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November 27, 2011 @ 5:19 pm
Current rating: 4.00 Stars/1 Votes

Bucs Give Away Game To Titans, Lose 23-17

Written by Eric
Eric Horchy


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After turning the ball over six times in the rainy conditions at Tennessee, the Buccaneers suffered their fifth straight loss of the year, losing to the Titans, 23-17. Josh Freeman threw a fourth-quarter interception and fumbled on fourth-and-short as Tennessee outscored Tampa Bay 13-0 in the final quarter.

All week leading up to Sunday’s game at Tennessee, the mindset inside One Buccaneer Place was that it’s playoff football time from here on out. At 4-6, another loss would close the door on any realistic hopes of postseason qualification.

Tampa Bay ultimately failed to build on momentum gained during last week’s improved effort in Green Bay, though, and watched a winnable game swing Tennessee’s way, 23-17.

The teams combined for 10 turnovers (six by the Bucs) on a wet and slippery day in Nashville and Tampa Bay’s porous run defense was once again exploited for 202 yards. Running back Chris Johnson, reemerging after a slow start, posted the biggest game of his season after racking up 190 yards on 23 touches.

Aided by costly late-game Bucs turnovers and penalties, the Titans (6-5) outscored their visitors 13-0 in the fourth quarter to come away with a victory that Tampa Bay suddenly lost control of.

The Bucs were marching downfield behind the powerful running of LeGarrette Blount to try and build on their 17-13 lead midway through the final period before a season-long nemesis struck at an inopportune time. Blount’s 8-yard gain on first down should have set the Bucs up at the Tennessee 26, but tight end Kellen Winslow was whistled for a holding penalty that pushed Tampa Bay back to the 44. Before another ball could be snapped, left guard Jeremy Zuttah’s false start made it first-and-25 from the Titans 49. Quarterback Josh Freeman and the Bucs recover, punted, and Tennessee took advantage.

Another of the Bucs’ persistent deficiencies, the ability to convert on third down, haunted Tampa Bay’s offense throughout Sunday’s game. The Bucs failed to move the chains on eight of their 10 opportunities and also missed on their lone fourth-down attempt. The Titans converted 41 percent of their money downs (7 of 17) and were 1-for-2 on fourth downs.

After Tampa Bay’s penalty-induced punt, Johnson and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck quickly moved Tennessee into the red zone. The Titans entered Sunday owning the league’s top-rated scoring offense when inside the 20. Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers’ open-field tackle of Johnson forced a fourth-and-goal situation from the 2, but Tennessee

head coach Mike Munchak’s decision to go for six paid off. Hasselbeck backpedaled to his right to buy time, directed traffic and found wide receiver Damian Williams wide open sliding across the back of the end zone.

Down 20-17 and trailing for the first time since 10-3 in the second quarter, Tampa Bay gave possession right back two plays later. Freeman’s poorly thrown second-down pass over the middle to Winslow was picked off by linebacker Colin McCarthy at the Bucs 47.

The interception increased Freeman’s season-long total to 16. He finished his day with 199 yards on 18 of 33 passing, one touchdown and the interception. Freeman was sacked twice and he rushed only three times for 10 yards.

The Tampa Bay defense limited Tennessee to a 38-yard Rob Bironas field goal after the interception, but the Bucs were forced to burn all three timeouts and found themselves behind 23-17 with less 2 minutes remaining.

Two 23-yard passes to wide receiver Mike Williams took Tampa Bay from its 20 to the Tennessee 34. Rather than get to the line and immediately run a play with 1:14 left, Freeman spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock. Second down resulted in an incompletion to wide receiver Arrelious Benn and a dump pass to Kareem Lumpkin came up just shy of the first-down marker. The Bucs hurried to the line on fourth-and-inches to attempt a quarterback sneak, but Freeman couldn’t handle the snap and got wrapped up behind the line to end Tampa Bay’s comeback chances.

Blount said afterward that the Bucs were requesting a measurement following Lumpkin’s third-down reception, but it wasn’t granted. “They didn’t give us the measurement. We asked for it and they didn’t give it to us.”

