When you are down 56-0 entering the fourth quarter it is safe to say the game grades won’t be very high, and that was the case on Thursday night. Not a single unit played well enough to win many football games. PewterReport.com takes a look at the individual units and hands out out weekly postgame grades.
Bucs fans who have been clamoring for Mike Glennon to replace Josh McCown as Tampa Bay’s quarterback may have their wish granted as McCown suffered a thumb injury in the first half after hitting his hand on an opponent’s helmet. Glennon replaced McCown after the injury and the former North Carolina State product could be the Bucs starter when Tampa Bay travels to Pittsburgh a week from Sunday.
McCown’s day before the injury didn’t start very well, as he was just 5-for-13 for 58 yards. For the third game in a row McCown forced a throw that ended up being intercepted, and this week it was returned for a touchdown. McCown seemed rattled by the Falcons’ pass rush at times and never settled into any type of rhythm. McCown did connect with Mike Evans on a 36-yard pass before his injury and also made another great throw to running back Bobby Rainey on a wheel route that was dropped, forcing a Bucs punt.
Glennon put up much better numbers, going 17-of-24 for 121 yards and one touchdown, but they came after the Bucs were down big and many of the throws were check downs. His longest completion went for just 14 yards. GRADE= D
Bobby Rainey had a breakout game last week with 144 yards on the ground. With Doug Martin still nursing a knee injury he was again given the start against the Falcons. The magic of last week wasn’t there Thursday night as Rainey lost two fumbles and dropped a critical pass on third down. For the night, Rainey had 41 yards on 11 carries. As a receiver Rainey led Tampa Bay with seven catches for 64 yards. Backup Mike James also struggled running the football, gaining just four yards on four carries. GRADE= D-
Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson had one of his worst games as a Buccaneer. He dropped two balls, including one that would have been a first down and extended a Bucs drive early in the game. Jackson didn’t record his first catch until midway through the third quarter, and while he did have a 3-yard TD reception, he was very fortunate to not be called for offensive pass interference as he clearly pushed off the Falcons’ defensive back in order to secure the catch.
Rookie Mike Evans continues to improve. While he is still looking for his first TD of the season, he managed to haul in four receptions for 52 yards and a game long 36-yarder in the first half from McCown. Robert Herron had one catch for five yards in the game, but also a critical drop that would have been a first down. It was a high McCown throw but one he would agree he should have caught. On the next play McCown threw the pick-six that put the Bucs in a hole they never came close to recovering from. GRADE= D
Brandon Myers continues to lead the Bucs tight ends with Austin Seferian-Jenkins still hobbled by an ankle injury. Myers had five catches for 33 yards on Thursday night and Luke Stocker added two receptions for 15 yards, but also committed a 15-yard frustration personal foul in the second half. GRADE= C
The Falcons came into the game Thursday night looking for their first sack of the season and left with three on the stat page. Besides giving up the sacks, the Bucs offensive line also surrendered numerous pressures and committed a number of penalties, including two personal fouls by Evan Dietrich-Smith. Tampa Bay’s new center also had two errant snaps in the game, with one resulting in a turnover.
When reviewing game film with coach George Warhop on Friday, it is doubtful any of the five starters will receive a good evaluation, except possibly Logan Mankins. In addition to spotty pass protection, the offensive line failed to open many holes for the running game against a Falcons defense that was surrendering over 150 yards a game on the ground. The Buccaneers ended up with just 64 yards, and 19 of that came on a Glennon scramble. GRADE= F
Everyone knew the loss of Gerald McCoy would have an impact on the Buccaneers defensive line, but no one thought it would be as bad as it was on Thursday night. The pass rush was non-existent for the most part, only getting to Atlanta QB Matt Ryan once. Ryan at times looked like he was wearing the yellow no-contact jersey you see quarterbacks wear in practice.
Da’Quan Bowers, who got the start for McCoy, was invisible for the most part and failed to even earn an assist. Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence were the two most consistent players on the defensive line, but as a unit, one sack against Matt Ryan won’t win many, if any, football games. Atlanta also gained 144 yards on the ground. GRADE= D-
The Bucs linebacking corps was in a tough position to start without injured Mason Foster in the middle. Backup Dane Fletcher filled in for Foster and ended his night with four total tackles, half of Tampa Bay’s lone sack, and one of the team’s two total passes defensed. Fellow backer Danny Lansanah recorded that other pass defense when he picked off Falcons backup quarterback TJ Yates and returned it 27 yards to the end zone.
Weakside linebacker Lavonte David led the team with eight combined tackles, and forced and recovered one of the Bucs’ three fumbles.
But where the unit as a whole continues to struggle is in pass defense. A blown assignment on the third offensive play of the game left wide-open space in the right flat for quarterback Matt Ryan to find fullback Patrick DiMarco for a 16-yard catch-and-run. Similar to the preseason and first two weeks, targets are getting lost behind flat-footed Bucs linebackers far too often, leaving gaps between the second and third levels that continue to be exploited. GRADE= C-
Newly signed Buc Crezdon Butler was seen trying to man up on Falcons All-Pro receiver Julio Jones at times Thursday. That kind of encapsulates things.
Tampa Bay defensive backs also didn’t record a single pass defense. Both of those official stats went to linebackers. That says something, too.
All throughout the first 2 1/2 quarters when Atlanta actually had its A-team offense on the field, it seemed receivers were just getting off the line, finding a cozy, soft spot and pulling in Matt Ryan passes.
Truth be told, the unit’s failing grade can be partially attributed to the defensive coaching staff and Tampa Bay’s complete lack of pressure on Ryan. But there were also clear moments of individual deficiency. Case-in-point references would be Atlanta’s first two touchdowns. Both came in the red zone. Ryan hit receiver Harry Douglas for a 3-yard score to cap Atlanta’s opening drive and then found Jones from 8 yards out on the next. Both receivers were sitting near the back of the end zone wide open. On Jones’ score, cornerback Johnthan Banks released him from the outside in. But rather than check back on the Ryan’s All-Pro favorite target, safety Dashon Goldson pulled down to help on a receiver crossing the goal line toward the left corner, leaving Jones wide open.
To save a little face, Bucs defensive backs did get in on the turnover parade that was Thursday night’s mess of a game. Nickleback Leonard Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner each forced a fumble and safety Mark Barron recovered one at a time when Tampa Bay trailed 7-0, only to cough it back up. Holding onto that ball could have at least tempered Atlanta’s momentum, but it would’ve been one hell of a butterfly-effect situation to think it could’ve actually altered the outcome of that debacle. GRADE= F
Kicking to Devin Hester time and time and time again is enough for a failing grade by itself. Making matters worse is when it’s done by a team with a head coach that served as Hester’s on-field boss for the prolific return man’s first seven years in the league. Hester made the Bucs pay for those decisions by officially becoming greatest returner in NFL history when he brought back Michael Koenen’s booming 56-yard punt for a 62-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Hester officially ended his night with three punt returns for 68 yards (22.7 average) and one kick return for 29 yards. But those numbers don’t include a pair of long punt returns negated by penalties.
As for Bucs returner Solomon Patton, the rookie out of Florida finished by moving one returnable punt forward nine yards and a 19.5-yard average on four kick returns for 78 total yards. Perhaps feeling like he needed to help provide a spark to a team down 14-0 in the first quarter, Patton attempted to bring out a kick from 8 yards deep in the end zone and was taken down at the 11. Patton also nearly lost a first-half fumble inside the Bucs 20 on another return, but was ruled down by officials. GRADE= F
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
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