In a game of trench warfare at Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers lost badly to the visiting Titans. Not only did Tennessee pile up the points in its 30-7 victory in Tampa Bay, the Titans out-gained the Bucs 341-81 yards. The Titans offensive line was dominant, blowing the Bucs defensive front seven off the ball en route to Tennessee rushing for 216 yards, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Darius Reynaud led the way for the Titans with 75 yards on seven carries, followed by Chris Johnson, who rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Starting quarterback Jake Locker rushed for 24 yards, including a 21-yarder as Tampa Bay’s tackling was sloppy with the Bucs players exhibiting poor technique.
Locker struggled passing the ball, completing 4-of-11 passes for 21 yards and getting picked off by Ahmad Black, who returned the pick 29 yards to set up a 2-yard Josh Freeman touchdown pass to Mike Williams to give the Bucs an early 7-0 lead before the Titans roared back with 30 unanswered points.
The Buccaneers might have lost starting running back LeGarrette Blount for a while as he injured his left knee when he was tackled by a host of Titans, including linebacker Zach Brown and safety Al Afalava, on a 4-yard run prior to the two-minute warning before halftime. Blount, who said the injury was not too serious after the game, and Tampa Bay’s offense struggled against Tennessee as he rushed for only 11 yards on eight carries (1.4 avg.).
Blount is battling rookie Doug Martin for the starting running back job, and the team’s first-round draft pick in 2012 had the better night, rushing for 23 yards on seven carries (3.3 avg.), in addition to a 16-yard run being called back due to a holding penalty. Prior to rookie Michael Smith’s 17-yard run late in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay’s offense was abysmal as the previous longest play of the night was a 9-yard run by Martin. Smith led the Bucs with 31 yards on seven carries (4.4 avg.).
Freeman was pressured all night by Tennessee’s defensive line and finished the game after the first series in the second quarter completing 4-of-10 passes for 21 yards and one score. Backup Dan Orlovsky was sacked four times by the Titans defensive front and completed just 1-of-5 passes for six yards as the offensive line was overwhelmed and overmatched on nearly every down.
Bucs head coach Greg Schiano called the team's performance "sloppy" after the game. That's an understatement.
HOW THE TEAM’S SCORED – BUCS vs. TITANS SCORING SERIES
First Quarter – Bucs 7, Titans 0
In dime defense, Bucs free safety Ahmad Black made a spectacular interception of Jake Locker on third-and-9 and returned the pick 29 yards to the Tennessee 2-yard line. On second-and-goal from the Titans 2, Josh Freeman hit wide receiver Mike Williams for a touchdown pass.
First Quarter – Bucs 7, Titans 7
Titans running back Chris Johnson (24 yards) and quarterback Jake Locker (21 yards) ran over the Bucs defense as Johnson ripped off a 14-yard TD with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. The Titans picked up two first downs on their scoring march as tight end Craig Stevens caught an 11-yard pass and Black was called for a 15-yard personal foul.
Second Quarter – Titans 10, Bucs 7
Bucs backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky was sacked by defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks at the Tampa Bay 10 and fumbled the ball. After a 5-yard loss by Johnson, rookie receiver Kendall Wright hauled in a 9-yard pass to the 6-yard line, but Locker’s third down pass to Jared Cook was incomplete, setting up a 24-yard field goal by Rob Bironas to give Tennessee the lead.
Second Quarter – Titans 17, Bucs 7
Orlovsky’s pass intended for tight end Drake Dunsmore was deflected by Akeem Ayers and picked off by cornerback Chris Hawkins, who returned it to the Tampa Bay 14. Two plays later, Johnson dashed 14 yards for his second touchdown of the night and the Titans were up 14-7.
Second Quarter – Titans 20, Bucs 7
Titans running back Darius Reynaud ripped off a 39-yard run on the first play of the drive into Tampa Bay territory. But an offensive holding penalty backed up the Titans, who had to settle for a 48-yard field goal by Bironas to extend Tennessee’s lead to 20-7.
Third Quarter – Titans 23, Bucs 7
Reynaud rushed for 32 yards on four carries and fellow running back Jamie Harper added a 19-yard reception to help the Titans drive into Tampa Bay’s red zone. An apparent Rusty Smith touchdown pass to Taylor Thompson was broken up in the end zone by safety Larry Asante, but two plays later a 23-yard field goal by Bironas increased Tennessee’s advantage to 23-7 with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
Fourth Quarter – Titans 30, Bucs 7
Smith fired off a 33-yard pass to D.J. Woods, who got behind cornerback Marquese Wheaton and safety Cody Grimm on third-and-13 to move the chains. Running back Herb Donaldson had two runs of 10 and 11 yards to move the Titans inside the red zone. Three plays later on third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 15, Smith found tight end Cameron Graham for a wide-open touchdown pass to end the scoring at 30-7.
