Buccaneer Breakdown: Offense
By Patrik Nohe
It’s funny how far the Bucs have come from the beginning of the season when I was constantly writing about how well Josh Freeman played and how abysmal the Buccaneers run game was. Yesterday the Buccaneers rushing attack was incredibly productive, while Freeman didn’t play one of his best games.
That’s not to say Josh Freeman played poorly either, he was actually probably a little better than his 61.4 QB rating indicated yesterday. On the day Freeman finished 19 of 38 (50 percent) for 181 yards, a touchdown and a fairly costly interception. Freeman actually could have tossed another pick if it weren’t overturned by a replay. As I said though, he didn’t play poorly either. He displayed time and again his impeccable knack for escaping heavy pressure and turning the play into something positive. He just never looked like he was able to get into a solid rhythm.
Credit Atlanta for that too, on obvious passing downs or just when the Bucs showed pass they did a great job of disguising coverages and sending different looking fronts and blitz packages to try and overwhelm Freeman. I don’t think this is something other teams will be able to do to Freeman for much longer. Yesterday’s game tape contains a veritable wealth of teachable moments for the young signal-caller. I doubt the team will have the chance to fully breakdown the tape until after the season. But yesterday’s game-film will be something Freeman will undoubtedly take apart in the off-season and it will make him a lot better in the long run. If you ever wondered what film quarterbacks study away from the field after the season, it’s games like yesterday’s.
On the other hand though, LeGarrette Blount and the Buccaneers run-game looked unreal agaisnt a top-ten run defense. I really thought the Bucs would have a tough time finding much space on the ground yesterday, especially with Davin Joseph out. I’m glad I was wrong. LeGarrette Blount looked absolutely monstrous, taking on linemen and linebackers like they were safeties and grinding out 103 yards and touchdown on 20 carries.
It’s almost sad when you think about what Blount’s day would have looked like had Eric Weems not housed a kickoff the play after the Bucs went up by 10. That really took the wind out of the Buccaneers’ sails and threw the whole team off rhythm for a couple series. The Bucs offense went three-and-out the next drive. Had they gotten the ball back up by ten, or even just three, but with less time left they probably come out that next drive with a greater sense of purpose and LeGarrette Blount may get up near 150 on the ground.
That where the Bucs need to work on better leadership on both sides of the ball. Defensively is where it’s inexcusable, but the offense can’t go three-and-out the series after the Falcons swung momentum back their way. They needed to at least grind out a first down or two and get the Bucs calmed down. That three-and-out, specifically the sack on third down, were the biggest offensive failures of the day. That cemented the momentum for the Falcons, got their offense fired up to take the field and try to tie or win the game, and on the very next drive the defense gave up a touchdown drive.
The offense did a lot of things well and you certainly have to love the direction things are headed. The play-calling is exciting, from having the fullback throw passes to the Bucs’ wildcat 2.0, this team is fun to watch. Not to mention this young offensive unit is loaded with potential, the Bucs line truly is becoming a team strength, LeGarrette Blount is the back of the future and how can’t you love the receiving corps and Josh Freeman. But potential and results are from the same thing. The Bucs offense still needs to mature, they still have growing to do. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to hold these young guys to such a high standard, or to expect them to beat a team like the Falcons. But when they get so close, and flash so much potential, it’s hard not to.