunday.

On Sunday, when the Bucs lost to the 49ers 27-14, there was a young movement on the field. Not intentionally, but every member of the team’s active roster from the 2024 draft class played offense or defense in addition to special teams.

The Bucs lost linebacker Lavonte David and starting cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean to injuries, so several rookies who have made an impact on special teams had to step up and play defense.

Bucs wide receiver Trey Palmer; USA Today photo

Outside linebacker YaYa Diaby, right guard Cody Mauch, and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, the team’s top three picks, have all seen regular action this season.

However, in San Francisco, David had to be replaced by rookie cornerback Josh Hayes and rookie inside linebacker SirVocea Dennis, respectively.

Hayes recorded three tackles and only allowed one catch for six yards. Dennis missed a pair of tackles, but wound up making two tackles as well.

In just 17 snaps, he was nearly as productive as Devin White was. White had just three tackles on 60 plays, which is not going to help his cause when it comes to getting a new contract this offseason.

Those rookie defenders joined tight end Payne Durham and wide receivers Trey Palmer – a pair of Day 3 draft picks – and rookie Rakim Jarrett, who have been regular contributors on offense this year.

A total of 10 rookies saw action versus the 49ers, including three undrafted free agents – Jarrett, safety Kaevon Merriweather and outside linebacker Markees Watts, who should have gotten more than the three snaps on defense in San Francisco.

“I thought they did well. You know, those guys came out, they flew around, made some plays, [and] they gave us a chance,” Bowles said. “The best thing about them is they’re fearless, and they don’t know any better. I thought those guys flew around pretty [well].”

The Bucs got a sneak peek at their young players, and that will help Jason Licht and the personnel department better evaluate the team’s needs in 2024 and perhaps give the coaches more confidence in the rookies moving forward.

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