Bucs run defense - Photo by: Getty Images
The defense came out flat in the first quarter and shot itself in the foot a few times throughout the game. Take away a 60-yard double-move touchdown and a dropped interception and maybe their fourth-quarter improvement would have counted for something. But terrible special teams play combined with a few offensive turnovers, and any positive effort on defense fell by the wayside in Thursday Night’s 31-23, playoff-hope ending loss.
If one looked at the stat column and saw Todd Gurley had 48 yards, they would probably assume Tampa Bay won on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, a strong performance against the run wasn’t enough to overcome near perfect play at the quarterback position and well-executed reverses to Tavon Austin that blew the doors open in the first half.
While Will Gholston proved to be one of the Bucs’ better run-stoppers on the night (team-leading 11 tackles, including two behind the line), his unnecessary roughness penalty in the second quarter summed up the defense’s lack of composure.
Gerald McCoy and Jac Smith, neither at 100 percent health, also managed to have decent games. McCoy could be seen splitting the double-team on occasion and giving guard Cody Wichmann a hard time, while Smith found himself behind the line of scrimmage on a few tackles. Smith also played a pivotal role during a three-and-out series in the fourth quarter, making the tackle on all three downs and keeping Tampa Bay in the game.
The Rams game plan looked similar to Tennessee’s, Indianapolis’, and New Orleans’ in that they torched the defense with quick slants and out routes in the gaps of zone defense. It seemed like Keenum was getting the ball out of his hand before the D-line had a chance to collapse the pocket. By the time they picked up their play, it was often too late.
Injuries and the game’s most critical blown opportunity was the story at linebacker Thursday night.
Along with missing its defensive leader in Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay was also without his backup, Bruce Carter, and it led to former practice squad members seeing reps. Jeremiah George and Josh Keyes both played in the game.
Speaking of former practice squad guys, Danny Lansanah dropped what could’ve been a pick-6 and complete momentum shift to end the half. After reading a quick-out perfectly, Lansanah jumped the route but couldn’t follow through, turning a possible splash-play drive into just a three-and-out.
Lavonte David was also strong against the run, taking advantage of Gholston’s and McCoy’s push, while also applying pressure on a third-and-10 blitz in the first quarter to force an incompletion. David finished the game eight tackles.
Outside of Lansanah’s dropped INT, the linebackers didn’t do anything to stand out in a negative way. Though it’s possible Kwon Alexander would’ve stopped a few of those devastating reverses at the line.
There seemed to be times when Keenum and the offense would simply find the gaps in zone defense, and other times when the former backup would drop a perfectly thrown ball into the hands of his intended wide receiver.
Major Wright was beat twice – once on third-and-5 in the second quarter and on a seam route in the third – as Keenum threw his best two passes of the night to Jarred Cook to move the chains.
Wright also missed a tackle on the Rams’ first touchdown, a screen to Tavon Austin, as Conte did the same on a reverse a few drives later. Tampa Bay’s defense played better than the score would suggest, but if anything killed them it was Tavon Austin and one 60-yard touchdown.
After Tampa Bay caught its breath and got on the board with a field goal, Jude Adjei-Barimah was beat by Kenny Britt’s double move and the crowd at Edward Jones was back into it. At 14-3, the Bucs were chasing St. Louis before the first quarter ended.
Once again Tampa Bays’ secondary made a former backup, best known for being concussed, look like a Pro Bowler. With roughly 11 short completions and three incredibly thrown passes, Keenum finished 14 of 17 for 234 yards and, most importantly, zero interceptions.
Benny Cunningham was a nightmare for Tampa Bay, as he returned the opening kick 43 yards to set St. Louis up in great field position, before ending the Bucs’ hope of a comeback with a 103-yard return in the fourth quarter.
Players couldn’t seem to shake their block along the sideline during the final return, particularly Donteea Dye and Mike Jenkins, who eventually pushed Cunningham out at the 3-yard line. Immediately after Tampa Bay gained momentum by scoring a touchdown to make it a two-score game, St. Louis took it right back in less than 10 seconds. It was just that type of night for the Bucs.
Highlights on special teams included Barth hitting a 53-yard field goal, a 43-yard PAT and another 32-yard field goal.
Jacob Schum, for his part, also booted a 52-yard punt and another inside the Rams’ 20-yard line. He finished with three punts with a net average of 40 yards.
The story on special teams, however, was the two critical kick returns. The first put the Bucs defense behind the eight ball and the second effectively ended any last hope of a playoff berth.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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You have to love a CB who gets call for holding on WR who beats you for a 60 yard TD grab.
It has now come down to the fact our CB’s are so bad they have bad holding technique.