The second-year running back was again a bright spot in another Bucs losing effort, although it wasn’t flawless. Blount rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries and caught all three passes thrown his way for another 56. Tarnishing his day were two lost fumbles.

In total, Tampa Bay put five balls on the ground and Tennessee pounced on four. Blount gave away his two and Freeman and Williams each lost one. The fifth turnover was Freeman’s fourth-quarter interception and the sixth came when Tampa Bay gave away possession on its final play by failing to convert on fourth-and-short.

The Bucs defense responded well when called on for damage control. Following turnovers, Tampa Bay limited Tennessee to two Bironas field goals, forced two punts and put six points on the board with cornerback Aqib Talib’s 27-yard interception return for a touchdown. That splash play put Tampa Bay ahead 17-10 early in the third quarter.

Sunday’s four forced turnovers represented the Bucs’ best defensive output in terms of flipping field position. Linebacker Geno Hayes intercepted Hasselbeck in the first quarter, cornerbacks Talib and Ronde Barber each forced a fumble and safeties Tanard Jackson and Sean Jones recorded one fumble recovery apiece.

Tampa Bay managed to score 14 of its 17 total points off of turnovers. Barber’s forced fumble came late in the first half when he punched the ball out of Ringer’s grasp from behind and it flew straight into the arms of Jackson. The Bucs took over with under a minute remaining before the break and scored in six plays. On second-and-goal from the 3, Williams got underneath Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner on a quick post from the left side and Freeman accurately hit him for six to tie the game at 10-all. The other touchdown was Talib’s pick-six.

Williams finished his day catching six of the 11 balls thrown his way for 84 yards and the touchdown. Winslow was Freeman’s second leading receiver with five receptions and 52 yards.

Though deficient against the run, the Bucs defense picked up some slack by harassing Hasselbeck. The veteran quarterback threw the two picks, was sacked twice, got hit four times and finished with a passer rating of 53.6 (19 of 34 passing for 160 yards and a touchdown). Rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn was credited for his team-leading fifth sack of the year in the third quarter. Official scorekeepers credited the second takedown as a team sack.

Tampa Bay’s only other points came on the game’s first score midway through the opening quarter. The Bucs started from their own 9 and put together an 11-play, 67-yard drive that ended on Connor Barth’s field goal from 43 yards out. That drive was sparked by another highlight reel play produced by Blount. After opening the series with a 5-yard run up the middle, Freeman dumped off a short pass to Blount that turned into a 35-yard gain. Along the way, and the second-year back completely hurdled cornerback Jason McCourty, who was standing almost upright.

Any momentum gained from the big play and early lead was quickly ripped away, though. Titans return man Marc Mariani fielded Michael Koenen’s ensuing kickoff at the goal line, advanced 16 yards and handed the ball off to Tommie Campbell outside of the left hash. Campbell, who received the exchange with a full head of steam, zoomed around a wall of blockers and took off toward the end zone.

Tennessee extended its lead to 10-3 in the second quarter following Freeman’s fumble at the Bucs 38. The Titans entered the red zone but had to settle for Bironas’ 31-yard field goal. Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers, again targeted often, stepped up near the end zone for a second time in the game up to that point. His close coverage on tight end Jared Cook forced Hasselbeck to throw high and the pass sailed incomplete.

Beyond the six passes Bucs secondary defenders broke up, the unit was all-too-frequently called upon to stop big Johnson runs. Tampa Bay’s top four tacklers on Sunday were all corners and safeties. Barber led the way with seven and Biggers, Jackson and Jones each had five.

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, playing against his former team, had four total tackles, two for a loss and a sack.

Tennessee’s victory kept the franchise perfect at home against Tampa Bay, improving to 7-0. The last three came in Nashville and the first four were when the team was the Houston Oilers.

The Bucs now drop to 4-7 overall with five games left on the schedule. They will return home next Sunday to play Carolina for the first of two games against the Panthers in four weeks. Tampa Bay has lost five in a row and six of its past seven.

