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September 11, 2011 @ 6:25 pm
Current rating: 4.60 Stars/5 Votes

Bucs Get Failing Grades In Many Areas vs. Lions

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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After a 27-20 loss Sunday to the Lions in the Buccaneers' 2011 season opener, Mark Cook reviews his Keys To Victory points, provides post-game analysis and grades Tampa Bay's units on offense, defense and special teams in this column.

In Saturday's new weekly column, Cook's Five Keys To Victory, Bucs beat writer Mark Cook listed five areas that Tampa Bay had to prevail in to claim victory against the visiting Detroit Lions. Each week following the game, Cook will revisit his five keys and share his opinions and analysis on how Tampa Bay's units on offense, defense and special teams graded out.

Key 1: Slow Down Calvin Johnson
If someone would have told me before the game that Johnson would only have six receptions for 88 yards I would have felt the Buccaneers would have wound up with the win. But two of Johnson's receptions were for touchdowns, and it felt from the press box like it could have been more had Stafford targeted his star receiver on more than the 10 pass attempts that went his way.

Cornerback Aqib Talib drew the tough assignment of trying to cover “Megatron” and while Talib didn’t play terribly, the rust of not playing in nine months showed at times. The stop-and-go route, something that has given the fourth-year cornerback fits over his career, once again was a problem for a Talib as he bit on Johnson's route and gave up a 36-yard touchdown in the second quarter on fourth-and-2. Talib jumped too soon in an attempt to deflect the pass and was unable to make a play on the ball.

On Johnson's second touchdown, a 1-yard fade pass, Talib had great coverage, but the 6-foot-5 Johnson was able to out-leap him for the ball. The lack of a pass rush by the defensive line, which failed to record a sack, certainly didn't help Talib, who also had a pass interference penalty on Johnson on third down that gave Detroit a first down.
Final Grade: D

Key 2: Neutralize Suh

Of all of the keys I mentioned in my pregame analysis this was the one the Buccaneers were most successful at. Suh came in pumped and primed to have a big game, and while he did cause Tampa Bay to account for him on every play, his stats were fairly pedestrian compared to the hype.

The 2010 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year finished the season opener with just two tackles and one quarterback pressure. Suh's presence did allow more one-on-one matchups for the other Detroit defensive linemen that resulted in decent pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman.
Final Grade: B+

Key 3: Offense Must Get Off To A Fast Start
It is almost becoming like a broken record to talk about the Bucs offense's slow starts, but once again it reared its’ ugly head as Tampa Bay managed just 108 yards through the first half and was dominated in the time of possession category 21:45 to 8:15. Tampa Bay led 10-6 in the first quarter thanks to an interception return for a touchdown by Talib, but trailed at halftime 20-13. The Bucs offense has not scored more than seven points in the first quarter of any of the past 55 games, including Sunday's contest against Detroit.

The Buccaneers came out in the second half with a plan to speed up the tempo by using its two-minute offense personnel, but it wasn’t very effective until the fourth quarter. By that time, the Lions were up 27-13 and the Detroit defense was playing a soft zone and allowing Freeman and Co. to work the underneath parts of the field which skewed the final statistics somewhat.

This should – and will – be a major point of emphasis this week and every week, until Tampa Bay can show the ability to move the ball consistently and put up points early in a football game.
Final Grade: F

Key 4: Establish the Running Game
Just as in all four preseason games a quarterback – not a running back – led the Buccaneers in rushing as Freeman did on Sunday against Detroit with four carries for 26 yards. And just as in the four preseason games, holes and running room to run never seemed to materialize.

Whether game plan or execution, or a combination of both, there is no way Tampa Bay can reach Raheem Morris’ self imposed goal of winning the NFC South unless the running game gets better.

While Freeman wasn’t very sharp for much of the game, part of that can be attributed to being in third-and-long situations for most of the first three quarters.

But finally, there isn’t an excuse for not being able to convert in short-yardage situations a number of times Sunday, which were drive, and more importantly, momentum killers.
Final Grade: F

Key 5: Eliminate Penalties and Play Smart
Again, something that plagued the Buccaneers in the preseason cost the team somewhat in their 27-20 loss to the Lions. Tampa Bay was flagged six times for 39 yards against Detroit, which on the surface is quite a reduction in yardage from the preseason when the team was racking up over 100 yards worth of penalties regularly.

