Buccaneer Breakdown: Offense

Mike Williams sprints for 58-yard touchdown.
Mike Williams sprints for 58-yard touchdown. /
Mike Williams sprints for 58-yard touchdown.
Mike Williams sprints for 58-yard touchdown. /

We’re starting a new feature this week where we’ll spend more time on each side of the ball and try to take a look at what’s working, what’s improving and what’s not going the Bucs’ way. We’ll start with the offensive side of the ball where the Bucs had several highs and several lows.

It was going to be important for the Buccaneers to do a couple of things offensively in order to win yesterday. They needed to limit turnovers and they needed to keep the time of possession battle close. They didn’t manage to do either, the day was not a complete failure for the offense by any means, but they left plays on the field, they turned the ball over and they let their defense says on the field for 35 minutes, that’s not how you win in the NFL.

Freeman Still Growing

You have to start by looking at the quarterback. On the day Josh Freeman was 11 of 22 for 189 yards and two touchdowns, but he also tossed two costly interceptions as well. This was the first time all season the Bucs lost the turnover battle because of Freeman’s picks and in just one game Freeman almost matched his entire totals for the rest of 2010. Still, despite a couple of poor decisions and the two turnovers, Freeman made some very good plays as well.

Obviously you can laud some of the throws Freeman made. A particularly nice ball with the Bucs backed up to their own end zone late in the game comes to mind along with a few other, less prolific throws. But Freeman really deserves credit for the check-downs and adjustments he made at the line of scrimmage. Coming into the game I think the whole NFL knew Matt Ryan was capable of that, now the league is starting to see that Josh Freeman is learning to do it as well. This is a sign that Freeman is really coming into his own as a quarterback and it’s happening much quicker than a lot of people probably predicted. The guy is just 22, yet yesterday you saw him realize he had single coverage on the outside with Mike Williams, audible and then take advantage of the match-up for a 58 yard scoring play. That’s impressive.

Receivers Impress

The numbers weren’t amazing, but the quality of the Buccaneers young receiving corps is evident week in and week out. Against the Falcons both of the rookie receivers accounted for touchdowns and Mike Williams ended up leading the game in receiving.

Arrelious Benn caught the first touchdown pass of his career in the first half on a 14 yard toss from Josh Freeman. Earlier in the week Raheem Morris said he viewed Benn as the team’s deep threat, a role the Bucs hope that Arrelious will eventually grow into. If he can the Bucs will have a phenomenally gifted tandem in Benn and Williams, throw in Kellen Winslow and Josh Freeman should have some quality targets for the foreseeable future.

Mike Williams continues to impress on a weekly basis, this week he had four receptions for 89 yards including the 58 yard touchdown on a quick slant. Even Michael Spurlock got in on the act. It seems like you can count on Spurlock for one good reception per game, whether it’s the side-line dragging feat against Cincinnati or the week one catch against the Browns, Spurlock adds a nice element to the passing attack when he’s on the field.

Josh Freeman had the most luck of any Bucs runner.
Josh Freeman had the most luck of any Bucs runner. /

…And Then There’s the Run Game

The Bucs didn’t have much luck running the ball yesterday, though nobody thought they would. Coming into the game the Falcons boasted one of the league’s best run-stuffing defenses and the Bucs offense ranked amongst the league’s worst in running it. So while it isn’t really surprising the Bucs didn’t have a whole lot of success on the ground, it’s still a little disappointing. The Bucs had considerable momentum having found some semblance of a ground game in the past two games.

I had hoped maybe they could carry some of the confidence and momentum into Atlanta and at least grind it out a little bit. They tried too, but the Falcons stuffed it. Josh Freeman was arguably the Bucs best option to run the ball and that’s never ideal. Cadillac Williams looked slow and ineffective and LeGarrette Blount never had much of a chance to get things going.

The Bucs really need LeGarrette to get up to speed because the offense is just a much different animal when he’s in the game. Cadillac is a beloved player, but he needs to assume more of that Kevin Faulk role in the offense where he comes in on third and long, but hardly ever to take carries. I know it may seem crazy, but I think the Bucs would be better off telegraphing the run than trying to spring Cadillac. He just doesn’t look elusive anymore.

Bottom line though, if you have a chance to convert on 4th and 1, and you need that to win. The best teams can do that. The Bucs have a number of injuries along their line and at fullback, but the NFL is not a sympathetic league. If the Bucs can’t grind out that yard in November that means they have a lot of work to do if they want to have any hope of grinding it out in January.