Josh Freeman’s first half performance was abysmal. But Freeman wasn’t the only problem as pass protection was sloppy at times and a lack of a running game didn’t help No. 5. In the first 30 minutes Freeman’s stat sheet was that of a middle school football team – 2-of-4 for 14 yards. That wasn’t the first drive or first quarter but first half totals. Freeman's final totals were better (17-of-27, 148 yards with one touchdown and one fumble) but not enough to defeat a team the caliber of Dallas.
It appears Freeman’s mental state may be in turmoil. Indecisiveness, poor mechanics at times and just overall inconsistent play has made some wonder if the former Wildcat star is actually the franchise quarterback. I believe Freeman has the tools and intelligence to be a franchise quarterback, but his confidence level seems to be in question. Playing to not make a mistake is no recipe for success in the NFL.
With just nine carries for 21 yards (2.3 average) it is hard to grade Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount. No other running back had a carry for the Buccaneers and the other rushing yards came form Josh Freeman while scrambling (four carries for 37 yards).
With Tampa Bay falling behind early, again, the running game was abandoned. The Buccaneers know their only chance for success is to establish the run but Saturday night the Cowboys took away Blount early. When down by 28 points at halftime it is virtually impossible to be successful on the ground.
Buccaneers receivers had just four receptions all night and Dezmon Briscoe was the recipient of three of those. Briscoe totaled 37 yards receiving and the lone offensive touchdown, and Micheal Spurlock added one catch for six yards. It would be hard to go back and find a more futile effort by Buccaneers receivers – not just this season – but in franchise history.
The Dallas secondary played zone defense for the most part and with the pressure and blitzes form the Cowboys' front seven, Tampa Bay’s receivers had a difficult time getting open. Josh Freeman told reporters after the game Mike Williams was blanketed with a safety over the top and only had a couple one-on-one looks.
Kellen Winslow’s night started slow then picked up in the second half but the veteran tight end finished with four receptions for just 37 yards. Winslow was on the receiving end of Freeman’s two-point conversion in the second half that cut the Cowboys’ lead to 16.
Rookie Luke Stocker and Zach Pianalto each had one reception in the game but combined for just 11 yards.
With Blount averaging just over 2.0 yards per carry, and Freeman being constantly harassed, this unit has been in a free fall just as the rest of the team as of late.
Donald Penn was beaten again for a sack and after making the Pro Bowl last season Penn’s plans for a repeat visit to Hawaii should be canceled. Penn started the season off strong, but after having one of his worst games of his career last week in Jacksonville, he followed it up with another subpar effort.
Center Jeff Faine, the one player other than the QB that should without fail always know the snap count, didn’t hike the ball at one point and the Buccaneers were flagged for a false start.
Tackle Jeremy Trueblood had a critical missed block on Marcus Spears in the first quarter that allowed Spears to penetrate and stop LeGarrette Blount on third-and-1, killing a critical drive as the Buccaneers were attempting to answer Dallas’ first score.
Altogether the Buccaneers allowed three sacks and numerous quarterback pressures.
Tackling issues once again were a problem for the Buccaneers defense, particularly at the line of scrimmage. Felix Jones and newly signed Sammy Morris both averaged over four yards per carry and Dallas has 160 yards on 37 carries for the night. Once again the defense couldn’t stop the run and it started with the play of the defensive line.
Albert Haynesworth continues to show flashes of what made him nearly unstoppable three seasons ago when he was a defensive player of the year. The former Titan, Redskin and Patriot had five tackles and one batted pass. Michael Bennett was obviously inspired to play against his brother, Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett, and had five tackles with three behind the line of scrimmage. Both Adrian Clayborn and Bennett added a sack to their season totals but overall the production was as it has been all year – up and down.
Geno Hayes started the game off well, collecting a couple first-quarter tackles that included forcing a fumble that rolled harmlessly out of bounds. Hayes finished with five stops and the one forced fumble, but, like all the linebackers have this season, disappeared for stretches of the game.
Rookie Mason Foster was the leading tackler with eight tackles and although he occasionally gets rolled by fullbacks and pulling guards, I do admire his willingness to stick his helmet in the thick of things regardless of the outcome.
Quincy Black also had another quality statistical game (six tackles) but the impact plays weren’t there, a microcosm of his 2011 season.
Like the defensive line the linebackers must share equal blame in the 160 yards gained on the ground by the Cowboys.
Losing CB Aqib Talib to another groin injury in the first quarter was a knockout blow against the Buccaneers and forced E.J. Biggers to match up with Miles Austin for part of the game with not so good results.
At times it was like watching a neighborhood street ball game when Romo was dropping back to pass. Whether in man or zone coverage, the Buccaneers secondary was abused for most of the night, giving up three touchdown passes through the air and not coming close to getting their hands on any Romo passes.
Punter Michael Koenen, who has struggled somewhat the last couple weeks, found his groove again and averaged 51.0 yards on five punts. Koenen’s kickoffs were also consistently deep and were all touchbacks.
The punt coverage units were also above average holding dangerous Dez Bryant to a paltry 3.8 yards per punt return.
Preston Parker managed to hang onto the football this week but was only on the kickoff return unit, as Michael Spurlock was given the nod returning punts.