TAMPA, Fla. -- After all the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' troubles on third down in Week 3, the solution might boil down to two simple actions.
"We just didn't throw and catch on third down," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Wednesday. "Protection was outstanding."
He's right about that. The Bucs never allowed a sack against the Houston Texans' vaunted defensive front, but the effort went largely wasted because of Tampa Bay's dreadful 1-for-12 clip on third down in the loss.
To Koetter, the Bucs checked off many of the tasks necessary to succeed: The protection held up and wide receivers were in positions to make plays. Still, Tampa Bay failed to execute the ending.
"We got to third down, and we still protected well, we just didn't throw and catch," Koetter said. "We either threw it on target and dropped it or we had the guy wide open and missed it. ... If you really look at all those third downs back-to-back-to-back, if we just do what we're supposed to, we could be 9-for-12 on third down."
The Bucs' showing on third down in Houston extended a poor trend. Tampa Bay stands a terrible 9-for-40 in third-down situations this season. Only the Kansas City Chiefs (5-for-30) are worse.
"Situational football wins and loses the game," Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. "We have to have a better percentage there. ... That's just pitch and catch in that situation -- make a throw to the open guy. Do the right thing."
Wide receiver Mike Evans, who had three drops Sunday, shouldered some of the blame. He expects better from himself.
"I played terrible," Evans said. "This team needs better from me, and I will get better. But it's in the past. The game's behind us. We should have definitely won if I make one or two more plays. I'll work hard in practice this week. And hopefully, I'll make those plays come Sunday."