It is obvious Josh Freeman struggles when facing zone coverage. Last week the Packers played primarily man-coverage. Not coincidentally, Freeman had a career-high 342 passing yards.
Opposing coaches are smart, however, and former Buccaneers safety and Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray put in a great game plan and several different looks to confuse Freeman.
And while statistically Freeman didn’t have an awful game (18-of-33, 199 yards, one TD, one INT) the uncertainty and lack of authority on many on his passes was evident from the beginning of the game until the last drive.
Add in poor decision making (pass intended for Kellen Winslow, throwing with running lanes open) and it makes for the exact performance we saw today – not quite good enough to win and just bad enough to lose.
LeGarrette Blount played like a man eager to show his former employer what they missed out on, although Tennessee has a pretty good 1-2 combo as a consolation prize.
Finishing with 103 yards on 20 carries (5.2 average) and adding 56 yards on three receptions (both career highs), Blount did all he could to try and will his team to victory. But his former Titan teammate Chris Johnson was better and was the difference in winning and losing.
Blount had two uncharacteristic fumbles, but the rainy weather played a factor as the game saw eight fumbles between the two teams.
Mike Williams continued his second-half rebound, managing to snag six Freeman passes for 84 yards and his second touchdown in two weeks. But like he told PewterReport.com last week, if the team loses it is still not enough.
Arrelious Benn had an inexcusable drop in the first half and was held to one reception for minus-three yards. Benn and Williams were the only two wide receivers to catch a pass from Freeman the entire game.
The weather played a factor but you would have thought offensive coordinator Greg Olson could have gotten Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe or even Sammie Stroughter more involved.
Bucs TE Kellen Winslow got off to a hot start catching five passes for 52 yards in the first half. But whether it was the Titans’ defense, Olson or Freeman, someone pulled the plug on the Winslow drain and he was quiet in the second half outside of a critical fourth-quarter holding call that took Tampa Bay out of field goal range.
Rookie Luke Stocker continues to not earn many looks from Freeman or Olson and had no catches on the final stat sheet.
No one will fault the Buccaneers offensive line for its performance the last two weeks run blocking for LeGarrette Blount, and pass protection has been mostly adequate. But what has kept this group from going from good to above-average are the penalties and mental errors. All teams will have infractions but does any team in the league have as many in critical situations as the Buccaneers?
Left guard Jeremy Zuttah continues to hurt his team with bad penalties at the worst possible times. Zuttah had a second-quarter holding penalty on second down nullify a 4-yard completion to Luke Stocker and create a second-and-17. On the next play, Freeman was sacked and lost a fumble recovered by Tennessee. And late in the game Zuttah was flagged for a false start on the next play after Kellen Winslow’s holding call on a LeGarrette Blount run. Tampa Bay was backed up even farther, and, after an incomplete pass on second down, Tampa Bay conceded the drive by handing off to Kregg Lumpkin then punting the football away. The Titans then went on the game winning 80-yard decisive touchdown drive and the game was essentially over.
Donald Penn had one major slip up allowing Titans defensive end Dave Ball to sack Freeman on third down in the first half, killing another drive.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, Brian Price left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return. After Price’s departure, Chris Johnson did most of his damage.
Adrian Clayborn continues to impress, notching three tackles, his team-leading fifth sack of the season and with a number of quarterback pressures.
Albert Haynesworth also brought his “A” game back to where his career started, leading the defensive line with four tackles, two for loss and a sack that he wasn’t officially credited with.
Reserve defensive end Tim Crowder made the most of his limited snaps, making three stops that included two behind the line of scrimmage.
Da’Quan Bowers played a decent game in his first career start, harassing Hasselbeck several times. But like the entire defensive line, there were way too many wide open running lanes for Titans’ running back Chris Johnson.
Well I’m officially off the Buccaneers linebacker bandwagon. Giving them the benefit of the doubt all season long, it is time to agree with many that this unit may be the worst on the entire team.
Again on Sunday, the linebackers seemed to disappear at times. Occasionally one of the four-man rotation Tampa Bay used (Hayes, Foster, Hayward, Black) would make a play, but for the most part this group was out of position, taking bad angles and unable to shed the blocks of Titans linemen, tight ends and even running backs at times.
Geno Hayes did have one pick early in the game but was held to just two tackles and wasn’t on the field much with Adam Hayward getting more playing time than usual.
Rookie Mason Foster continues to play like a rookie – up and down. Foster, like Hayes and Quincy Black, was a non-factor for long stretches of the game and finished with five tackles and one tackle for loss.
Black had four stops, but, like the rest of the linebackers, has to be held partly responsible for the Titans 202 yards on the ground.
No penalties, Aqib Talib's pick-six and improved play from E.J. Biggers, the Buccaneers secondary was solid aside from a blown coverage on the Titans' winning touchdown.
Talib has had two outstanding games in a row. In addition to his second interception this season (both for TDs) Talib forced a fumble after stripping Chris Johnson.
At age 36, Ronde Barber continues to amaze. Barber led the Bucs in tackles with seven stops and forced a fumble on a big time hustle play.
What has consistently been the most dependable unit all season, Tampa Bay’s special teams play was a big factor in the team’s 23-17 loss.
After going up 3-0 in the first quarter, Michael Koenen’s kickoff failed to reach the end zone and the Titans pulled off an amazing semi-reverse that went 100 yards for a score.
LS Andrew Economos had a high snap on a punt that was partially blocked and even Koenen struggled in the poor weather conditions, averaging just 38.8 yards per kick with a net average of just 34.2 yards.
Tampa Bay’s kick return unit was also less than spectacular, with Sammie Stroughter averaging just 24.7 yards on three returns.
One bright spot was PK Conner Barth, who has yet to miss under 46 yards this season. He put Tampa Bay on the board in the first quarter with a 43-yard field goal.