The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Bucs Shredded by Falcons

Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ humiliating 56-14 loss to the Falcons on Thursday night.

 

THE GOOD
Absolutely nothing. Actually, the Bucs won’t be playing on Sunday this week. That’s good.

 

THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Everything. Where to start….

The defense, supposedly the strength of the team, allowed 56 points. Matt Ryan and company were marching up and down the field at will. Receivers were wide open all over the field, including the end zone. Atlanta had nearly 500 yards of total offense (488.) Yes, Gerald McCoy, their star defensive lineman, was out with an injury. But could one player have made that much of a difference? They did force four turnovers. Normally that would be outstanding, but it didn’t make any difference on this night, because…

The Bucs’ offense turned it over five times. One of them was a pick-six thrown by Josh McCown, who left the game with a hand injury. Bobby Rainey, who had an excellent game last week against the Rams, lost two fumbles. Then there was the shotgun snap that went right over Mike Glennon’s head. The offense had 217 total yards, and 110 yards in penalties. There’s more, but you get the idea.

And finally, we have the abysmal special teams. You would think, after all the years Devin Hester has been in the league, that teams would avoid kicking the ball to him. Heck, Lovie Smith had him on his roster in Chicago. But you’d never know it from last night. Hester had long returns all night, including a 62-yard sprint for a touchdown. Even in the second half, long after I had turned off the game, Tampa Bay was still kicking it to Hester. I just don’t get it.

Let this sink in: the score was 35-0 at halftime. After three quarters, it was 56-0. What makes this even worse was that the game was on national TV. Thankfully, Tampa Bay doesn’t have any more nationally-televised games scheduled, barring a miraculous turnaround.

 

My goodness.

 

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

 

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Dear Bucs: What’s With the Play-Calling?

Now that I’ve had time to sleep on Sunday’s bitter defeat, it’s time to take a look back and dissect the biggest issues surrounding the Buccaneers right now. There are many, but one seems to stand out among fans more than the rest.

What about that play-calling in the red zone?

On two different occasions in the second half, the Bucs were in scoring position. Yet all they did was hand the ball off to Bobby Rainey. Rainey had a terrific day running the ball, no doubt about that. But the play-calling was far too conservative. Don’t you have to take a shot to the end zone? Or, at least put the ball in the air on third-and-seven to pick up the first down? If you don’t trust Josh McCown to throw it in that situation, then why is he your starting quarterback?

In those two red zone opportunities, the Bucs ended up with three points. The other attempt ended in a blocked field goal that led to three points for the Rams.

Sure, this team has other problems. The defense let a third-string quarterback pick them apart. Special teams had two kicks blocked. But let’s start at the top: coaching. Jeff Tedford, it was learned after the game, was not calling the plays for the second straight week. Tampa Bay’s offense was awful last year, and they have yet to put 20 points on the board in 2014. They’re 0-2, and playing three straight on the road, starting in Atlanta on Thursday night. This could get ugly in a hurry.

I hope I’m wrong.

Photo Courtesy: AP

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Bucs Lose To Rams

Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 19-17 loss to the Rams on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. When the Bucs lose, there is usually more in the “bad” and “ugly” category. But I’ll always put the “good” first because, well, that’s how the saying goes.

 

THE GOOD
This award goes to running back Bobby Rainey. Filling in for the injured Doug Martin, he rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries. The play of Logan Mankins was definitely a factor in a much-improved running game.

 

THE BAD
The Bucs lost to third-string quarterback Austin Davis. They let him lead a game-winning drive in the final minutes. And they lost to a backup QB last week, too. Both losses have come at home. Let that sink in for a moment.

Special teams were atrocious. The Bucs had two kicks (a punt and a field goal) blocked. Both led to St. Louis field goals.

What’s with the conservative play-calling down in the red zone. The Bucs were inside the 20 on two separate occasions, facing third down, and didn’t take a shot into the end zone. The first occasion ended with the aforementioned blocked field goal. The other ended with three points. I’m confused: don’t you have to take a shot? I’m looking at you, Lovie Smith and Jeff Tedford.