On the plus side, Tampa Bay didn’t have any unnecessary bonehead penalties like personal fouls or late hits. On the negative side, the Buccaneers defense was flagged three times for offsides or neutral zone infractions, and also gave the Lions a first down when Talib was penalized for illegal contact on a third down incomplete pass that extended a drive. The Bucs should get commended for getting fewer penalties than Detroit did as the Lions accumulated eight infractions for 68 yards.
Final Grade: C

Cook's Keys To Victory Prediction: Buccaneers 20, Lions 17
Actual Score: Lions 27, Buccaneers 20

Getting beat to open the season isn’t the worst thing that could happen to the Buccaneers. It may actually help as the team may have been reading their press clippings and media chatter. Obvious weaknesses were exposed and the players and staff clearly can see where the team must improve.

Without the fourth-quarter drives this grade would have easily been a D or worse. In a bit of defense, Josh Freeman was hampered by Tampa Bay’s inability to run the football and faced several third-and-longs, which are difficult to convert no matter who is behind center. But from the opening drive Freeman’s passes weren’t very crisp and frequently off-target. He completed 28-of-43 (65 percent) for 257 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while getting sacked twice and fumbling once. Freeman did lead the Bucs in rushing with 26 yards on four carries (6.5 avg.). Josh Johnson subbed for Freeman for two series, but failed to pick up a first down, completing 1-of-3 passes for seven yards and rushing once for two yards.
Grade C-

Running Backs
With only 28 yards on 11 carries between LeGarrette Blount and Earnest Graham combined, this unit performed poorly, although there was not much room to run. Graham did lead the Bucs in receptions with eight for 58 yards and Kregg Lumpkin added one catch for nine yards, but the lack of an explosive, make-your-own-yards type running back is something Tampa Bay is missing this year. Blount was a non-factor due to the lack of a commitment to running the ball by offensive coordinator Greg Olson and the team's inability to pick up first downs in the first half. If this unit does not perform better next week against Minnesota expect an 0-2 start for Tampa Bay.
Grade: F

Tight Ends
The release of Ryan Purvis, Nathan Overbay and Daniel Hardy surprised many fans and members of the media. I’m not saying one of them makes the fourth-quarter catch that Luke Stocker miss-timed and dropped for an easy, 27-yard touchdown, but that is one I’m sure Stocker would love to have back. Kellen Winslow wasn’t targeted in the red zone as much as expected, but still led Tampa Bay with 66 yards on six receptions.

Tampa Bay's tight ends didn't do much to help the running game, which never got on track.
Grade: C+

Wide Receivers
Other than Mike Williams' acrobatic fourth-quarter 5-yard touchdown snag on fourth-and-2, the Buccaneers receivers were average at best. Tampa Bay’s wideouts managed 18 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown collectively and had no critical drops, but were unable to create much separation from the Lions’ secondary.

Freeman didn’t help his receivers, as many of his throws were off-target and not where his receivers could do much after the catch.
Grade: C

Offensive Line
Still struggling to find an identity, the Buccaneers offensive line struggled in the run game, failing to open hardly any holes for Blount and Graham. The biggest failure was the lines inability to make any room at all in short-yardage situations. Five of the team's 11 possessions were three-and-outs, including half of the team's possessions in the second quarter and all three of them in the third.

The pass protection was adequate as Freeman was only sacked twice – although Kyle Vanden Bosch beat left tackle Donald Penn for a sack-fumble in the fourth quarter – and he will likely see he had more time than he thought after reviewing the game film.
Grade: D+

Defensive Line
There was a great deal of hype about how the defensive line would be better this year after a great preseason, in which the unit recorded 10.5 of the team's 14 sacks in the preseason. While the personnel is better and more talented, the defensive line's performance against the Lions was a huge disappointment.

