This one was just flat out embarrassing. But saying that is way too easy in assessing the 48-3 beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on Sunday in San Francisco. This is what happens when you try to do too much. This is what happens when you throw away the blue print. This is what happens when you try to force things.
I’m thinking the Bucs upper management decided that the way they were winning was not enough. No. It was not satisfactory to simply win by running the ball, or dumping off the ball to running backs or quarterbacks scrambling all when the wide receivers are incapable of getting open all season.
No. We are going to throw the ball to the wide receivers whether they are going to get open or not! They did not get open.
But Josh Freeman did force the ball in over and over and over again. He was picked of twice and had at least three other potential picks dropped by 49ers defensive backs.
Instead of what Freeman has usually been doing, which is dumping the ball off or scrambling when his skillfully challenged wide receivers were stuck in their coverages, he forced the issue to prove that the Bucs can indeed have a true passing game.
Now I am just guessing, but it seemed rather odd that a usual sound and good decision maker like Freeman took so many risks and forced the ball into double coverages and tight coverages throughout the game – all while looking directly at the guy he intended to throw to the entire play. This was ugly.
The San Francisco 49ers defensive backs teed off on the Bucs wide receivers, culminating in two interceptions, a ton of passes defended, and a grab bag of blow-up hits by the safeties against the Bucs’ poor wide receivers – one of which forced a fumble.
Time and again I saw the defensive backs speeding to the intended receiver as soon as Freeman even flinched his arm to throw. When the QB looks at the receiver he intends to throw to the entire play defensive backs can do this. Poor Mike Williams learned this the hard way in the fourth quarter on a play where he coughed up the ball after an exploding hit by safety Dashon Goldson.
But this was not just an offense that decided what they were doing just was not good enough for them and threw out the game plan. This was also about a defense that simply got trampled over.
I mean we could say that Tampa Bay usually falls apart in the West Coast Time zone. But it’s not that simple. There is no curse. There is no bad mojo. There is no whammy. After all, the Bucs shut out the 49ers last year at Candlestick Park, 21-0.
There is just X’s and O’s and game plans and coaching. And the Bucs got out-everythinged on Sunday.
Everyone throughout the football world by now knows that the Achilles heel of the Bucs’ vaunted legendary defense has traditionally been running the ball right down its throat. On a defense that puts a premium on speed and quickness rather than size and strength, power runs are the kryptonite to these Bucs, who thus far this season had not allowed any running backs to achieve 100 yards against them.
When I was a San Francisco 49er in 2003, head coach Dennis Erickson called me up to his office the week we had to play the reigning 2002 Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers. When I got up there to his office, Erickson asked me if there was any tips I could give to help our 49er team to beat the legendary Tampa Two defense and the dreaded defensive line of the Bucs.
After my initial feelings of being a traitor to my former team, the Bucs, by aiding the 49ers this way, those feelings soon diminished and the competitor in me won out. I wanted to win. So I simply told head coach Erickson, “run the ball right down their throats.”
And that is exactly what us 49ers did. Garrison Hearst had 117 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and Kevan Barlow had 75 yards on 15 carries as they ran the ball right down the gullet of the Tampa defense with booming, head-on power blocks and crushing lead blocks the entire game. Sunday looked like a page from that game plan that I gave the 49ers in 2003. The Bucs were simply beaten up.
Against head-on blocks coming straight at you and sweeping run plays to counter balance the power run game, a defense is forced to physically take on blocks and shed blocks to make the play. In a gap-oriented defense that is taught to focus on penetrating those gaps, a bashing like we witnessed Sunday is a likely result when faced by an offense that is committed to running the ball straight ahead the way the 49ers did Sunday.
While Tampa Bay’s defensive linemen and linebackers are penetrating forward in their gaps, the opposing offense is busy firing out forward too, and putting man-on-man, crushing blocks on those defenders in the gaps.
No, it is not simply enough to get in your gap against an offensive attack like this. You must physically blow up your blocker and then go to your gap. This is an adjustment that was not made even at halftime by the Buccaneers.
But alas, even if they made the adjustment, I am not too confident that these Bucs are big or strong enough to take on blockers in this fashion. Sure, up front Tampa Bay definitely could with the likes of Frank Okam and Brian Price, but our second and third line of defense, especially the linebackers, is simply not stout enough to play this type of football for four quarters.
Watching this carnage for four quarters took a toll on me. I almost decided to close up my cigar lounge early because I was so ashamed and frustrated at the way my Bucs played.
Becuase when it comes down to it, football ends up being about pride and manhood. Before the game started, I was having brunch at Cracker Barrel with my three sons after church and the topic of manhood came up. My middle son, Mayan Ahanotu, and I had a father-son talk in between pancakes and turkey sausage. During that talk I told my 11-year old that this moment in his life is when it starts that a man has to make decisions which are based solely on his manhood.
I know I probably had this talk a bit premature in my son’s life but I like to think that the sooner my kids know what it is a “man” is all about the better. My son answered, “Daddy…what is manhood?”
A bit defeated and deflated at the fact that my 11-year old had no idea what manhood is, I regrouped myself and stated to him these things:
1. Manhood is your fiber of who and what you are
2. Manhood is your foundation and your core
3. Manhood is what you stand for
Without your manhood and God, guess what you have left? My son answered, “Nothing. You have nothing left.”
Let’s hope and pray this West Coast beating didn’t take all the manhood out these young, impressionable Bucs and leave them with nothing left for the rest of this season. A beating like this can do that – it can crush confidence, kill momentum, and dash hopes and dreams. And what’s left is God and prayers. God help the Bucs.
Chidi Ahanotu was an NFL defensive end for 12 seasons, including eight with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2000). Ahanotu is the fifth all-time leading sacker in Buccaneers history with 34.5 QB captures. His career-high 10 sacks in 1997 helped the Bucs make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and led to him being Tampa Bay's franchise player in 1998.
Aside from being a columnist for PewterReport.com, Ahanotu is the owner of Cigars of Soho, which is located at 212 S. Armenia Ave. in Tampa, Fla. To visit the Cigars of Soho Facebook page, click here. Cigars of Soho is open until midnight every night.
Cigars of Soho is the only South Tampa cigar lounge open after dinner to enjoy a nice cigar. Wednesday night is poker night at 9:00 p.m., and the lounge has NFL games on high definition TV on Sunday and Monday nights.