Bucs Denied Chance at Victory Because They Can’t Count To 12

This was yet another game that was there for the taking for the Bucs.

It was sloppy (on both sides.) Yet there was Tampa Bay, appearing to be in position for a game-winning field goal with about 20 seconds left on the clock after Louis Murphy caught a pass down to the Cincinnati 20. The Bucs were rushing up to the line to run another play when everything stopped.

Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis wanted to challenge the previous play, claiming the Bucs had 12 men on the field. In the final two minutes of the game, all reviews come from upstairs. But what Lewis effectively did do, was give the replay official more time to consider taking another look. And upon further review, you guessed it: there was one too many Buccaneers on the field.

12 men on the field? That’s unacceptable. That’s bad coaching – plain and simple. Are you listening, Lovie Smith and Marcus Arroyo?

Instead of being in position for Patrick Murray to win the game, the Bucs were back to the 46. The next two plays went nowhere. Then on 4th and 20, our lovable quarterback, Josh McCown, threw a completion to Mike Evans that was well short of the first down. With only nine seconds left, why wouldn’t you just heave it toward the end zone at that point? Who cares if it gets picked off; you’re going to lose the game anyway.

14-13 was the final.

The Bucs had 13 penalties in this game. Same old story there. I don’t know the official stats, but Tampa Bay has to be one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. It is unbelievable how often this team shoots itself in the foot. If Greg Schiano deserved to be blasted for his players’ lack of discipline last year, then Smith is worthy of the same amount of criticism.

The defense only allowed 14 points to a high-powered Bengals’ offense, including three interceptions of Andy Dalton. Cincinnati had less than 300 yards of total offense, just like the Bucs. But Tampa still couldn’t win a game they had a chance to pull out at the end.

Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com

Bucs at the Bye: What a Mess

The Buccaneers have mercifully made it to the bye week with a record of 1-5. Just about everything that could go wrong through the first six weeks, has.

Remember back to the draft, when Tampa Bay used all of its draft picks on the offensive side of the ball? Maybe the Buccaneers should’ve thought a little bit about the defense, which has been shredded so far in the first six games. Consider these numbers:

The Bucs rank dead last in scoring defense, allowing 34 points a game. Twice in the last month, they have been blown out, giving up 56 to Atlanta and 48 yesterday to Baltimore. They have given up a whopping 165 points in the past four games. They are worst in total yards allowed per game (422.) They have the second-worst pass defense, and are 25th when it comes to stopping the run. They’re not getting any pressure on the quarterback; they only have nine sacks through six games. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Many fans are already calling for Lovie Smith’s head. That’s not going to happen to a first-year coach. But here’s a question: how does defensive coordinator Leslie Frazer still have a job? If I could only make one change during the bye week, it would be to send him packing. It wouldn’t fix all of the problems in Tampa, but it would at least send a message. It’s one thing to have a bad defense; it’s another thing for opposing teams to consistently run the ball down your throat, and for quarterbacks to play pitch-and-catch with wide-open receivers all day long, which is what we’ve seen so far in 2014.

Lovie says he’s not changing his defensive scheme. Okay, then….

The offensive side of the ball is no better. The Buccaneers are ranked 28th in total offense. They have no running game whatsoever. Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey or anyone else who takes handoffs is not getting the job done. The offensive line has been awful in terms of opening holes or protecting the quarterback.

Speaking of the QB position, I really think Mike Glennon is an adequate quarterback – not a superstar by a long shot, but not terrible, either. He’s thrown seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions. And consider this: he’s doing it with no running game or decent pass protection. His receivers often drop his passes. Anyway, he’s the best the Bucs have right now, so you might as well stick with him.

While Smith won’t get fired this season (or so I think) he definitely needs to be held accountable for this mess. He brought in some high-profile defensive free agents during the offseason. That plan hasn’t worked out. If we, the fans, turned up the heat on Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano when they were on the sidelines, then we should absolutely treat Smith the same way.

In the meantime, enjoy the bye week, knowing that Tampa Bay can’t lose next Sunday.

Photo Courtesy: tampabay.com

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Bucs Rally to Beat Steelers

Here are some thoughts on the Buccaneers’ amazing, 27-24 victory over the Steelers on Sunday.

 

THE GOOD

For a change, there’s plenty to write about in the “good” department.

 

The Bucs got the ball back in Pittsburgh territory with less than a minute remaining, thanks to a defensive stop and a short punt. Mike Glennon had no timeouts to work with.  No problem.   He drove Tampa Bay right down the field with a huge 41-yard completion to Louis Murphy, followed by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with seven seconds left on the clock.  It was an incredible rally by a team that gave up 56 points to the Falcons the last time out.  Glennon threw for over 300 yards while completing just half of his passes.  But with the game on the line, he came up big.  Murphy finished with 99 yards receiving, as he stepped up in a big way after Mike Evans left the game with an injury.

 

Defensively, the Bucs limited the Steelers to just one touchdown in the second half. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger a season-high five times, and forced a fumble that led to Tampa Bay’s first score, a Glennon-to-Evans TD pass.  We need to see more of that in the weeks to come.

 

THE BAD

Even with the sacks, the Buccaneers allowed Big Ben to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. And they continue to struggle to cover tight ends.  Heath Miller had 10 catches for 85 yards and a score.  Next week, they’re playing a tight end named Jimmy Graham.  I suggest they do some homework on him.  Antonio Brown also had a field day, catching seven balls for 131 yards and two TD’s.  And who knows what the outcome might have been had Brown not dropped a flea flicker that could’ve gone for another six points.

 

Penalties continue to be a problem. The Bucs were flagged nine times for 50 yards.  But they were outdone by the Steelers in that category.  Pittsburgh had 13 penalties, including more than a few 15-yarders that helped Tampa Bay’s cause.

 

THE UGLY

The Bucs were down in the red zone on their second-to-last possession. They decided it would be a good idea to let Bobby Rainey throw a pass into the end zone.  If that play works, you look like a genius.  If it doesn’t, you look like a fool.  It didn’t work.  But fortunately, it didn’t end up costing Tampa Bay the game.

 

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

 

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

 

Another Win! Bucs Blow Out Bills

Bobby Rainey was terrific. The defense was sensational. The Bucs won again on Sunday, beating the Bills at Ray-Jay, 27-6.

Let’s start with Rainey. On the second play of the game, he sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. He finished with 127 yards on the day. Who would’ve thought that after losing Doug Martin and Mike James for the season, the running game would start to flourish? Aside from a tough game against a very good Carolina defense, Rainey has been amazing since taking over as Tampa Bay’s primary ball carrier.

But the defense was the real story of this game. They forced five turnovers, including picking off E.J. Manuel four times, two of them by budding star Lavonte David. They sacked him seven times. They kept the Buffalo offense out of the end zone. The Bills were held to 214 yards of total offense. It goes without saying; you’re going to win a lot of games when you do that.

Mike Glennon’s numbers were not very good: 9-of-25 for 90 yards. He did complete two long passes to Vincent Jackson, one of which went for a touchdown. He also threw a TD pass to Tim Wright. But Glennon was also intercepted twice. It was not exactly an awe-inspiring performance. The Bucs only had 246 yards of offense. Fortunately, his performance took a back seat to that of the defense.

So after an 0-8 start, the Buccaneers have won four of their last five. The 49ers visit Ray-Jay next Sunday for the final home game of the season.

Photo Courtesy: USA Today