Giants at Bucs was a coming-out party for one Mr. Daniel Dimes, but it wouldn’t have been a win for New York if not for Buccaneers rookie kicker Matt Gay missing a 34-yard field goal attempt just barely to the right as time expired. And it wouldn’t have been 34 yards if the Bucs hadn’t intentionally taken a delay-of-game penalty. And they wouldn’t have taken a delay-of-game penalty if head coach Bruce Arians, uh ... trusted his kicker to make short kicks?
A 44-yard bomb to Mike Evans put Tampa in easy field goal range, and Jameis Winston spiked the ball at the 9 to stop the clock with 13 seconds left. From there it would have been a 27-yarder. But the Bucs deliberately ran out the play clock for five-yard penalty, and then lost another two yards when Winston kneeled to center the ball between the hashmarks. And then, well:
The kneeldown, at least, made sense—losing two yards is worth centering the ball. But the delay-of-game penalty proved a killer: If Gay took that same kick from five yards closer, it’s probably going in.
Arians was unsurprisingly asked what he was thinking, and he surprisingly answered by claiming a longer field goal is an easier one.
“I took [the penalty] on purpose. That field goal is easier back five yards. No sense in hurrying. We wanted to move the ball over, put it in the middle and make an easy field goal.”
I’m sorry, what? Matt Gay, drafted in the fifth round to address the Bucs’ years of kicking problems, had already had an interesting afternoon, missing one extra point from 33 and having another blocked, but hitting field goals from 52, 47, 27, and 23. Not that I’m prepared to even seriously engage with this strategy, but by Arians’s logic, wouldn’t that mean he’s good from long and from short, but not from XP distance? And that the delay-of-game moved him back to almost exactly XP distance? My head hurts. It’s almost enough to make you long for Roberto Aguayo, who would just go ahead and miss without the need for all these mental gymnastics.