 

THE UGLY
It has to be that awful interception thrown by McCown down near the goal line in the second quarter. The Bucs had first and goal from the 9, and McCown forced the throw, and was picked off by Rodney McLeod. McCown did have two rushing touchdowns in this game, but his mistake was a costly one.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE CRAZY ENDING
What a crummy way to have the game end. Mike Evans made a great catch on a long pass in the closing seconds, but was clobbered on the play. He was clearly hurt, and the trainers had to help him. The Bucs didn’t have any timeouts. There were eight seconds on the clock, but the injury to Evans required a ten-second runoff. The game was over.

When Evans was hit, there were about 14-15 seconds, and the Bucs would’ve had time to rush down the field, spike the ball, and set up a game-winning field goal attempt. What a lousy rule. I know why it’s there, but I don’t think anyone felt Evans was faking an injury, given the hit he took.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

 

Bri Breaks Down the 2014 Buccaneers

On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off a new season against the Carolina Panthers at Ray-Jay. What’s new about this year’s team? Well, just about everything. Here’s a breakdown of what to keep an eye on this weekend, and all season long.

 

THE OFFENSE
This is Josh McCown’s team now. He’s 35, and coming off his best season while filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. Still, he’s playing in a division where the other quarterbacks are named Brees, Ryan and Newton. So he has to prove himself almost right off the bat, otherwise Mike Glennon, who started most of last year, is waiting in the wings.

The Bucs spent their entire draft this year on upgrading the offense. That was a wise move, given that the offense last year was nothing short of awful. They also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Tedford, who may not even be around for the opener due to an undisclosed medical condition. It would be sweet if rookie Mike Evans became a formidable duo in the passing game along with veteran Vincent Jackson. The same holds true for rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, especially now that Tim Wright is in New England.

The offensive line is probably the biggest thing to pay close attention to. But this group got a boost with the addition of Logan Mankins. Mankins was a proven leader with the Pats who made multiple trips to the Pro Bowl. Still, this area is a huge question mark. The o-line must step it up in both the running game and in pass protection.

 

THE DEFENSE
This group showed improvement last year. And if the preseason is any indication, this could be a breakthrough year for Leslie Frazier’s squad. Players like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are poised to have pro bowl seasons. In the secondary, Revis Island is no longer there, but Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson and newcomer Alterraun Verner are. As far as Goldson is concerned, can he make the necessary adjustments to stop costing his team 15 yards every time he clocks a receiver?

Lovie Smith prides his team on forcing turnovers. It won’t be enough to just shut down the opposing offense. The defense needs to take the ball away.

 

THE KICKER
This will be another intriguing area to watch. Rookie Patrick Murray will handle the kicking duties, having beaten out Connor Barth for the starting job. Barth was the most accurate kicker in team history, but missed all of last year due to an injury he suffered playing basketball. If Murray struggled in the first game or two, how much will Bucs fans be clamoring for Connor?

I’m really looking forward to writing about the Bucs this season. The addition of Lovie Smith as head coach brought Tampa Bay instant credibility at least in the eyes of public opinion. It would be great to see the off-field excitement translated into wins on the field.

 

Go Bucs!

 

One final note: I will not be doing any breakdown of the Carolina game because I will be on vacation. My coverage will continue with the Week 2 game against the Rams.

Photo Courtesy: USA Today

 

Pro Bowler Mankins Coming To Tampa

The Bucs’ situation on the offensive line has gotten a lot of attention this week.

 

First, there was word that the team invited former Miami guard Richie Incognito to Tampa for a tryout.  That sent shivers down me.  Yes, they need help up front, but why would you do it with a player with a rap sheet that includes the Dolphins’ bullying scandal among other things?

 

Then on Tuesday, my nerves calmed down considerably when the Buccaneers acquired six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins from the Patriots in exchange for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 draft pick.

 

Mankins was a beast in Foxboro.  Being from New England, I can say truthfully that he was well-liked and respected around these parts.  He will definitely bring stability to the Bucs offensive front, even if he is over 30 years old.  The Bucs needed to do something in their attempt to better protect Josh McCown, and this helps a lot.

 

A lot of Patriots fans up here are shocked by this move.  For New England, all is not lose.  Wright had a decent season on a horrendous team last year.  Now, he’s going to be catching balls from Tom Brady.

 

Still, I think this is an excellent move by the Bucs.  Don’t expect to see Mankins play in the final preseason game Thursday night.  But he should be ready to go for the season opener on September 7.

 

Oh, and a final memo to Love Smith and Jason Licht: don’t even think about signing Incognito.