Bucs Succumb to Stroud, Texans in Waning Moments

Ken Cross

November 07, 2023 at 12:39 pm.

HOUSTON, Texas – Houston’s 39-37 defeat Tampa Bay was not a friendly “Ahoy Matey” in a conversation between a Buccaneer and some new acquaintance on one of the beaches there.

Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud drove Houston 75 yards in 40 seconds for the game-winning 15-yard touchdown pass to Tank Dell with six ticks remaining on the clock. Stroud applied the dagger as he threw for 470 yards five touchdown passes in the game.

Three Texans had over 100 yards receiving as Noah Brown posted six catches for 153 yards to accentuate Stroud in the air assault.

“I hate it for our guys on defense,” said Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield. “C.J. Stroud doesn’t look like a rookie to me. He’s so impressive. He looks like a polished NFL quarterback.”

Tampa Bay had a tough time finding its pass rush with Stroud’s proficiency and moving and getting away as the Bucs had only two sacks for 14 yards. This, of course, affected the secondary’s time with which to cover as it did not pick up any interceptions, nor was it able to keep Texans receivers consistently in check.

“Defensively, there were fundamentals and breakdowns in technique at the end of the ball game and the start of the third quarter and those are unacceptable,” explained Bucs coach Todd Bowles.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers had their best offensive outing of the season as Mayfield completed 20-of-31 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He hit tight end Cade Otton with both scores as the 14-yarder gave Tampa Bay a 37-33 lead with 46 seconds to play.

“It still comes down to little things,” expressed Mayfield. “Doing your job on every snap, every play. There were some times on offense where we didn’t do that, so we had to have some longer field goals.”

Kicker Chase McLaughlin hit field goals from 35, 49 and 55 yards as he is 15-of-17 overall for the season, while making all 13 of his extra points attempts.

“Chase was perfect today and that was good,” commented Mayfield. “We should have been in better positions in the red zone to score touchdowns.”

On the play before Otton’s second scoring reception, Mayfield found Trey Palmer for 14 yards to the Houston 15-yard line. He fumbled, but Evans provided major hustle in recovering the football to set up the go-ahead score.

Evans became the first Bucs receiver in history to top 11,000 career receiving yards as he led the Buccaneers with 87 yards on four catches.

“Mike is the best I have ever been around,” said Mayfield. “(He’s) such a stud to have done it consistently for so long. He means everything to this team. He shows up every day ready to work. He is about his business. He knows how to teach and lead young guys.”

Mayfield credited Evans’ route running on his 53-yard reception that set the Buccaneers up on the Texans’ one-yard line early in the fourth quarter. It allowed Rachaad White’s score from one yard out and tied the game at 30-30 with 11:43 to play.

“The safety was there to be ready to double cover him,” noted Mayfield. “I think he thought he was going to run the out route and that’s why he was flat-footed and Mike ran right by him.”