Tampa Bay’s offense struggled mightily in its regular season opener vs. Baltimore. Despite coming out throwing on three consecutive plays, Bucs quarterback Chris Simms never found a rhythm and played a big part in the Bucs’ 27-0 loss to the Ravens.
In the second quarter, Simms threw an errant pass to tight end Doug Jolley, and Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister made him pay for it by intercepting the ball and returning 60 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown, which put the Ravens up 14-0. Later in the same quarter, Simms had a pass deflected by Ravens linebacker Bart Scott and intercepted by rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who returned the pick 60 yards to the Bucs’ 7-yard line. That turnover set up the Ravens’ 20-yard field goal, which put them up 17-0. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Simms’ pass intended for wide receiver Michael Clayton got intercepted by Ravens safety Ed Reed. Baltimore’s offense capitalized on the turnover by going 61 yards on nine plays for a touchdown. That score put Baltimore up 27-0.
In addition to his three interceptions, Simms had three passes batted down near the line of scrimmage. He didn’t do a good job of scanning the entire field for receivers and locked onto receivers too often. Simms completed 17-of-29 passes for 133 yards and tossed three picks while getting sacked twice.
Rookie Bruce Gradkowski served as Tampa Bay’s backup quarterback behind starter Simms. He replaced Simms with seven minutes remaining in the game. Gradkowski didn’t fare much better, completing 1-of-5 passes for 4 yards while getting sacked once.
*Tampa Bay converted 3-of-12 (25 percent) of its third downs and managed just eight first downs against Baltimore’s defense.
Even before Tampa Bay fell behind 14-0 early in the second quarter, the Bucs didn’t seem like a team determined to establish the ground game Sunday. In fact, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s first three play calls were passing plays. Bucs tailback Carnell “Cadillac” Williams carried the ball just eight times for 22 yards (2.8 avg.). He did a good job of running through the holes that his offensive line opened for him. His longest run of the game was a 7-yarder. Williams’ biggest impact on offense came in the passing game, where he hauled in a team-high five passes for 25 yards.
Although they had to abandon the running game early, things went from bad to worse when Williams had to come out of the game with back spasms. Bucs RB Michael Pittman carried the ball three times for minus-1 yard. He also caught one pass for seven yards. Pittman did a better job than Williams in terms of picking up Baltimore’s blitzes, but Williams proved to be the more productive player overall.
Fullback Mike Alstott didn’t touch the ball until midway through the third quarter. When he did, he caught a pass in the flat and rumbled for a first down. He caught three passes for 26 yards while carrying the ball just one time for 2 yards.
*The Bucs rushed 13 times for 26 yards (2.0 avg.).
Tampa Bay wide receivers Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton had trouble getting open against Baltimore’s secondary, and when they did get separation Simms had trouble finding them.
Bucs WR Joey Galloway, who led the offense in receptions and touchdowns last year, was held without a catch on Sunday. He dropped a pass in the first quarter that likely would have gone for a first down had he caught the ball.
Clayton hauled in three passes for 34 yards, including a 27-yarder to Baltimore’s 31-yard line in the second half.
Bucs WR Ike Hilliard rarely saw the field Sunday due to Tampa Bay’s need to play max protection sets.
*The Buccaneers produced just 142 yards of total offense vs. the Ravens.
Tampa Bay tight ends Anthony Becht and Alex Smith spent most of the game blocking near the line of scrimmage. They opened up some holes for Williams in the running game and did a decent job in pass protection. They did get involved in the passing game, though. Becht hauled in four passes for 27 yards, including a 12-yarder on a third-and-3 play that gave the Bucs a much-needed first down in the first quarter.
Smith caught two passes for 18 yards. His biggest grab of the game came in the third quarter when he hauled in a 19-yard pass from Simms. That play, which was one of the few highlights from the Bucs’ offense, put them on the Ravens’ 12-yard line.
The Bucs were without two of their starting offensive linemen on Sunday. Guards Dan Buenning (ankle) and Davin Joseph (knee) were inactive with their respective injuries.
Third-year lineman Jeb Terry started at right guard in Joseph’s place while Sean Mahan, who started all 17 games at right guard for the Bucs last season, started at left guard in place of Buenning.
This unit didn’t play great, but it didn’t play bad, either. It gave Simms a decent amount of time to throw more often than not and opened some holes for Williams in the running game. Once the Ravens jumped up 14-0, the Bucs basically abandoned the running game and were able to tee off on Simms on passing downs. Mahan struggled with Baltimore’s physical style of play in the trenches and was called for holding on Williams’ 10-yard run on second offensive drive of the game. Center John Wade was called for illegal hands to the face on a third-and-4 play, but that penalty was declined after Simms’ pass for Clayton fell incomplete.
Tampa Bay surrendered three sacks Sunday, but all three quarterback takedowns were recorded by Baltimore blitzes courtesy of linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott.
