Thoughts From the Morning After

This pretty much says it all.
This pretty much says it all. /
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(In what will become a weekly column during the season we’ll take a look at the Buccaneers’ performance last week. Typically this will be posted Monday morning. I’m sorry this is one is a little late.)

This pretty much says it all.
This pretty much says it all. /

Sunday wasn’t a good day for Bucs fans. It started off very well with Aqib Talib putting the Bucs offense in great field position after an opening drive interception followed by Connor Barth knocking a field goal through to take a 3-0 lead.

Unfortunately in the NFL games last for 60 minutes though and the Bucs didn’t have much go right for them after about the first ten. In what basically amounted to a neutral site game (possibly even a Steelers’ home game) the Bucs looked outclassed and out of place against one of the league’s best teams.

There’s plenty to focus on after the Steelers dropped the Bucs 38-13 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Starting with the Bucs anemic run game, the problem created by Tanard Jackson’s suspension, the complete and utter lack of a pass rush. Fortunately, the Bucs are still looking good at 2-1, but this team heads into the bye looking for more than a few answers.

Offense

This was a tall order for a young offense going against one of the league’s premiere defenses. Josh Freeman could have used a little bit of help from his running game, on the day none of the backs looked to have much room, though LeGarrette Blount did run with a great degree of purpose. Cadillac Williams was held to 13 yards on six carries, Ernest Graham saw just two handoffs on the whole day and the entire offense just looked disjointed against a very aggressive defense.

Josh Freeman didn’t have a bad day, though he also didn’t have a particularly good day either. The young quarterback led just one significant drive, a nine-minute affair that meandered to a second quarter field goal. Beyond that the Bucs struggled to find any semblance of offensive rhythm.

Part of the problem was that they had to play from behind for most of the game and the lead just seemed to grow for the Steelers. Nothing takes an offense out of its game-plan like a deficit. Though there are small silver-linings sprinkled here and there, very little beyond the strong debut of Blount and the solid work Josh Johnson put in during garbage time can be considered high points of this game.

Defense

Whenever you see a safety in this position, bad things are happening.
Whenever you see a safety in this position, bad things are happening. /

I said going into this game that Mike Wallace would be the player to watch for the Steelers. I’m not tooting my own horn because I was extremely wrong about a lot of the Steelers offense, in particular Charlie Batch, but I did mention if Wallace was active he would loosen the Buccaneers defense up and allow Rashard Mendenhall some room to run. Wallace was very active early, starting with a long touchdown reception that clowned Cody Grimm. To his credit Grimm looked to be in pretty good position when the ball was launched but by the end of the play it was pretty clear that it was his first start.

The Buc defense really wasn’t as bad as it looked on Sunday, frankly the team caught a few unlucky bounces and the Steelers were able to capitalize on a few big plays, but this isn’t anything to get too riled up about. In fact for the first two drives they looked like they were going to be fierce. Aqib Talib intecepted Charlie Batch’s first pass to set up a field goal for the offense and then the defense got a three and out on the Steelers’ next drive. Then things fell apart, a couple of long passes, a defensive score and 201 rushing yards later, it was 38-13.

What most damned the Bucs was the consistent lack of a pass rush. Charlie Batch wasn’t sacked all day. As silly as it sounds I’d like to think the Bucs could’ve been able to bring down a 35 year-old third-string quarterback at least once. But in all seriousness, without a pass rush the pressure is put squarely on the shoulders of the secondary and that’s never ideal when you’re breaking in a rookie at safety. Batch had time to sit back and go through his progressions, he had time to let the deep routes develop and when he was pressured he managed to get away and pick up yardage with his legs. Not a banner day for the defensive front seven.

Final Thoughts

What really bothered me about this game was the lack of resilience on the Bucs’ part. They gave up a few big plays and they went down by a few scores early, but I never really saw that fire in the Bucs that made them push back against the tide and turn it back into a game. Maybe they were just purely out-classed and the expectations going in to week three were too high, I’m not suggesting the team quit. And I’m not getting ahead of myself, I like the make-up of this team. But it did put a doubt into the back of my mind as to who the leaders in the locker-room are and just how resilient this team is.

And that’s a question the Bucs need to ask themselves going into this bye week. How they bounce back in week five at Cincinnati will answer a lot of questions going forward.