Still Losing To Good Teams
November 29, 2010 at 10:45am by Scott • 8 Comments »
Aaaaand I’m back. I intended to post some more during the holiday, but it didn’t work out quite like I wanted it to. There’s some weirdness going on around the homestead that required my (ultimately fruitless) attention, but that shit is depressing and doesn’t need to interfere with the business of Buccaneer football.
Although we were all hopeful that the Bucs could pull this one off, I don’t think anyone is surprised that they lost. The good news is that they made it a close game at the end and it’s the second time in a row they’ve played a playoff-caliber team where it came down to one score. That’s a hell of a lot better than the blowouts to Pittsburgh and New Orleans earlier in the season. But it’s evident that the Bucs need Josh Freeman to play well against good teams in order for them to win. The defense can’t bail them out just yet, even though the defense played relatively well. In the future, each of them will be able to lean on the other if they’re struggling. But right now, everyone — especially the quarterback — have to bring their best game in order to beat the good teams.
Freeman was off most of the day, and the blame should be shared between himself and the offensive line, who played pretty poorly. Freeman was never sacked, but that’s only because he was able to break tackles and throw the ball away. Freeman took five quarterback “hits”, and it looked like he was on the run most of the day. And when he did have a clean shot, he was overthrowing open receivers. And when he finally did get a great pass off, Micheal Spurlock drops it in the endzone. How many of you broke your remotes when that happened? Freeman looked his best when they went to the hurry-up, but that may have also been because the Ravens were nursing a 14 point lead and were content to give up some short stuff. Still, they scored on that drive and Greg Olson should consider working the hurry-up earlier into the games.
Running back numbers aren’t spectacular, but I thought they did pretty well. Cadillac Williams was the team’s leading receiver with five catches and LeGarrette Blount had a really sweet run where he dragged Dawan Landry behind him like Aunt Edna’s dog Dinky. He probably kept up for a mile or so. The running backs did what they could with what they had, but there just weren’t a lot of holes to run through, and when you’re down 14 points in the fourth quarter, you kind of forget about running the ball. The Ravens defense is known for shutting down the run, and against the Bucs’ offensive line, they really didn’t have a problem.
From what I saw, the Ravens’ defensive line consistently won against the Bucs’ offensive line. Freeman was under pressure all day and the run game never really got going. After Davin Joseph got hurt and Jeremy Zuttah came in for him, I didn’t notice any real change in how the line was performing, which I guess is good that Zuttah didn’t have any real screw-ups, but he didn’t elevate the line play, either. Both Ted Larsen and James Lee allowed pressure on Freeman more than once and Jeff Faine had a bad snap. At least there were no penalties on them, though. Think positive, people!
The most improved group over the last few weeks has to be the defensive line, and Gerald McCoy is the leader in that group. With two sacks for the day, he’ll likely be nominated for Rookie of the Week and will not win because Buccaneers never do. The Bucs got a total of four sacks on Joe Flacco, three of them by the defensive line, as it should be. Ray Rice ran for 85 yards, and a lot of that can be put on the line, but consider how many yards the running backs got in the Bucs’ other losses. Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Ivory and Michael Turner all broke 100 yards, and runners also got big yards in Buc wins — Cedric Benson and Steven Jackson in particular. This defensive line is coming along well. Is it a coincidence that the line improvement began in earnest when Kyle Moore was replaced by Tim Crowder? The answer, of course, is no it isn’t. Moore has no sacks in his career, and he’s been given every opportunity as a starter. Crowder has three sacks just this season in backup and spot duty. Whenever Moore gets healthy, he should be the backup and let Crowder continue to improve and produce in the system.
It would be easy to blame the defensive backs for the long touchdown to Todd Heap, but the tight end is generally the responsibility of the linebackers, and it sure looked like Quincy Black was supposed to be covering Heap. Black disengaged off Heap and took a step forward, maybe looking for a swing pass or screen, and Barrett Ruud couldn’t close in time to make up for that mistake.
Cody Grimm broke his ankle after he got rolled up on a tackle and, although the team hasn’t made the announcement, will almost definitely go on injured reserve. Aqib Talib had a sweet interception that he trapped between his calves to keep it from hitting the ground and still got 25 yards in return yardage before getting tackled. Ronde Barber almost had an interception but the ball bounced right out of his hands. It looked like Barber played one of his most aggressive games of the season yesterday even though he only had three tackles. Sean Jones got beaten by Derrick Mason for a touchdown but did get a sack. Flacco racked up almost 300 yards passing, so while the secondary did have its moments, it wasn’t a good day for them.
So everyone who said that the Bucs weren’t that good because they hadn’t beaten a winning team yet, congratulations, you know how to read a game book and regurgitate stats. Feel good about yourself? It’s not that we the fans didn’t know this, we just chose not to define the Bucs by this. This game was written off by most people as a loss, and still the Bucs brought it to within one touchdown with three minutes to play and two timeouts. One catch by Spurlock, one less overthrow by Freeman, one very shady pass interference not called and this could be a different story. The Bucs may not be beating these teams yet, but they’re getting close. They were close in Atlanta and they were close in Baltimore. So enjoy all your naysaying and negativity while you can. It won’t last forever.