When a team gets destroyed 41-0 there are few bright spots to be found. Sunday was a game that the Buccaneers most likely will review and then burn the film for good. Editor Mark Cook took a look at each offensive unit and assigned a grade based on their performance.
After last week’s loss to the Eagles, questions and a ton criticism of Freeman came flying from every direction. On Sunday, at New Orleans, Freeman looked worse than the prior week, and now even his biggest supporters may have doubts creeping in their minds if Freeman is capable of developing into a championship quarterback.
The offensive line had issues, receivers didn’t help Freeman out, and the play-calling can also be questioned to a degree. But the bottom line is, Freeman was responsible, to a certain extent, for five turnovers, and rarely if ever can an NFL team overcome such poor play.
Even when Freeman had time, throws were off target and opportunities were missed. For the third game in a row, Freeman’s inability to put the football in a position to allow his receivers to go up and make plays, drastically affected and hindered the Bucs effort on Sunday. Once again this week, Freeman missed wide-open targets, and appears to be suffering from a major lack of confidence.
On the afternoon Freeman was 26-of-47 for 279 yards and four interceptions.
Backup Dan Orlovsky entered the game late in the fourth quarter, and only had moderate success finished 4-of-7 for 51 yards.GRADE= FRUNNING BACKS
It is hard to get a true reading of Martin’s performance without knowledge of the coaches film or specifics on the play calls or design of the scheme, but from just one viewing there didn’t appear to be much room to run. In fact, Adrian Peterson most likely would have been held to less than 100 yards with the poor execution by the offensive line on Sunday.
Martin appeared close a couple times early in the game to almost pop one, but just couldn’t seem to shake the defender. Also, when you fall behind early as the Buccaneers did on Sunday, it is hard to stay committed to the running game, which is a shame, as the Saints are dead last in the NFL in rush defense, almost as bad as the 2011 Bucs defense.
Sunday Martin managed just 16 yards on 9 carries with a long of 11 yards. Which if you take away the 11-yarder, Martin was held to five yards on eight carries. Tampa Bay’s leading rusher this season also added 18 yards on three receptions.
After the game was well out of hand, backup LeGarrette Blount was given an opportunity and gained 25 yards on four carries (6.2 avg.).GRADE = DWIDE RECEIVERS
The Saints came into Sunday’s game with the league’s third worse pass defense yet held Tampa Bay’s top receiver Vincent Jackson without a catch until midway through the third quarter. Jackson began to find some open spots in the zone as the Saints backed off in coverage just a bit. Jackson finished with six receptions for 81 yards.
Mike Williams was more active in the first half and finished the day with four catches for 63 yards, and should have had at least one touchdown. However, as Freeman has done all too frequently as of late, Tampa Bay's QB overthrew him after he had beaten his defender by at least three steps and was wide open on the play.
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who had been virtually nonexistent over the last two weeks, came through in the second half with three receptions for 46 yards.
It is too soon to know exactly how much the receivers’ mistakes may have played in the woeful offensive numbers, but if you are an optimistic Bucs fan you would like to think perhaps there was some miscommunication of a couple of the four interceptions. It doesn’t excuse the poor play, but maybe Freeman’s play wasn’t as bad as it appeared. However that opens up the question – why in Week 15 are the receivers and quarterback not on the same page yet?GRADE = COFFENSIVE LINE
While the brunt of the blame for the dreadful 41-0 loss to the Saints will be placed on Freeman and the defensive backs, the offensive line deserves their fair share. The Saints defense came into Sunday’s game as the league’s absolute worse, giving up an average of 146 yards to their opponents. On Sunday the Buccaneers managed just 67 yards on the ground with 18 of that coming from a Keith Tandy fake punt. Take that play away and Tampa Bay only averaged 3.2 yards per carry on Sunday.
And while the ground game was stymied, the pass-blocking wasn’t much better. Freeman was under duress for much of the game, even when the Saints rushed just four down linemen, including an important fourth down play in the third quarter that was blown up when Demar Dotson allowed pressure to a Saints defensive end who hit Freeman’s arm just as he was releasing the ball.
While to expect a perfect pocket is unreasonable, the poor pass protection (and run blocking) on Sunday was simply unacceptable, and must be corrected if there is any hope of getting a struggling Freeman back on track these last two games.GRADE = D-TIGHT ENDS
I’m sure offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan didn’t come into Sunday’s Saints game with a plan to target Dallas Clark, Nate Byham and Luke Stocker 16 times, but that in fact is what happened. Pressure down field and a fading confidence caused Freeman to check down early – and often.
Clark finished with eight receptions, but for just 42 yards, and had another first down catch negated by a holding penalty in the second half.
Stocker, who had two catches Sunday, also found himself lining up at fullback late in the game, filling in for FB Erik Lorig, and helping Blount gain 25 yards in the fourth quarter.GRADE = B-
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