Bruce Arians says he lengthened Bucs' game-winning field goal attempt on purpose

Despite Daniel Jones’ astounding, electrifying debut for the New York Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still had a golden opportunity to pull out a win once the rookie quarterback’s four-touchdown day had ended.

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It didn’t work out, and Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians had some explaining to do after the game.

On the final play of the game, rookie kicker Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal that would have given the Buccaneers a 34-32 win. He also missed two extra point attempts in a game his team ended up losing 32-31.

Gay’s attempt came after a bizarre delay-of-game penalty on the Bucs that prevented him from kicking inside the 30. According to Arians, that was all part of the plan.

Bruce Arians: Bucs kicker better from long distance

When asked why the Buccaneers took that penalty on second down at the Giants’ 9-yard line with 13 seconds left, Arians’ explanation was simple: he thought Gay would be better from a longer distance.

Attempting a field goal then and there would have given Gay a 27-yard attempt. Centering the ball and taking the 2-yard loss — as the Bucs did on the next play — without the penalty would have given him a 29-yard attempt.

Instead, by design, he attempted from 34.

Yeah, we’re going to have to talk about that.

Gay had been perfect on field goals that day, with makes from 27, 52 and 23 yards. You have to wonder why Arians didn’t stop him from attempting such short kicks then. Gay was also 17-for-17 on field goals inside the 30 at Utah in college, where short kicks are a little harder due to the NCAA’s wider hash marks.

Before his miss from 34 on Sunday, Gay’s only previous field goal miss in the regular season had been last week from 43 yards. His only miss in preseason came from 37 yards.

TAMPA, FL - SEP 08: Matt Gay (9) of the Bucs lines up a field goal during the regular season game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 08, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The stats don't exactly back up Bruce Arians' assessment of kicker Matt Gay. (Getty Images)

To be fair to Arians, Gay had already missed two extra points that day, something he didn’t do in 85 attempts in college before Tampa Bay spent a fifth-round pick on him in last year’s draft. He was already looking shaky.

Of course, extra points are from 33 yards in the NFL, 1 yard away from the distance on Gay’s attempted game-winner.

So, in summary, you have a rookie kicker who was previously perfect from inside the 30 in college, preseason and the regular season, but with some recent misses from the mid-range and two on 33-yard extra points that day. And his coach decided he wanted him kicking from 34 yards rather than 29 yards.

Bucs kicker not so sure he’s better from long distance

When asked about Arians’ rationale behind the delay-of-game penalty, Gay didn’t exactly confirm his coach’s thinking.

“If it does, then that’s not right,” Gay said. “I’ve got to be able to make them from wherever on the field. I’ve got to [make] them from short, from long. It doesn’t matter, at this point, it’s just got to [go] through. Doesn’t matter if it’s 50 or 20.”

Whatever the distance, Gay has now missed 73 percent of both field goals and extra points so far in his career. Given that the Bucs dropped a fifth-round pick on him and he has attempted only three of 15 kicks from more than 40 yards so far, that’s not going to cut it.

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