In the first regular season game at Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers appeared to be dominated in every aspect of the game against the Lions. Tampa’s offense failed to gain any sort of momentum until the 4th quarter. Before the arrival of the end of the game, the Buc’s weren’t able to convert 1st downs, establish their running game, or stopStafford from completing the majority of his passes. The defense for the Buccaneers played pretty well in my opinion. I’ve noticed some articles have blamed the play of the defensive unit for the Buccaneer’s 27-20 loss to the Lions. I beg to differ.
Time of Possession
I don’t want to seem like I’m making excuses for the Buc’s loss this past Sunday. However, time of possession was a tremendous factor in how well the defense played. Josh Freeman and the offense were unable to hold on to the ball, and faced three and outs the majority of the game. How exactly does that affect the defense? Well, the less time the offense maintains possession, the more time the defense has to face the intense heat and humidity their home field offers. To make matters worse, the Lions kept to their run first strategy when they could have just passed for greater gains in yardage. In the first half alone, the longest amount of time the defense was off of the field was only 2:29. The same could be said about the time of possession in the second half, except Josh Freeman made a strong push for a 4th quarter comeback, and was able to hold on to the ball for a little longer. The defense looked strong in the beginning of the game and was able to keep the Lions out of the endzone twice. After spending the majority of the day on the field, who could blame them for looking sluggish and missing tackles?
A Silent Defensive Line
The defensive line was unable to record any sacks the entire game. What made that really surprising for me was that the defensive line was able to record 10.5 sacks in the preseason, yet not a single one in their first regular season game. However, don’t let numbers fool you. The reason they were unable to record a sack is because the Lions executed their offensive plan flawlessly. They relied mostly on short runs and quick passes. The defensive line looked disruptive, butStaffordwould get rid of the ball long before the lineman could generate any form of pass rush. Proof of this is seen in the few plays thatStaffordtook a couple of extra seconds to allow his receivers to get far enough for a deep pass. In those plays, the defensive line was able to generate better pass rush, yet still failed to make a sack. Before you write the Buc’s pass rush off, remember that this unit will need time to develop their individual talents into an effort as a unit.
Calvin Johnson vs. Aqib Talib
Why is everyone so down on Talib? Have you forgotten that this is the first time he saw the field in 9 months? Here’s what I saw with Talib. Calvin Johnson is a big receiver who is nearly impossible to stop. He is so vertically gifted that all you have to do is place the ball in the right spot, and his chances of making a big play are drastically improved. Johnson only recorded 88 yards on 6 catches, and 2 touchdowns. Those are pretty impressive numbers, but let’s take a second look. One of those touchdowns was a 36 yard catch. Talib had good coverage on Johnson, but jumped a little early and missed the ball by just inches. Talib is definitely is rusty, but if you remove that one mistake, Johnson would have had 52 yards and 5 catches. Of course that isn’t shutting down the receiver, but that is far more impressive statistics for Talib.
Buc’s D Top 3
Did I catch you off guard with my pick? Foster tied for 2nd most tackles and was everywhere on every down. For the majority of the first half, you may have not noticed Foster at all. He didn’t really do any splash plays, but if you look closely, the rookie could be found around the ball on every play. He also combined with Barber and Hayes in stopping Calvin Johnson from getting into the endzone. Foster also chased down Johnson after he had already ran for 22 yards. Yes, that was a big play for the Lions, but Foster came from the opposite end of the field and displayed amazing speed while chasing down the receiver. He was solid in defending against the run, and popped Harrison for a 2 yard loss on a 3rd down giving Freeman one final shot in the 4th quarter.
If Jones would have washed the butter off his fingers before the game, he could have had 3 easy interceptions. Jones played well against the run, and was pretty good in coverage. He also led the team, along with Black and Hayes, in tackles with 8.
Barber looks like he’s got another 3 to 4 years left in him. He seemed to have great instincts and cleaned up on a couple of plays after the rest of his team missed tackles. Barber tied with Foster for 2nd most tackles in the game.