Zero sacks and no quarterback pressures will not allow the Buccaneers to win many games this season, and receivers will put up huge numbers until a pass rush can be found and becomes consistent. The defensive line did a fair job in run defense, but the Lions still rushed for 126 yards on 35 carries.
Grade: D-

Overall, the play of the linebackers was solid. Geno Hayes made a couple standout plays and finished with eight tackles and a tackle for loss. Rookie Mason Foster had six tackles with one behind the line of scrimmage in his first start at middle linebacker. Quincy Black finished with eight tackles and one forced fumble, while Dekoda Watson contributed two tackles on defense.

But missed tackles were numerous in the first half and allowed the Lions running backs to keep the chains moving and eat up clock, keeping the defense on the field for a majority of the 86-degree day. The linebackers missed their fair share of tackles and must become more consistent when wrapping up the ballcarrier.
Grade: C

Defensive Backs
Enough has been made of the Talib-Johnson matchup in which Talib had a pick-six to start the game in the first quarter, but surrendered two touchdowns to Johnson. Yet when the opposing quarterback has a 305-yard day, as Matthew Stafford did, the secondary struggled. Besides Johnson’s 88 yards and two touchdowns, Nate Burleson chipped in with 60 yards on five catches.

But half of the damage was done by Detroit’s tight ends and running backs, which means the linebackers share in the pass coverage woes. Strong safety Sean Jones played well with eight tackles and a forced fumble, but free safety Cody Grimm only had just one tackle. Cornerback Ronde Barber excelled in run defense with seven tackles and a tackle for loss.
Grade: C

Special Teams
Finally, a unit to get excited about. Unfortunately when a team's punter is the MVP of the game it puts a bit of a damper on things.

Micheal Koenen was as good as advertised, averaging 52.2 yards per punt and placed all his kickoffs, except the onside attempt, in the end zone for touchbacks. Sammie Stroughter had a 78-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. The punt team limited the Lion’s Stefan Logan to only 6.8 yards per punt return.
Grade: A

Last modified on Sunday, 18 September 2011 09:40

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  • avatar

    The play in this game was pretty much the same as it was in pre-season, so the outcome should come as no surprise. The real question is: if this team is not yet living up to its potential, how long will it take? I think we're in for a long season, but it felt good to watch some football this weekend.
  • avatar

    only one thing is good : nobody won this week in NFC South... lot of regrets :s
  • avatar

    The game sucked, no two ways about it BUT it was only one game. Let's face it...the Ravens just rolled the Steelers and Chicago made Atlanta look pitiful. I don't think they are panicking. For all the McCoy hater....he actually put up better numbers than Suh yesterday. Just sayin'.... Detroit has a very good team. I don't think people realize just how good they are this year. We will improve. I'm not happy with the play yesterday but I do look for improvment and certainly am not ready to write the season off like so many on this board. Get a grip people. Did you expect the team to be firing on all cylinders with all the first and second year players we have on the team?
  • avatar

    I don't see any McCoy haters out there and that's too harsh to call that out. McCoy played like the rest of the defense, not so good. I thought Miller and Bennet played poorly and looked slow. When in there Price looked the best, but I am concerned we have lost him for the season or worse. I thought McCoy and Clairbornelooked quick but didn't do anything with it. Detroit is a young team also and looked much better pertaining to" ready to play". Mentally we were not ready.
  • avatar

    What??? Coming from someone who NEVER misses an opportunity to call McCoy out???? I didn't say he had a great game, I said he had a better game than Suh had. McCoy had two solo tackles and was involved in a lot more. I din't think he had a bad game...just not a stellar one. He was solid not spectacular.
  • avatar

    Unfortunately this game went pretty much the way I expected. The O-line still can't run block, the D-line is better against the run and we were in it until the end. I'm extremely disappointed that the team didn't get off to a faster start after the coaches emphasized it all week. That's knock on Morris, Olsen and all the offensive players. You guys owe the defense one after leaving them out there in that heat all afternoon.
  • avatar

    our best runner is .... QB Freeman ... :s need a speed RB all we have is power and heavy backs ....
  • avatar

