This past weekend, I made my annual trip down to Raymond James Stadium to see the Bucs play in person. We all know they lost to the Falcons. But you see and experience so much more when you’re at the game, so I wanted to share my thoughts about what I saw. I’m not going to include any stats in this article.
The Bucs lost this game for the same reasons they lost seven others: too many dumb mistakes. Everyone sitting around me (who’ve clearly been to a lot more games than I) knew that every flag was going to be against the home team. Seriously, how many times did the Bucs bail out the Falcons in this game? On Atlanta’s first TD drive, the Bucs jumped offside THREE times. And then there were the occasions that the Falcons faced third and long, only to be given new life by a defensive penalty away from the ball? The penalties are a lack of discipline. A lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching. You hear that, Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier?
I also saw an Atlanta receiver wide open in the end zone TWICE. How does that happen? On the first one, the Bucs got lucky that Matt Ryan’s pass was underthrown, and the defender was able to get back in time to knock it away. I don’t remember who it was, because it happened at the opposite end of the field. But I DID have a good luck at Devin Hester all alone in the end zone nearest my seat, and he dropped the ball. The Falcons had to settle for a field goal. That dropped pass cost Atlanta four points. I was really hoping that drop would come back to haunt the Falcons. Wishful thinking.
The Bucs need to draft a franchise, stud quarterback next year. I heard that from fans sitting around me at Ray-Jay, and even more in a sports bar after the game. We were all surprised that Josh McCown was given the start. If Mike Glennon is “the future” (Lovie’s words) than why wouldn’t you play him the rest of the season? McCown didn’t disappoint, and I say that sarcastically. For three quarters, he played mistake-free, albeit unspectacular football. But in the fourth quarter, when he needed to rally his team, he couldn’t do it. Even with two minutes to go and trailing by ten, the Bucs still had an outside shot to pull off a miracle. They were down by the goal line, and had all three timeouts that they could’ve used on defense. But McCown threw a pick in the end zone. The fans who hadn’t left the stadium by then started heading for the exits. He got his share of boos.
The other guy who we booed a lot was punter Michael Koenen. He is not having a good year, and he shanked a couple of kicks in the second half that gave Atlanta superb field position. He was also handling kickoffs. Remember Connor Barth? Remind me why got rid of him again?
While the Bucs need a stud quarterback, I can tell you Mike Evans is a stud receiver. Man, some of the catches he was making….he was amazing. He and Vincent Jackson make a formidable receiving tandem, IF only they had a decent quarterback who could not only get them the ball, but hit them in stride every once in awhile. That was another thing I noticed: how many passes from McCown did not give the receiver any chance of gaining yards after the catch?
There was a nice crowd at the game. I thought there would be a lot more empty seats than there were, given this was a matchup between two bad teams. While it wasn’t a sellout by any means, but decent nonetheless. There were quite a few Falcons’ fans in attendance, not surprising based on simple geography.
So those are my observations from my seat in Section 121. If you were at the game, I’d love to hear yours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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