Freeman, Bucs Falter
By Josh Hill
TAMPA — Insert your popcorn “Welcome to the NFL rookies” cliche here. Cue the rim shot and the studio audience response.
The Bucs got a heavy dosage of preseason reality on Thursday night when the New England Patriots used them as a practice mat to fine tune their machine of potential dominance.
But hey, at least it was blacked out, right?
Before anyone gets too hot and bothered about the 31-14 blowout in Tampa, lets all remember this is the PRESEASON. Competitive hunger need not apply in these games and as we have seen in the past, the preseason is not a stable table to try and balance the scales of the NFL standings.
This preseason in particular is an even more skewered view as teams were forced to expand their rosters due to the shortened offseason.
So even though there are concerns afloat in Tampa, let’s not go overboard with the anxiety. If this happens Week 1 against the Lions, then you start to squirm, but not now.
Now just because the game doesn’t count for anything, doesn’t mean the Bucs are off the hook in terms of criticism. The second
preseason game brought a very different fortune than that of the no-hitter against Kansas City. Josh Freeman, who looked outstanding against the Chiefs, played just five series against the Patriots. Freeman went 5-10 for just 33 yards before handing the reigns over and taking a seat.
Freeman threw for less yards than he whole team amassed in penalty yards. Tampa had 10 penalties for 85 yards.
The utter failure of the offensive line was of major note Thursday. Freeman was sacked twice in his five series and the offense gained just 73 yards in the first half. New England’s Jerrod Mayo was more than pleased with how easy it was to push around Tampa’s frontline.
“All these guys played well, and it just feels good to be able to run around a little bit.” said Mayo. Now I’m no offensive line coach, but my better NFL judgment tells me that even in a preseason game you don’t want to have the opposing defense be able to say the kinds of things like being able to run free and have the stats to back it up.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris was less than pleased, calling the performance “disturbing”.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Penalties versus a big-time team, you can’t have those.” Morris said. “This is an accountable, young football team. We started flat, something that you’ve got to try and avoid. Kind of like a bad practice in the beginning.”
Tampa didn’t score until the third quarter and their final touchdown came in the third as well.
Elbert Mack intercepted a Ryan Mallett pass and returned it 69 yards for a score and a small boost to the defense’s morale which had allowed 28 points in the first half. Third-string running back Allen Bradford scored in the third for the Bucs sole offensive score. The offense finished with 288 yards, only 64 of which came on the ground.
Mason Foster, who made an impressive debut against the Chiefs, was deathly quiet making just one tackle. Dakota Watson, however, made an impression making 7 tackles. Watson and Foster could potentially make up the core of Tampa’s linebacking core especially given the way Morris isn’t afraid to shuffle around players.
The Bucs were out-played Thursday, plain and simple. That given, New England is a far superior team, no matter how successful Tampa was last year or in their first game thus far. The Bucs shouldn’t beat themselves up though, they’re still molding their final product, and can take solace in the fact this game will be forgotten by all except those who study the film.
Because it’s, once again, a PRESEASON GAME!
Gerald McCoy recognized this fact, but also recognized the game should be used as a building block to ensure it doesn’t happen when it counts. “If this would have happened in-season, it would have been a little rough. But it is preseason. We needed a game like this.”