Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds offers up his analysis on how Tampa Bay's defense played at Denver in the Bucs' 31-23 loss to the Broncos, and dishes out the game grades for each defensive unit and the Bucs special teams.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy may have had his best game against the run at Denver, finishing with a season-high four tackles. However, McCoy and the rest of Tampa Bay’s defenders couldn’t get to quarterback Peyton Manning, who wasn’t sacked on Sunday. In order for the Bucs to have had a real chance of winning Sunday’s game, McCoy or his defensive linemates needed to get Manning on the ground or at least hit him. They failed to do so.
Defensive end Michael Bennett came into the game as Tampa Bay’s leading sacker with seven on the season, but for the second straight game Bennett was unable to get to the quarterback. However, he was able to get three tackles against the run and record a tackle for loss, which was his 12th of the season. That ranks tied for second on the team with linebacker Mason Foster.
Reserve defensive tackle Gary Gibson had a strong effort against the run, posting three tackles, including a season-high two tackles for loss. Yet Gibson was flagged for jumping offsides with less than two minutes to play, which created a second-and-1 situation that Denver converted instead of the Broncos facing second-and-6. That was a boneheaded move by a veteran nose tackle that lines up directly over the football.
Gibson played a great number of snaps in place of Roy Miller, who was battling illness all week. Miller did not record any tackles.
Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers was stout against the run in the first half, recording all three of his tackles before halftime, including a tackles for loss. But Bowers failed to generate much pass rush when in the game.
Defensive lineman Daniel Te’o-Nesheim played okay, notching two tackles, but wasn’t nearly as big a factor as has been in recent weeks.
Although defensive end Aaron Morgan didn’t appear on the stats sheet, he actually came the closest to sacking Manning in the first half with several nice rushes on obvious passing downs.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line played reasonably well against the run with four of the defense’s seven tackles for loss on Sunday, but had to come up with more pressure on Manning and it just didn’t happen.GRADE = C-LINEBACKERS
Weakside linebacker Lavonte David was Tampa Bay’s leading tackler once again with 10 stops, including a game-high and career-high three tackles for loss at Denver. David also came up with an interception and had two pass breakups. He would have had a sensational game against the Broncos if not for getting beaten outside by defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, who was playing fullback, for a first quarter touchdown, and getting beaten inside by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a third quarter touchdown.
Foster had a good game against the run with five solo tackles, but didn’t make any splash plays against the Broncos. Tampa Bay was in nickel defense quite a bit and that kept strongside linebackers Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson off the field for a good deal of the game. Each linebacker finished with just one tackle against Denver.
Knowshown Moreno rushed 20 times for 69 yards (3.5 avg.), including a long of 16 yards, but the Bucs did a fairly decent job of bottling him up for the most part. Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman had five carries for 29 yards (5.8 avg.), but Denver was held to 91 yards rushing on 29 carries (3.1 avg.), which wasn’t too bad.GRADE = B-DEFENSIVE BACKS
Tampa Bay’s secondary was overmatched by Denver’s wide receivers on Sunday. Free safety Ronde Barber played a good deal of cornerback in nickel defense due to injuries at the position. Barber finished the game with six tackles, but had a costly pass interference penalty on third-and-8 that extended Denver’s first touchdown drive instead of forcing the Broncos to kick a field goal.
Ahmad Black played a great deal of the game at free safety and finished with six solo stops and had a pass breakup. He didn’t play poorly, but failed to make a few tackles he could have made, and he and David were beaten by Thomas for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Cornerback Leonard Johnson struggled while covering Thomas on Sunday. Thomas scored one of his two touchdowns against Johnson, who was also flagged for pass interference and illegal contact while trying to cover him. Johnson recorded two tackles. Thomas caught eight passes for 99 yards and two TDs.
Cornerback E.J. Biggers wasn’t bad in pass coverage, but didn’t make any plays on the ball, which has been the knock on him. Biggers finished the game with five tackles.
Reserve cornerbacks Danny Gorrer and LeQuan Lewis each had a tackle against Denver. Lewis suffered a serious knee injury in the fourth quarter on a Roscoe Parrish punt return and looks to be lost for the rest of the season.
Strong safety Mark Barron had four tackles against the Broncos on Sunday. While he wasn’t a liability in coverage he didn’t make any standout splash plays, either. Tight end Jacob Tamme caught nine passes for 89 yards with Barron being responsible for covering him about half the time.
Tampa Bay’s secondary didn’t give up any pass plays longer than 28 yards and held Manning to completing 27-of-38 passes for 242 yards. But only one of Manning’s passes was challenged by a member of Tampa Bay’s secondary and the coverage wasn’t tight enough to prevent him from throwing two touchdown passes against the defensive backs.GRADE = C-SPECIAL TEAMS
Tampa Bay kicker Connor Barth was a perfect three-of-three against Denver, connecting on field goals from 31, 50 and 55 yards. That was the third time Barth has connected on two field goals of 50 yards or more in the same game during his Bucs career and he set a record with six field goals of six or more on the season (50, 50, 51, 52, 55 and 57).
Punter Michael Koenen had five punts that averaged 51.4 yards, including a 63-yarder. Koenen had a 32.4-yard net average and downed one inside the 20. Four of Koenen’s kickoffs were downed for touchbacks.
The Bucs had a hard time stopping return man Trindon Holliday, who returned one kick 26 yards and averaged 23.8 yards per punt return. Holliday had a 45-yard punt return against the Buccaneers due to missed tackles.
Roscoe Parrish had a 15-yard punt return and fair caught two others. All six of Denver’s kickoffs went for touchbacks.GRADE = B
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.