In short, we can’t even hold right.
drdnest- Just a follow up on a previous comment you made about Gholdston being unable to play inside for us due to weight and size might want to look at Santana Dotson who was 6’5 and 280 lbs at DT for us and was great player, Gholdston is 6’6 280 lbs so yeah, what about your weight height thingy again?, lol
Santana Dotson was a two season wonder who was replaced by some guy named Sapp. He left here as a free agent, never to repeat his Bucs career elsewhere.
yes and went on to play and start for SB winning Packers thats not my point my point was size doesnbt matter at DT, you can be long like Tony McDaniel at 6’7 or short like Curt Jarvis at 6’0 how tall you are doesnt matter
Is that like that “size doesn’t matter” line we men have used on women for centuries?
I would have graded DL as a D- and LB as a D+.
So what’s the bottleneck here with getting this defense good again?
Every year – it’s always “the players” or “lack of talent”. Ok. That maybe true in part but the problem to me looks more like:
1. The system or lack there of
2. Wrong mindset from coaches to players or 3. Coaches seem to keep forcing some concept of what is perceived to be the old Buc defense with Dungy, yet they are missing key components of understanding of the old system and what made it work.
i.e. Lovie keeps mentioning key phrases regarding yesteryear’s Buc defense “Tampa 2” “Takeaways” “Offensive Defense” but I don’t think he actually gets what made the old defense actually tick. He made up some hypothetical concept, system when he was out of the league and is trying to force apply it without organically working with what he has nor understanding the missing links that made the old systems work (ie. like winners with winning standards, intolerance of mediocrity and intolerance of losing – Urlacher on the Bears comes to mind – Sapp, Brooks, Barber and Lynch come to mind.)
So I guess I may have just answered my own question: The current defensive system is weak and can not be operated without special players who have a high standard to rise above the weak defensive system or a system that needs too many decisions to be made in real time. It’s a system that may give players too much decision making so run of the mill ‘just do my job’ types may not fit well.
And on that note: we have to clear out the losers with losing mentality. Sorry but McCoy has to GO – he is the foundation of the defense who is NOT a winner. His loserism pervades the entire defense that is relying on him to make game changing plays, as a winner does. I felt his contract was foolish and desperate at the time given and perceived his loserism years ago (although he may be a very nice guy – maybe he needs some positive thinking tapes, cd’s). He, In my opinion, just seems to look to get his 1 sake a game and ‘he’s done his job’. Get him out of here. I would have said get rid of Lavonte but he’s started to play more like a winner recently.
Loserism pervades this team. I think, Winston finally saw that and said “screw you loser bucs, i’m not going to be a loser like you” when he woke up and started yelling at everybody, while playing like a winner the 2nd half of the Rams game. I think loserism was starting to weigh in on Winston into the Saints game (TV shots on Winston’s face at the start of the last Saints showed some sort of way out there look which looked of despair). Why for the saints game? Because losers believe they always lose and will always lose. So when they ‘became relevant’ at 6 and 6 they started fearing success so – they went back into their comfortable shell of loserism! In my opinion that’s why Winston pulled back, looked drained, lost and confused, heavy vs. the Saints and into the 1st 1/2 with the Rams until he woke up!
Ooops sorry for typing so much. I’ve got lots of years of bottled up Bucs fury and i just opened my Pewterrport account.
Here here SUperbUc. I think you’ve summed it up pretty good. YOu can already see WInston is tired of losing and we don’t have that guy on defense yet.
We certainly don’t have that coach. I am starting to think it’s not really the system at this point as everyone runs most of the same principles that run a 4-3. It’s just Lovies failure to adapt a game plan mid game. When he’s not getting pressure with his front 4 what’s he do? Plays off the receivers on the outside and doesn’t blitz. He’s clueless on game day. He’ll be around for another year no doubt, but if I were the glazers I’d tell him next year is the playoffs or you can see the door on your way out.
Superbuc, that’s okay because many of us feel the same frustration. i was willing to give Lovie another year of support, but not if he doesn’t win atleast one gamein the next two games. I’m feeling the same as you that his defensive system doesn’t work anymore. Most good coaches adjust to what they have, and then slowly try to make it what they really want.
The defensive system calls for a strong rush from the front four. What 4-3 system doesn’t.
The system calls for the CB’s to play a variety of coverages, both one on one and zone. One of which is a Tampa Two.
What system doesn’t.
In fact, on the Winston pass that was INT’d, the Rams were playing a Cover or Tampa 2.
Superbuc, You are so busy trying to find fault with Lovie, you use convoluted logic to try to get where you want to go.
The fact of the matter is there are players starting on this defense that couldn’t start on any other team, let alone make it.
Remember our staring MLB last year, cut by the Bears and signed by Washington after they suffered a bunch of injuries.
Mark Barron, he’s not even playing safety anymore even though the Rams have lost two safeties. He’s playing LB.
The Bucs defense is the end result of what happens when you have ten years of bad drafts – Myron Lewis, Adrian Clayborn, Daquan Bowers, Gaines Adams,
Quincy Black – to name a few.
Until you recognize that, then your arguments ring very hollow.
You make good points about our lack of skill drd no doubt. But I think my main complaint is the fact that even if Lovie has a particular guy that does something well outside of what Lovies defense calls for, Lovie has no idea how to use them. Hence the Revis and other players being let go. Lovie is stubborn to a fault if you will.