WHO WAS THE BUCS’ MVP?
After sitting out last week’s preseason opener against Miami with a toe sprain rookie strong safety Mark Barron made an instant impact in his NFL debut against Tennessee. On a third-and-1 play in the first quarter, Barron helped stuff running back Chris Johnson for no gain along with defensive ends Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn. Later in the first quarter, Barron was also active in pass defense, breaking up a throw intended for Nate Washington on third down, forcing a punt.
Two key stops on third down Barron edges out fellow safety Ahmad Black, who picked off a Jake Locker and returned it 29 yards to set up a touchdown, for Friday night’s MVP honors as Black missed several tackles and also drew a 15-yard penalty by hitting a defenseless receiver to extend a Tennessee scoring drive.
WHICH BUCCANEERS DIDN’T PLAY AND WHO GOT HURT?
Starting running back LeGarrette Blount suffered a potentially serious injury to his left knee when he was gang-tackled by several Titans on a 4-yard run prior to the two-minute warning before halftime. Blount was seen sitting on the bench in the second half with his teammates.
Cornerback Anthony Gaitor was also injured before halftime and was carted off the sidelines into the locker room with a hamstring strain. In the second half, Gaitor was seen standing on the sidelines with his teammates.
On the bright side, Bucs left tackle Donald Penn was activated from the non-football injury list on Friday and is expected to re-join the team for practice this week. Penn suffered a calf strain prior to training camp that caused him to miss the last 22 days of action.
“Hopefully that will happen Monday, said Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. “I think that Donald has gotten himself into really good shape so that will make him a better player.”
In addition to Penn, defensive tackles Gary Gibson (Achilles) and Amobi Okoye (knee), defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers (Achilles) and Quinton Anderson (undisclosed), wide receiver Arrelious Benn (knee), cornerback E.J. Biggers (foot), tight end Luke Stocker (undisclosed), and offensive lineman Mike VanDerMeulen (undisclosed) didn’t play Friday night against the Titans.
WHAT WAS DIFFERENT ABOUT THE BUCS’ PRE-GAME FESTIVITIES?
In the first game at Raymond James Stadium this year, former Buccaneers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was the honorary team captain for the coin toss, which Tampa Bay won.
There were no individual player introductions for the Buccaneers, who ran on to the field as a team with Dekoda Watson carrying the Tampa Bay flag and long snapper Andrew Economos carrying the American flag.
There was a new team introduction on the Jumbotron featuring several of the Bucs players snarling on camera instead of the computer generated cartoon graphics that they have used in the past. In addition to that there were several small fireworks and flames going off inside the stadium.
Former American Idol star Michael “Big Mike” Lynche, who is a Tampa Bay native, sang the National Anthem prior to kickoff.
WHAT WILL UPSET GREG SCHIANO WHEN HE WATCHES THE FILM?
The offensive line did a terrible job protecting quarterback Josh Freeman, giving up several pressures and contributing to Freeman only completing 4-of-10 passes for 21 yards and a touchdown before getting replaced by Dan Orlovsky. A holding penalty on center Jeremy Zuttah negated a nifty 16-yard run by Doug Martin that picked up a first down and set up a second-and-20 situation, which resulted in a punt by Tampa Bay a few plays later. Orlovsky was sacked on his first series by defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and fumbled. That turnover set up Tennessee’s go-ahead field goal in the second quarter. Orlovsky was sacked a total of four times and pressured on every pass attempt.
For the second straight preseason game, the Bucs defensive line got very little pressure on the opposing quarterback. Tampa Bay did record its first sack of the preseason against Tennessee, but that came on a blitz by linebacker Dekoda Watson. The Bucs defensive line failed to shed blocks in the running game and against the pass.
In shades of 2011, Tampa Bay’s run defense was horrific against Tennessee as the Bucs allowed 216 yards rushing. Last year, the Bucs allowed a league-worst 150 yards on the ground. On Friday night, they surrendered an additional 66 yards past that average.
WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR THE BUCS?
Tampa Bay (1-1) hosts New England (1-0) next Friday night, August 24. The Patriots, who host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, will fly into town early to scrimmage with the Buccaneers during the week.