Tampa, Fla. • Tampa Bay’s kicking woes cost the Buccaneers another game.
Rookie Matt Gay’s 34-yard field goal attempt sailed right wide as time expired Sunday, leaving the Bucs on the short end of a 32-31 loss to the New York Giants. The sixth-round draft pick also missed an extra point and had another blocked.
“I’ve got to make that every single time,” said Gay, who placed the blame on himself even though Tampa Bay’s defense allowed Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones to lead four long touchdown drives — 75, 75, 80 and 75 yards — in his first start for New York.
“I had some good warmup kicks on the side, kicking into the net. I was super confident going on the field. I felt really good about it,” said Gay, from the University of Utah. “I went out there, still felt really good and took my steps, went through my whole process, got back there, had my line, and just didn’t hit it clean.”
Finding a reliable kicker has been a challenge for the Bucs, who drafted Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016 only see him struggle as a rookie and eventually released in training camp the following year.
Gay’s strong leg makes the Bucs a threat to score any time they cross an opponent’s 40-yard line. He was drafted this year to compete with incumbent Cairo Santos in training camp. He excelled on long kicks in practice and during the preseason, but was not nearly as consistent on shorter kicks.
Jameis Winston moved the Bucs into position to attempt the possible game winner with a 44-yard completion to Mike Evans at the Giants 9. The Bucs deliberately took a delay of game penalty, then had Winston run to the middle of the field before taking a knee to center the ball at the 16.
Arians defended taking the penalty, saying the extra yardage didn’t matter.
“That field goal is easier back 5 yards, no sense hurrying,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We wanted to move the ball over, put it in the middle and make it an easy field goal.”
Winston said it never should have come down to a kick at the end.
The Bucs scored on all six of their offensive possessions in the first half — three touchdowns and three field goals — to build a 28-10 lead. The Giants began their comeback with Evan Engram’s 75-yard TD reception on the first play of the second half.
“We just have to play better football and we’ve got to finish,” Winston said.
“I told (Gay) keep grinding — keep digging in. We’ve all got to do our part,” the quarterback added. “We shouldn’t have put him in that situation. He’s going to have another chance, and he’s going to make more game-winning field goals.”
Gay appreciated the support.
“My team’s been really good, just making sure I keep my head up and that I’ve got to put it behind me and that going forward, it’s not going to help to look back on this one,” the kicker said. “I’ve got to live and learn from what I did. … It doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve got to make that field goal, though.”