As I sit here writing this article, I am strangely emotionless. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, currently being led by Dan Orlovsky, are losing 41-0 to the New Orleans Saints. In the many close losses this season, I have been upset, riled up, pissed off, and otherwise unhappy after a loss.
Today, the feelings are more reserved.
It’s almost like the moment the Buccaneers took the field, you could sense it was coming. The opening drive touchdown for the Saints was the shout that let loose an avalanche. Every negative play, mental error, and missed opportunity for the Bucs turned into profit for the Saints, and the game was quickly out of hand.
For the Buccaneers, this was unlike the previous loss to the Saints. The offense for the Saints did about as well as they did a month and a half ago. The Buccaneers offense did not live up to the same expectations.
After throwing for a record 420 yards against the Saints in the matchup at Raymond James, Josh Freeman 26 of 47 for 279, mostly in garbage time, with 4 interceptions.
Worst of all, Josh continued to act out against his teammates, and the worst defense in the NFL kept the Buccaneer offense under wraps all game long. Doug Martin was unable to get anything going, totaling 16 yards rushing on 9 carries, and finding himself locked out of the offense once the Buccaneers got down by multiple scores. However, his offensive line was just that, offensive, and allowed him absolutely no room to run. It was complete dominance by the Saints defense, collapsing every pocket and swallowing up every running lane.
So where does the blame go for such an ugly performance? I believe it’s 3-fold.
- Josh Freeman - Free was inaccurate, and seemed to be favoring his least athletic receiving option (Dallas Clark), not bringing Vincent Jackson into the game until it was far too late. He overthrew receivers, under-threw receivers, and showed a general lack of control of his throws. After throwing multiple interceptions, Josh seemed to refuse to throw the ball, holding onto it far too long, resulting in sacks, interceptions, and wasted plays. However, that could also be the fault of…
- The offensive line - Pass blocking was poor all game, and passing lanes were shut down by stunting Saints linemen. Very early in the game, a 3rd down pass was batted down, and from then on, Josh was hesitant in the pocket, and as he threw interceptions, the hesitation got worse, and made him more and more susceptable to the pass rush. However, the offensive line was unable to stop the Saints in virtually every aspect of the game, as they were unable to create lanes to run or pockets to pass. The O-line chipped in a handful of penalties, and was generally awful. However, they may have been hung out to dry by…
- The coaching staff- The defensive scheme continues to be curious, considering the lack of talent at the cornerback position. But I believe the defense was expected to struggle, regardless of scheme, and it was the offense who let them down. The decision to not heavily feature Doug Martin early in the game was certainly curious, as the first play of the game set the tone for the playcalling. A play-action, slow developing 2 yard completion to the flat is not the strength of this offense, and does not accentuate the strengths of the offense. Play-action could be a very valuable tool, allowing the opponent’s focus on the run game to translate into deep passes to Jackson and Williams. However, play-action only works once a run game is established, and a defense that allows 150 yards per game on the ground should be the target of run after run after run. Even behind a makeshift offensive line, take your struggling QB out of the game and allow your workhorse running back to wear down a bad defense.