Sunday’s announced crowd at Tennessee’s LP Field was 69,143. The game-time temperature was listed at 47 degrees and there was a strong, 20 mile-per-hour wind out of the northwest. The wind chill was a reported 42 degrees and rain fell throughout the day.

Starting on defense for Tampa Bay was: LE Da’Quan Bowers, DT Brian Price, DT Albert Haynesworth, RE Adrian Clayborn, SLB Quincy Black, MLB Mason Foster, WLB Geno Hayes, LCB Aqib Talib, RCB Ronde Barber, SS Sean Jones and FS Tanard Jackson.

The Bucs lined up offensively with: WR Mike Williams, LT Donald Penn, LG Jeremy Zuttah, C Jeff Faine, RG Davin Joseph, RT Jeremy Trueblood, TE Kellen Winslow, WR Arrelious Benn, RB LeGarrette Blount, FB Erik Lorig and QB Josh Freeman.

Seven Buccaneers were listed as inactive. They were LB Zac Diles, CB Anthony Gaitor, WR Michael Spurlock, OT James Lee, DE Michael Bennett, DE Derek Hardman and DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.

Last modified on Sunday, 27 November 2011 22:33

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  • avatar

    A new generation of THE Stumble, Bumble Bucs. Remember them??
  • avatar

    I caught most of the game on the radio but I couldn't watch it since I was travelling. I can't comment much since I couldn't see the details of why things didn't work out so I'm going to have to rely on you guys this week.
  • avatar

    JonnyG: You are so right about this team resembling one of those mid-80's clunkers. They'll be perfect for next week's throw back game. I just might have to wear my "Throw Ray in the Bay" tee shirt (if I can squeeze into it). Looking forward to meeting you.
  • avatar

    For Morris to bring in a new D.C. next year would be him admitting he couldn't get the job done, and if can't even be a good coordinator, he doesn't deserve to be a head coach. How does he justify firing Olson for being lousey, but keep his own job? Morris is in all the way, next year will make or brake him. In hindsight the Glazers should've kept Gruden one more year with Morris as D coordinator to see if he could handle that before making him a head coach. It seems like they made a mistake, Morris isn't good at either.
  • avatar

    why is no one complaining about the terrible defensive call on the Titans td. Roy Miller drops back in coverage, Bowers putting pressure on QB and he and Fat Albert out of game on 4th and goal, why wouldn't you pressure the qb and possibly force a mistake.
  • avatar

    What was hurting the Defense the most? Tenn Running game, not their passing game. take your time get your points. Their passing game hadn't done much to threaten the Defense all game, they got one long pass here and there off of play action but with under a min left they would be forced to throw. Everyone wants to use what if's to try and justify everything, but WHAT IF what you think might have happened didn't? WHAT IF they spike the ball, throw a TD and win the game? then are we even having the exchange? I agree with people calling Morris as the DC, even I am on the bus, but not as the HC I think he will improve he needs to do the same thing my coach use to do with me, he knew father for over 40 years but when I was in the wrong or messed up he would look at me and correct me and then he would always say at the end "its not personal, its business" Morris needs to look at Olsen, and Himself as DC and just say its not personal, its business and fire Olsen and himself as the DC. and I'm one more game costing penalty from adding Winslow to that list, and saying that need to trade him while they can and work more with Stocker and bring back in Hardy.....
  • avatar

    Wrong WV, you just don't spike the ball there, the Buc's didn't need the time, they needed the downs. Let's say after stopping the clock Freeman throws a T.D. pass, there would've been over a minute left for Tenn to get a field goal. Yeah the Buc's went for it on 4th, didn't get it, and left time on the clock they never got to use. Olson, and Rah looking, and sounding more like dumb, and dumber.
  • avatar

    been calling for Olsen to go since week 2. Rah needs ne OC and a DC....getting tougher to watch each week. two home games left and half tempted to try to sell the tickets..... still lots of holes on the roster - speed back, to help blount, corner backs, safety to replace jones, lb's to replace black, watson might be the guy, wr's that catch the ball, d line that can pressure qb... dpeth at o line.....
  • avatar