Look at the Patriots, they can pick a guy off of the street, usually our guys now that I think about it, and have him prepared and adapt to what he does good, not what the system calls for.
Lovie won’t do that, he’s way too stubborn.
Horse, your last mistake hit the nail right on the head. I agree 100 percent. Well said. Most “good” coaches do adjust until they have the ideal players.
This defense is so frustrating to watch. Our so called leaders GMC and David are not leading but disappearing. It says a lot about the players on the defence when your rookie MLB is the pulse of the defence. Without his fire they have fallen appart. It is very disturbing to see.
As for the secondary I do not see anyone on this team I would keep. None of them play with the skill and passion required for this defense.
cgmaster, Reavis was let go for the simple reason that at 16 million a year, he was simply to expensive to keep.
It was a bad trade to bein with.
As far as the Patriots are concerned, they only have one of our defensive players and that is Leonard Johnson who was consistently beat here no matter whose defense he played in.
As for Legarret Blount, he has as many bad games as he does good. You can’t play against the Colts every week.
OH most definitely it was the money, and I can’t argue that, no corner is worth that amount of money. I just think that even if Revis was on the team, he would’ve been playing zone and off defenders in Lovies scheme. Look at most players that leave it, such as Barron that say the system is way too passive.
Its a system that relies completely on forcing turnovers. Hence why Lovie has only won a few games when the team doesn’t force one.
My comment about the patriots was more of a symbol to make my point about them adjusting their scheme to fit the player and not the other way around, which is something Lovie will never do.
A lot of good points. I think Lovie’s NFL career gives him some defensive credibility albeit with the formerly famous Tampa 2 for which we have heard time and time again from D. Brooks and others that we don’t play the scheme all of the time or even most of the time. But we here in Bucville don’t always listen or watch; we often choose to rely on perception. We here have been around the Tampa 2 long enough to know that it requires 1.) A disruptive under-tackle 2.) A pass rush specialist, 3.) A fast Mike LB who can quickly drop into deep coverage 4.) A Will LB who can run sideline to sideline 5.)Cornerbacks who can both cover and be physical enough to support the run 6.) A pair of hard-hitting Safeties. Hmmmmm, now just how many of those half-dozen necessities do we have? 1.)Maybe when GMC is healthy, which seems to be rare. 2.)Nope 3.)Perhaps, but he’s now a suspended rookie. 4.)Yes, unless he gets bummed out by opponent’s early success. 5.) Not even close. 6.) Ditto, plus it’s a different game now with the big #47 type hits being illegal.
For me, there is no question regarding the reason for the defensive struggles. It’s lack of personnel. Ever think Lovie’s coaching is actually making it as good as it can be with this group? Scary thought. Isn’t it easier to find the missing ingredients than to start completely over?
Personally, I like the 3-4 concept since that’s what most college teams employ and feed the league with those types of players. I think it also allows for more variation. I remember back in the old days when John McKay brought the 3-4 to the league and was scoffed as a “college defense.”
How about Jerry Jones fires his coaching staff and Lovie replaces DC Frazier with Marinelli and concentrates on being the HC?
I agree with your notion of a 3-4 defense scu. Without athletic linebackers I think it would be a much better scheme.
As for your idea of marinelli, I would love it, but would Lovie let him call plays?
The defense improved under Frazier and Lovie still felt the need to take the reigns again. I just don’t think he will ever be a coach tobgetbus to the big game.
And while people do say he doesn’t have the talent, he’s had two free agencies and two drafts. There’s no reason to have no talent on that side.
He brought in “his guys” and they all suck.
Do we have a serious lack of talent on defense, no doubt about it so I guess when you have no talent and a shitty play caller, you get the buccaneers defense that allows backup qb’s to complete 70% of their passes.
When the Bears defense was great under Lovie, Ron Rivera was running it. Now he’s running it to an undefeated season. That’s because Riverboat Ron, love the nickname, is a real NFL coach who knows how to get the best out of his players. I’d bet my wife if we switched head coaches, we’d have the better record with the same personal. If any of you believe I’m right, Lovie needs to go. I listen to his pressers now, and tune him out. I think the team has as well. When we stink on defense, and a leader like David says I’m just doing my job, he doesn’t believe in what he’s doing. Fire Lovie.
Right to the point Surfer. Nobody lets receivers run free in a defense except us. We need to punish receivers in that 5 yard area. Disrupt routes and timing. No…we just let them play pitch and catch. This is not a defense…it’s a offensive scrimmage for the other team. It doesn’t give our offense enough touches.
Your right about the defense being for passive players. Sapp, Brook and Lynch were known for their submissive and passive natures while on the football field.
As I have said before, Barron isn’t even playing safety anymore for the Rams. He is an LB. He couldn’t cover for them either.
Well there you have drdneast, Barron doesn’t even play safety for them, but he plays. A good coach puts him in position to succeed, and he had a great game against us. He was a better L.B. Thursday, then Keyes, Lemon, or Lansanah.
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