OAKLAND, Calif. — T.J. Ward batted down a pass in the third quarter and recovered a fumble in the fourth, but he also nearly out of nowhere committed two silly personal fouls that combined to negate both turnovers.
First Ward spiked the ball trying to mop up the loose ball. Then on the next snap he made contact with Marcedes Lewis at the Buccaneers’ 24 and ejected him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The effect on the outcome was not good for the Bucs, who instead were handed a 20-17 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
That’s two more flags for the Bucs (1-1) and continues a troubling trend.
The Bucs had never previously committed more than three penalties in a game and are now averaging 12.5 for the season. They already have committed 18 penalties in the first two games.
They can’t afford that to continue when they face the Panthers (2-0) in Charlotte next week. And the Bucs can’t put themselves in a bad position with more penalties or turnovers on defense because they’re giving the Patriots near-automatic field position.
It was another tough performance by rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was sacked three times and hit frequently before leaving the game in the fourth quarter.
And it was another imperfect game by the Pats’ Tom Brady, who went 16 of 32 for 184 yards and added 46 yards on the ground.
Brady also was intercepted once by Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves — the second pick he’s thrown in two games — and the Patriots offense never got into gear against the Bucs.
The pick he fumbled away with the Bucs leading, 17-13, late in the fourth quarter set up an 18-yard touchdown run by Mike Gillislee and extended New England’s lead to 20-17.
It was a tough game for Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who left after suffering a chest injury late in the third quarter.
It was also a tough game for Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, who admitted that he was wrong when he went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Bucs’ 18-yard line with 1:07 left in the first half, deciding to go for the touchdown instead of going for the field goal.
On first down, he called a timeout, giving the Bucs enough time to move the ball out of the end zone. Then they took a delay of game penalty to make it 2nd-and-15 at the 29, forcing a punt instead of a field goal.
“We had a ton of timeouts,” Koetter said. “I probably made the wrong decision. I thought it was a great time to try to execute, and we didn’t execute.”
The Patriots had to punt from their own 11, and that forced the Bucs to go 69 yards on 11 plays — with the final six yards coming on an 8-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Adam Humphries — for their first touchdown of the game.
But the Bucs defense was unable to keep the Pats out of the end zone on their final drive.
Brady completed four straight passes for 36 yards on that march, getting hit in the backfield by Ayers on third-and-6 at the Bucs’ 36-yard line. And on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Brady threw incomplete in the end zone on an end around.