The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost in the final seconds to the New Orleans Saints 16-14, making their record 0-2. This is the second game in a row where the Bucs continuously shot themselves in the foot with unnecessary penalties, turnovers, and questionable decision-making by the coaching staff. The Bucs only needed to fix one of those issues to win both this week and last week, but have been unable to do so. These are the grades the Bucs earned after another heartbreaking loss.Quarterback
Josh Freeman had a disappointing stat line completing just nine of 22 passes for 125 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and one fumble. His quarterback rating was a measly 56.1. However, Freeman had no help from his receivers Sunday afternoon as Vincent Jackson had two drops, and fell down on two of his routes, accounting for four incompletions. Doug Martin also had a drop, his third in two games. Those passes alone would have put Freeman over 50 percent completion percentage, but that still isn’t good enough.
Freeman also had a 76-yard touchdown pass called back on a penalty, an illegal formation when a receiver didn’t line up properly. That is one play that can be pointed to when looking at how the Bucs lost this game. But Freeman had his fair share of mistakes as well, including staring down Vincent Jackson and forcing the ball resulting in a costly interception. Freeman also held the ball for too long and was strip-sacked in the second half.
Without those two turnovers, the Bucs would have most likely won the game, as they were both in Saints territory with the Bucs poised to score. Instead, the Bucs offense ended the game scoring just seven points, and was only able to score those seven points because of a turnover created by the defense. The offensive struggles can’t only be blamed on Freeman, but he deserves a good amount of the blame. If he continues to struggle, He could be benched by the bye week.
GRADE= DRUNNING BACKS
The one part of the offense that was successful against the Saints was running back Doug Martin. After struggling last week, the offensive line was able to give Martin just enough wiggle room to break free on a number of runs. Martin ended the game with 144 yards on 28 carries, averaging five yards per attempt.
The success of the run game is vital to the Bucs offense as it opens up the play action, and forces defenses to stack the box. Last year when Martin ran successfully, the Bucs offense was almost unstoppable. But today, the rest of the offense looked struggled despite Martin’s success.GRADE= A-WIDE RECEIVERS
As mentioned above, Freeman didn’t have much help at all from his receivers. Jackson had a two drops, but did finish the game with five receptions for 77 yards, most of which came on the final drive where the offense finally woke up.
Mike Williams was hardly involved, and he also had a missed opportunity when he was unable to keep his feet in bounds that would have resulted in a first down. Kevin Ogletree was the only other receiver to make a catch, and it was for the offense’s only touchdown.GRADE= DTIGHT ENDS
Apparently the Bucs do have a tight end on their roster, as Nate Byham caught the first pass for a tight end this season. He was wide open on the play and gained 34 yards on the catch. Other than that, he was invisible all game, along with Luke Stocker, who most likely to lose his starting job when Tom Crabtree returns. GRADE= D-OFFENSIVE LINE
Yes, this is the same offensive line that gave up three sacks and didn’t open up any holes in the run game last week. Against the Saints, they were lights out in pass protection, giving Freeman all day to throw the ball on almost every play. The only sack given up was Freeman’s fault as his internal clock was apparently malfunctioning at the time.
The line also opened up the run game for Martin who had a monster game despite the rest of the offensive struggles.
Demar Dotson played well all game along with the left tackle Donald Penn, who struggled mightily against the Jets. Guard Davin Joseph looked like his old self after a poor performance last week. Guard Gabe Carimi, who is replacing the injured Carl Nicks, looked much more comfortable than he did against New York. GRADE= B+DEFENSIVE LINE
The front four looked improved this week, as they were able to get more pressure on the quarterback without the help of the blitz. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy started the game off with a big sack of Drew Brees and ended the game with two tackles, despite playing through what looked like an ankle injury.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, had a huge game that should have been even bigger. He had what should have been a monster sack on Brees that resulted in a fumble, but the great play was negated on a very questionable helmet-to-helmet penalty. It looked like a clean hit as Clayborn hit Brees in the shoulder, and that is another game-altering penalty that could have been the difference. Aside from that play, Clayborn still had a great game finishing with five tackles and a pass breakup.
As a whole, the front four was very solid against the run and got decent pressure on their own, but still gave Brees way too much time on several plays. What was thought to be the biggest question mark coming into the season, has played well and held their own on Sunday helping to pressure Brees and lock down the Saints running game for the most part. GRADE= BLINEBACKERS
Through two games this year the Bucs’ linebackers already have more interceptions (three) and sacks (5.5) than they had all of last season. The linebackers played well against the Jets, but they were on a different level against the Saints. Strongside linebacker Dakota Watson started things off by intercepting Brees, which lead to the offense’s only touchdown. Watson ended the game with two tackles and a pass break up.
Weakside linebacker Lavonte David was on a mission to make up for his big penalty last week and succeeded. He ended the game with 1.5 sacks, six tackles, three quarterback hits, and a pass deflected.
But middle linebacker Mason Foster had the play of the game by far. On his second career interception he returned the ball 85 yards for the third longest pick-six in Tampa Bay history. You aren’t going to see many plays better than that from a linebacker. Mason Foster, two games into the season, is already having the best year of his young career.GRADE= ASECONDARY
The revamped secondary had another okay game, but penalties and blown coverages kept it at just that. On a touchdown pass to from Brees, it looked like Mark Barron didn’t know to cover tight end Jimmy Graham leaving him wide open for the score. The safeties struggled containing Graham in the first half, but were able to hold him off pretty well in the second. Graham finished the game with ten catches and 176 yards.
Aside from Graham, none of the Saints receivers had much success at all against the Bucs secondary, as wide receiver Marques Colston was second in yards behind Graham with just 63. Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis looked as healthy as ever on a play where Colston put a double move on him, but Revis was able to chase down the pass and bat it away. Revis ended the game with four tackles and a pass break up, and looked to only allow one completion against him.
Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron struggled in coverage in the first half, but were absolute monsters in the run game. Goldson, who did have another costly personal foul, ended the game with nine tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass deflected. If he can work on preventing those big personal fouls, Goldson is going to have a big year and opposing receivers will regret catching the ball near him.
Barron led the team in tackles with 13, and also had half a sack, shared with Lavonte David, along with a pass break up. Barron is thriving in his new role that puts him in the box and allows him to get more involved in blitzes and the run game. Barron did have that blown coverage, along with a pass interference call but looks more at home with his new responsibilities in 2013.
Safety Ahmad Black didn’t have a good game, struggling against the pass and also had a very costly, bonehead personal foul penalty in the first half. Black is going to need to improve since he is seeing a lot of playing time in dime and nickel packages. GRADE= C+SPECIAL TEAMS
Bucs punter Michael Koenen didn’t show off the rocket leg displayed last week, but much of that was by design to keep the ball out of the hands of the dangerous Sproles. Koenen averaged just 40.5 yards per punt but Sproles failed to gain any return yards.
Kicker Rian Lindell, who the Bucs signed right before the season, missed a 47-yard field goal that would have put the Bucs up four points, forcing the Saints to have to score a touchdown. Instead, the Saints got great field position and only had to gain about 30 yards to kick the game winning field goal.
Lindell can’t solely be blamed for the loss as the Bucs had so many other mistakes throughout the game yet again. However the special teams unit did nothing impressive to keep them from receiving a failing grade.GRADE= C-
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