*Baltimore dominated the time of possession in Sunday’s game, 35:49 to 24:11.
Tampa Bay held Baltimore’s ground game in check for the most part on Sunday. Ravens running back Jamal Lewis rushed 18 times for 78 yards 4.3 avg.) and one touchdown, and his longest run came on a 27-yarder. However, the defensive line’s biggest problem was its inability to sustain a consistent and potent pass rush on Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, who was sacked just one time in this game. Bucs backup defensive end Dewayne White came up with Tampa Bay’s only sack of the game in the first half when he touched McNair down after a fumble.
Defensive tackles Anthony McFarland and Chris Hovan recorded five and three tackles, respectively. Hovan came close to getting to McNair on several occasions. Defensive ends Simeon Rice and Greg Spires recorded three tackles each.
*The Ravens rushed 34 times for 103 yards (3.0 avg.) vs. Tampa Bay.
Bucs starting middle linebacker Shelton Quarles was inactive for Sunday’s game with a groin injury. Second-year LB Barrett Ruud made his first career start in Quarles’ place. Ruud didn’t show Quarles’ nose for the ball, but he certainly was serviceable, notching eight tackles. Ruud got blocked out of the play on Lewis’ 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks was all over the field Sunday, recording 11 tackles. He had seven of those takedowns in the first half as the Ravens offense dominated the time of possession.
Strongside linebacker Ryan Nece recorded five tackles and came close to sacking McNair on a couple of blitzes.
Tampa Bay’s defense failed to create a turnover vs. Baltimore, and it had plenty of opportunities. The Ravens pout the ball on the ground four times, but they managed to recover the loose ball each time.
*The Ravens converted 5-of-14 (36 percent) of their third down tries vs. the Bucs.
The lack of pass rush from Tampa Bay’s front four and the poise shown by Baltimore QB Steve McNair allowed the Ravens to convert a few critical third downs in this contest.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber was extremely active in this contest, recording 11 tackles, which tied linebacker Derrick Brooks for the team lead. Like Brooks, seven of Barber’s tackles came in the first half. On Baltimore’s first drive of the game, Barber was called for pass interference on a third-and-7 play, which gave the Ravens a fresh set of downs and eventually allowed them to score a touchdown.
Bucs CB Brian Kelly recorded three tackles and made a great open-field tackle on running back Musa Smith on a third down play in the second quarter, which forced the Ravens to punt.
Ravens WR Derrick Mason caught four passes for 50 yards while WR Mark Clayton hauled in two passes for 18 yards.
While Mason and Clayton only combined for six catches, Tampa Bay’s defense had difficulty containing Baltimore’s tight ends. Former Bucs TE Daniel Wilcox caught three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. He managed to get past Bucs safety Jermaine Phillips for a 35-yard catch and run on third-and-10 pass play in the third quarter. Phillips also was involved on a 19-yard pass play to Mason on third down in the fourth quarter. Phillips recorded five tackles and one pass defensed.
The Ravens didn’t come out in many three-receiver sets, which left Bucs nickel cornerback Juran Bolden on the sideline for most of the game. He recorded one tackle on Sunday.
Bucs free safety Will Allen recorded six tackles vs. the Ravens.
*Ravens QB Steve McNair completed 17-of-27 passes for 181 yards and tossed one touchdown vs. the Bucs.
Tampa Bay’s special teams were the strongest unit for the Bucs on Sunday.
Punter Josh Bidwell was impressive, averaging 46.5 yards per punt and pinning three tries inside the 20-yard line. However, the Bucs used Bidwell way too often, evidenced by the fact that he punted a whopping eight times on Sunday. Bidwell’s longest punt of the game was a 59-yarder, which came in the second quarter.
Bucs running back Michael Pittman gave the offense decent starting field position on each of his returns. He averaged 24.2 yards per return.
Tampa Bay punt returner Mark Jones averaged 9.4 yards per return and had a long of 18 yards.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn’t have much confidence in his offensive line, which was without starting guards Dan Buenning and Davin Joseph. That was clear on his first three plays calls, all of which were passes and two of which were bootlegs. Given the fact that Simms threw three interceptions, and all three turnovers resulted in points for the Ravens, Gruden probably is wishing he would have run the ball more in this game. Having Williams carry the ball eight times in a game certainly isn’t ideal. When a team gets shut out 27-0 at home on opening day, the head coach always have to accept responsibility for not putting a team on the field that was prepared to play.
Although Tampa Bay’s offense fell flat Sunday, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit didn’t do a good job of setting the tone for this game. The Bucs defense allowed the Ravens to put together a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate 9:16 off of the clock in the first quarter. Not only do they need to carry the torch again this season, the Bucs defense must do a better job of setting the tone and creating turnovers (had zero on Sunday).