The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of issues, new and old, to address following Sunday’s 27-16 loss at New Orleans. Head coach Raheem Morris used Monday afternoon’s press conference to discuss them as the Bucs begin preparing for the Houston Texans’ arrival later this week.
New Orleans trampled the Bucs run defense Sunday with and without Gerald McCoy on the field and totaled 195 yards and 7.0 per attempt. That performance comes two weeks after Tampa Bay was battered by the Bears in London for 177. Morris said the defense’s overall greenness isn’t an excuse he plans to use to explain away the Bucs’ troubles.
“I don’t want to use that excuse. Yesterday we got out-physicaled, no doubt about it. Some positives came out of that game. We sent a ‘backer in there that could tackle against Chris Ivory. He had some pretty good licks in there, talking about Mason Foster. But yesterday, up front at the D-tackle position and at the ends, we got out-physicaled. We got flat-out out-physicaled and that can’t happen.
“And not because of effort or commitment. Those two Pro-Bowl guards showed why they’re Pro Bowlers and those two tackles got a lot of help by chipping backs and tight ends and things of that nature that provided them with some nice double teams that allowed them to have some success.”
Morris also touched on Tampa Bay’s recurring issues with drawing costly penalties. The Bucs tacked on nine more to its season total Sunday afternoon for a total of 80 yards.
“You’ve got a lot of stuff you wanted to get accomplished by controlling the clock, but you’ve got to score touchdowns when you have the ball for 29 minutes. You can have it longer if you don’t have the stupid penalties like the ones we’ve been talking about all season. They continue to pile up and they continue to kill us.
“Not being a finished product and being a young football team, you can’t have those things as far as penalties. We have to clean those up. It’s a must. If you don’t, you won’t win very many football games against good football teams when you play that way.”
Throughout the week leading up to Sunday’s game in New Orleans, Morris and Bucs players spoke often about how the penalty issue was being zeroed in on and running gassers after committing practice infractions. Morris said it’s going to take a deeper, individual commitment from his players to truly get past the problem.
“We actually ran them during practice. The foolish ones have to [be overcome] from inside. That has to come deeper than from running in practice. That has to be not wanting to hurt your team. That has got to be unselfishness. That has got to be all those things; that you care about winning the football game more than you care about anything else. The internal sacrifice. That’s where that has to come from.”
Later in the conference, Morris fielded questions regarding his thoughts on third-year quarterback Josh Freeman’s continued progression. Freeman finished Sunday with a 103.5 passer rating after going 27 of 37 for 281 yards and a touchdown. He bounced back from a four-interception performance in London two weeks ago by protecting the ball and not allowing New Orleans defenders to flip possession, but Morris said he needs more from Freeman in the season’s second half.
“Obviously [he’s] not playing his best football, but at the halfway point he’s got a chance to let his team go and win eight more games. All his guys believe in him and I know this whole organization does. We just want him to be great and we’re going to help him get there.”
In terms of Freeman’s leadership abilities, Morris said that while his quarterback has his team’s commitment, it’s an all-around trait that is being shared.
“He’s been very vocal with those guys. He’s been trying to evolve, but sometimes with the quarterback you really need somebody else to do that. Yesterday some of those guys did that. [Center Jeff Faine] did a nice job of stepping into the huddle and saying, ‘Everybody calm down.’ Then Josh said, ‘Cool, let’s go get this thing rolling,’ and they were able to move the football well. We just have to be able to score points and score touchdowns versus the Saints. We were able to score points. Out of eight drives they scored three, but they have to be able to score touchdowns. Can’t miss those ops.”
-Eric Horchy and Mark Cook