    Caddy is gone, need to move on and address the o-line.
  • avatar

    Agreed that Olsen should take blame for the offense's lack of production, but Olsen doesn't make the blocks. This game was lost by the O-line's inability to create any room to run. Any running play - yes, even a shotgun draw on 4th & 1 - should yield a yard or two, if blocked well. Hey, Detroit ran multiple shotgun draws and they succeeded quite nicely. The units just have to execute better. Hoping for better next week, as this team seems to play better on the road anyways.
  • avatar

    In the SPT today, John Romano says that between 2000-2009, of the 17 teams that had turnaround seasons the year before, 14 fell backward the next year. Last year, those teams were the Bucs, Rams, and Chiefs. Today they are all 0-1. What he didn't mention, was that they all got new offensive coaches and new schemes. It's going to take a few games for our offense to get in sync and their timing patterns down.
  • avatar

    As poorly as the team played and as well as the Lions played, the young Bucs were still in a position to tie the game in the end. That says something when a game like that can quickly get out of hand; but it never did. Hopefully as Emeril would say they "kick it up a notch" to start the game next week.
  • avatar

    Calm down everyone... Yes it wasn't a great game by our Bucs. Especially in the first half they got killed, but you have to expect some consequences of being the youngest team in the NFL combined with a very short off season. Many people said it before the season that the Bucs would be one of the teams most hurt by the lockout and here you see it. They will pick it up later in the season... lets just hope it isn't too late. Hopefully this will help temper the expectations of fans of this young team somewhat. Luckily no one in our division won so we still right in the middle of things.
  • avatar

    The failings that were manifest in pre-season regarding our offensive execution showed themselves again today. Zero running game, mis-thrown passes, poor play calling and execution. I thought way too many excuses in pre-season were forthcoming from Rahim and Freeman for the mis-firing offense and it showed today. Firing Mangurian seems like a disastrous mistake at this point. A mistake also to let Cadillac go I think. It is only the first game, so one probably shouldn't over-react, but on this showing it could be a long season against a much tougher non-divisional schedule than last year. Fortunately none of our divisional rivals won either, which is the only consolation I can think of coming out of this inept showing!
  • avatar

    It was a terrible game and the score doesn't really reflect what happened accurately, it was worse. The interception and several bad breaks for the Lions near the end zone made this game look closer than it was. The play-calls were AWFUL. How about 5-wides when you're down 2 scores? Why do you have a RB in there at that point? They played slow, didn't seem to have any urgency.
  • avatar

    Just enjoyed the Jets game. Three years ago they were in the same position we were with blown drafts and an aging roster, including a poisonous, underperforming quarterback. They bought a high profile, proven coach and free agents, and if they had an OC they'd have been in the Super Bowl. And we are, well, us. Could have used Plaxico Burress today. By the time we find ours in the draft, Williams will walk in free agency. At least the Falcons blew their franchise on Julio Jones; we've got a shot there. But the Panthers are suddenly not funny.
  • avatar

    Coaching should get an F. The offensive game plan was truly pathetic, and the defensive game plan wasn't much better. Then, on top of that, the execution was somewhat non-existent. Our team appeared to be lethargic, only going through motions; no pizazz; no fire. Just a horrible game.
  • avatar

    I guess nobody realizes we had 2 fumbles that they got back which they went down and scored on and a botched snap we could have recovers but didn't and it would have been a completely deferent game. It didn't go our way everyone has bad games. The offense looked bad till the end I think the d held up pretty well besides not getting a sack which is hard to do on 3 step drops
  • avatar

    Hey, the year the Bucs won the Super Bowl, they lost their opener and did not look good in that game. Gruden used to play his first team sparingly in preseason, just like the Bucs do now. It helps keep down injuries in preseason but it always puts the Bucs at a big disadvantage in their first games. The Redskins did just the opposite this year in preseason, playing their first string a lot even in the last preseason game, and it showed as they took it to the New York Giants in their first game. Watch for the Bucs to be a lot better against the Vikings. The offense was able to power block for Blount at the end of last season, and they should be able to get that skill back this year eventually. At least they were decent in pass blocking this game and that was not so true during the preseason. The Lions do well in their draft picks ike we do, but unlike the Bucs they opened their wallet and got some good veteran free agents too. That was evident too in their results. They took advantage of Foster's inexperience at Will, as I fully expected. That is why I have been saying Quincy Black should be the Will!
  • avatar