    I am glad we lost. That may sound crazy but I seriously feel winning ugly or thru lucky means when in the end we dont make the playoffs is pointless. Especially when there are so many issues to fix. The Owners, Coaches, and Players need to see themselves for what they truly are and without pain and losses that simply cant happen. Their collective heads were so blown up this offseason it is now finally come crashing down in full fiery crash. Play calling is poor from both the offense and defense side in crucial game moments. Key players are regressing when others are stepping up. Freeman, Benn, and our OLBs getting worse while Blount, Mike Will (outside of the butter fingers) and Clayborn getting better, but thats the story of our season. Someone or something works well while many other things don't and we end up playing a mistake filled, lackluster pathetic game. Its truly sad to watch.
  • avatar

    Great post game coach. " not my job to stand up here and point fingers. But on offense we are just not scoreing enough points to win". Rah, Did you just figure that out?? I see a Big coaching overhaul in the offseason. Starting with Olsen.
  • avatar

    whats realy going on in tampa
  • avatar

    Regime change. Preferably ownership too, but I'll take what I can get.
  • avatar

    Every game people find something to complain about. He spiked the ball on 1rst down no time outs and you know your going.on fourth, when you have a young team that tends to make mistakes Im ok with the spike and collecting your game plan. Why is no one talking about winslow holding call that took us out of FG range followed by a false start. Morris still has some things he needs to change (like OC and DC) but theses are professional players they need to stop acting like they need a babysitter every week.
  • avatar

    Cam at Tampa will be an exciting game neverless, I also see the Bucs taking that one at home on throwback game
  • avatar

    The game brought me back to 1987 again with the vanilla offense a qb who stares down receviers looks hesitant to run, can't throw a ball furthur than 30 yds for a completion. At least in those days Mark Carrier would stretch the field now we dink and dunk and throw a stupid quick pass to Benn which hardly ever works. The defense is just bad all over the place The lb's except Watson disappear, the safeties are no where to be seen and Biggers continues to get picked on. To play the role of our friend "The optimistic always looks on the bright side fan" Pinkstob at least our young De's have upside
  • avatar

    Even dumber call? Earlier in the game 3rd and 1 they pull Blount who was running over everybody for Freeman to pass???? That worked GREAT!!!!!
  • avatar

    Just listened to Morris's post game presser, when asked why have Freeman spike the ball with 1st and 10 at the 35, Morris answer was with no time outs you spike the ball after every 1st down. That's just not true, or good game management. If you need to go 80yds to score O.K., but they only needed 35 yds, in the NFL that's an eternity with 1:23 left time outs or no. Piss poor coaching, plain, and simple.
  • avatar

    Look gang. It's hard for USF to play 2 days a week.
  • avatar

  • avatar

    After completing a pass for first and ten at the Tenn 35 yd line, why on earth did Freeman spike the ball to stop the clock? There was 1:23 left, even with no time outs the Buc's only had to go 35 yds to score. In that situation you need more downs then time,and as it turned out the Buc's needed the downs. Scott is that on Olson? Why didn't he have Freeman call a play at the line instead of spiking? I don't get it. That was the worst coached 2 minute drill I've seen us do all year. Only ten points out of our offense, Olson needs to go.
  • avatar

    surferdudes I said the same thing with so much time left why in the hell was he spiking the ball, inexperience I guess
  • avatar

    "Tampa Bay, which now has a 4-7 record, has lost four straight games and five out of its last six." First of all, the Buc’s have lost FIVE straight games, not four. Why does PR not even get that correct? In any case, this was yet another fan base crushing debacle that will do nothing but let the blackouts continue well into 2012. I really hope PR spends this week properly trashing a coaching staff that cannot seem to prepare a team to NOT make the same idiotic errors over and over week after week.
  • avatar

    If the worst owners in all of professional sports do not go all out for Bill Cowher, they should be forced to sell the team. By the way, the over/under for arrests this off-season is four. I'm taking the over. By the way, the spread is just for getting collared. The spread is much higher for criminal acts. What an unlikeable team.
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