September 24, 2012 at 11:46am by Scott • 13 Comments »
Did you see the games yesterday? People who have Sunday Ticket were able to flip around through all of them and see at least four really great games. Even if you didn’t have any emotional stake in any of them, they were just excellent games that had tons of big plays and trick plays and overtime and came down to the last second. I’ve heard it called the best weekend of football in recent memory.
And then there was the Bucs game. I would have rather watched the security camera footage of a veterinary incinerator than that monstrosity. It was shit after shit from the Bucs’ offense up until the last drive when it didn’t really matter. I wavered between blaming the coaches and the players, and now I’ve decided to blame both.
Josh Freeman had as bad a day as I can remember from him. Passes were consistently off target and I think he has just stopped stepping into this throws because he always seems flat-footed or throwing off his back foot when he passes. He wasn’t helped out by his receivers who dropped a few or his offensive line who didn’t get him enough time (Freeman could be seen walking off the field exasperated after one drive, and my assumption was that he was pissed at his offensive line), but he didn’t make any special plays of his own. He didn’t extend plays with his feet, he didn’t find his fourth option in a pinch and flip the ball to him. He looked like a backup. Freeman was 10 for 28 with a passer rating of 45.2. The interception wasn’t his fault; D.J. Ware should have had that one. So technically he could have a higher rating, but he had a miserable day by any measure. I don’t know if this team is still “All about #5″, but if it is, something has to be done. We all know he has the ability. We’ve seen him do it. Is it the way he’s being coached that is leading him to get worse, or were all the good times just luck? I’m not giving up on him, but it’s his fourth year. The light has to come on soon, right?
Everybody else on the offense was pretty much at a similar level of suck yesterday, so I’m not going to go over each of them as much as I normally would. Doug Martin was disappointing and never really got going. LeGarrette Blount looked good when he had the ball, so of course they only gave it to him four times. Wide receivers couldn’t get any separation and gave Freeman such small windows to throw through that it’s no wonder he wasn’t completing any. The tight ends were in the same boat, except Luke Stocker did get his first touchdown as a Buccaneer (and then proceeded to get blown up as a blocker later on in the game). And the line, as stated, gave Freeman very little time and allowed DeMarcus Ware to cause two sack/fumbles while also not opening up any creases for Martin to scoot through.
On the final drive they got something going. Vincent Jackson for 29 yards, Martin for 12 yards, Mike Williams for 23 yards, Tiquan Underwood for 7 yards. Dallas may have been playing softer so as to not give up the home run since they were two scores up, but Freeman looked decisive and the receivers were laying themselves out for balls. They couldn’t punch it in the endzone, but they went from their own 20 into field goal range in 1:16 using only one time out. It can be done. That kind of urgency needs to happen sometime before the two-minute warning, though.
Oh, speaking of the two-minute warning, the Bucs got the ball back at 2:43 down two scores. First play: Martin run up the middle. Second play: Short pass to Martin incomplete. Third play: Martin run to the right for -2 yards. That little bit of playcalling under the circumstances told me that the team quit. Not the players, but the coach calling the plays. That was confirmed to me when, right before the two-minute warning, Michael Koenen was going out on the field to punt. When play resumed, the offense was back out on the field and converted the fourth down, so they thankfully thought better of it. But still, that little string of events really happened. Freeman later took responsibility for the first run, saying that his helmet speakers weren’t working and that he just called something so they wouldn’t have to take a time out or get a delay penalty. But that worries me, too. At 2:47 and down two scores, there is no room for wasted plays. And when a quarterback has an opportunity to call his own play in that situation, wouldn’t you hope he’d call something bold? His favorite pass to his best receiver or some trick play he really liked or a bullet to his reliable tight end down the seam? And what about the other plays or Koenen even being anywhere near the field? It defies football logic. This is Mike Sullivan‘s first year calling plays. He seemed to crank out some good wide receivers with the Giants and Eli Manning has turned out great (although when Sullivan took over as QB coach, Manning threw for career high picks). And I don’t know shit about calling plays, so I’m sure it’s a lot harder than it looks on TV. But what we saw yesterday deserves scrutiny. Someone who knows more than any of us do need to tell us if there’s some good reason why Sullivan would practically throw in the towel for three downs when there was still almost three minutes on the clock.
Okay, on to the good news. The entire defense was great. The defensive line was dominant, with Gerald McCoy forgetting about last week and continuing his performance against Carolina. Michael Bennett should at least get some mention as Defensive Player of the Week with two sacks, two TFLs, a forced fumble and a pass broken up. Roy Miller was fantastic plugging the middle and the Cowboys couldn’t run anywhere. Mason Foster gets better every week and continued that trend yesterday with seven tackle and two for loss. People will soon start the comparisons to Hardy Nickerson with his nose for the ball. Aqib Talib also forgot about last week and started the game off with a sweet interception. The rest of the secondary was decent, although the Cowboys did put together some big plays here and there. Luckily, the Bucs clamped down when they needed to most and held Dallas to field goals after Ware’s deflection for a pick. The defense did everything they could to win the game.
I’ve got more to say about penalties and the officials and holy shit Jordan Shipley and other stuff, but I’ll save it for later. I’m at 1,100+ words and I don’t want to add any more negative ones to this entry. I love my Bucs, but I’ve already lived through 1998 once and don’t care to do it again.