    Only the Saints and Steelers game were worse in recent memory. If not for a Kickoff return and Talib turnover we would have been blown out. This Game Sucked no two ways about it we played a mans game with a bunch of boys and it showed.
  • avatar

    No one won in the Division. Relax. This is a long Season. Give Freeman one bad Game. Give Blount and the offensive line one bad game. Give the Defensive line one really bad game. Lets see how things look after 5 or 6 games.
  • avatar

    Yes, the Pats kicked our rears in the preseason first team Vs. first team. Oh yeah, it was all game planning. This game wasn't close in many basic aspects. The score was very misleading of the actual play. The PR analysis is pretty much on the money. One more, and as they say, the third time is the charm. We got stomped by the third best team in the NFC North and if we don't play 100% better, we won't have a better record than the Saints. So at that point, where is the joy....doing better than the birds or the kittens?
  • avatar

    We all know we were the youngest team in the NFL. Dom felt that it wasn't necessary to keep two of the Vets that helped build the chemistry allowing the young team to play beyond it's years. That chemistry is gone, and the youngest (or one of the youngest teams in the league) looks every bit of it. One more game like this and I will change my impression of this team from one close to competing to one rebuilding. But as the Glazers obviously felt that it wasn't close to making a move towards a championship by not only letting a couple team leaders go but basically signing no first or second tier FA's. So basically they got what they wanted, which is to put us in the same category as Carolina, St. Louis, ect.. as rebuilding teams......in other words a prime example of a self fulfilling prophecy. But I hope they are smart enough to know that that is no way to recessitate a fan base. I know Papa Malcolm did about 10 years ago.
  • avatar

    Sean jones played like crap! CRAP! If Talib was suspended, this Bucs team would get rolled every week. He was our saving grace defensively even if he gave up two Tds to Calvin.
  • avatar

    Olsen should get a lot of the blame.on the drive Freeman through the pick we should have kept pounding the ball and used of the clock. Instead he calls the bomb to benn just stupid. Killed our defense being out there so long.
  • avatar

    Mark, the Grades were a little generous. There's a couple additional key pointsthat I would like to bring up? Defense gives up 27 points; the Offense gets 13 points. Those to things will get you very little wins. It is the first game only and the Vikings are next and are better than Detroit so I think we need to get ready for them. lets give this team 3-4 games and see where we stand after that.
  • avatar

    Again, the failure to add any free agents will haunt the Bucs this season. Olsen is a horrible playcaller and Mcoy is a major bust. Please, move him to DE or make him lift weights after every bad game. It is a sad day when "Caddy" out performs our back. Blount, should carry the ball 20 times win or loss. Our o-line plays JV ball and the "D" is lame.
  • avatar

    PR you must have been watching a different sean Jones then I was bec to me he played like S^%^ He was late in coverage a couple times and if hes there on that td That talib tipped the ball to megatron he would of either smacked johnson or picked it off. Olson get a F ---- for coaching today the o has 4 yards to start the 2nd quarter. Them not being able to sustain any drives in the 1st or 2nd quarter tired out are defense and eventually led to our demise.
  • avatar

    The RB grade is BS. That's on Olson and his poor playcalling. If you're looking for a reason for the slow starts look no further than the guy calling the plays. Why does the offense look best when we're in hurry-up and Freeman has more control of the playcall? Why can't we get anything out of our base offense to start the game? The answer rhymes with Greg Olson.
  • avatar

    This game was pathetic. The Bucs will be lucky to win 8 games, much less the division, with these types of performances.
  • avatar

    How can you give a c to the defensive backs? The back of t his defense is bad, the line is no better.
  • avatar

    First of all I give the total defense an A+ for giving the poor offense chance to win the game. And I feel that the game plan was poor at best. I also felt that the refs were from Detroit.
  • avatar

    did the caddy have 90+ yards that was/is a huge mistake he wasn't a great back but a very good football player with heart and the respect of his teammates plus is still probably faster than graham and lumpkin
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