TAMPA – The Buccaneers’ 24-0 loss to the New York Giants begs the question, why wait until the throwback game on November 8 to bring out the old Bucco Bruce creamsicle uniforms?

“We were clearly out-manned today,” Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said of team’s loss. “We were beat by a grown-man team today, a team we want to be like one day. They came in here and took it to us. They out-manned us, out-gunned us. They were the better team today, clearly. It wasn’t even close.”

Sunday’s defeat, which came before an equally mixed crowd of Giants and Bucs fans, was a blast from the past – from Tampa Bay’s yesterday when the team was known as the “Yuccaneers.” Nothing went right for the Buccaneers as the defense allowed the Giants to gain 397 total yards, rush for 226 yards, convert 63 percent of their third downs (10-of-16) and score 24 points.

The Bucs offense, which came into the game ranked fourth in the NFL, was even worse, accumulating only 86 yards of total offense while being shut out by the Giants. Tampa Bay began the 2009 season with a potent offense and some deficiencies on defense. It took just three games for the Bucs offense to catch up with the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense in terms of futility as Tampa Bay was out-gained by 311 yards.

For the second straight game, the Bucs fell behind by double digits early, trailing the Giants 14-0 after the first play of the second quarter. With 13:00 left in the second quarter, the Giants had outgained the Bucs, 147-14 yards, and Tampa Bay was averaging only two yards per play compared to the Giants, which were averaging seven yards per play.

It never got better. Throughout the game, the Bucs watched the Giants do everything Tampa Bay ultimately wants to do, which is control the clock by running the ball on offense and forcing three-and-outs and turnovers on defense. New York owned a 12:35 to 2:25 time of possession advantage over Tampa Bay in the first quarter and finished the game with a gaudy 43:38 to 16:22 edge in time of possession.

“You have no choice but to get better than this performance today,” Morris said. “You get five first downs and you’re 0-for-9 on third down. You have 86 yards of total offense. It was completely disastrous. I don’t even know if you can blame one man. I don’t know if you can blame any two men. You have to go back and look at the whole thing and evaluate everything you did today. The only way you can get better is good eye, bad eye, self-evaluate, move on to the next opponent and be ready. You let this one linger on and you’ll lose three more backing this one up. This thing is over. That game is over. That game was out-gunned, out-manned, out-everything, out-coached. Whatever you want to call it. They were the better football team today.

On the ground, the Giants were led by Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries (7.4 avg.), including a 38-yarder. Bradon Jacobs was eight yards shy of 100 yards, rushing for 92 yards on 26 carries (3.5 avg.) and one touchdown. Eli Manning was efficient and error-free, completing 14-of-24 passes for 161 yards with two touchdowns. Steve Smith hauled in seven passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, while Mario Manningham had four catches for 55 yards.

The Bucs came nowhere close to matching that type of production. Running back Derrick Ward started against his former team, but was held to two yards on five carries. Cadillac Williams didn’t fare much better, rushing for eight yards on two carries.

Quarterback Byron Leftwich was 7-of-16 for 22 yards with one interception before being benched in the fourth quarter for second-year quarterback Josh Johnson, who completed 4-of-10 passes for 36 yards and also astonishingly led the Bucs in rushing with one scramble for 15 yards.

After the game, Morris backed up his veteran quarterback, indicating that Leftwich would start next week at Washington (1-3), which is coming off a devastating 19-14 loss to Detroit, which halted its winless streak at 19 games.

“I can’t sit here and tell you that this game can be blamed on any one man,” Morris said. “Five first downs, 0-for-9 on third down, 28 yards rushing. If I take Byron Leftwich out of the game, I might as well take everyone else out with him.”

After the game, Leftwich was perplexed by what just happened.

“We didn’t make any plays,” Leftwich said. “We made zero plays. We made no plays. We made no plays as an offense and you just win football games that way.

Through three games, the Bucs have been outscored 30-0 in the first quarter. By halftime, the Giants held a 14-0 lead with Lawrence Tynes’ 21-yard missed field goal with 19 seconds left before halftime serving as the only positive for Tampa Bay. The Giants out-gained the Bucs 215-19 yards in the first 30 minutes of play.

The Giants took the opening possession and ran it down the Bucs’ throats – literally. Jacobs started the game with three carries for 12 yards and finished the series with 33 yards rushing on six carries. Bradshaw added 14 more on one carry while Manning was 3-of-4 on his opening drive for 33 yards with Smith the recipient of his trio of completions as the Giants methodically drove down the field. Jacobs’ capped off the scoring drive with a 6-yard touchdown run on second-and-goal. With 8:05 left in the first quarter, New York opened up a 7-0 lead.

Cornerback Terrell Thomas picked off Leftwich’s pass, which was intended for Winslow, at the Giants’ 34-yard line. That play sparked another New York scoring drive, which took seven plays and covered 66 yards. Manning hit Manningham with a 10-yard strike and Smith with a 7-yard pass, but it was Bradshaw’s 38-yard run down to the Tampa Bay 9 that keyed the drive. On third-and-goal from the 4, Manning zipped a slant pass to Smith for a touchdown. With 14:54 left in the second quarter, the Giants increased their lead to 14-0.

The Bucs caught a break when the Giants drove 51 yards down to the Tampa Bay 2 right before halftime but couldn’t punch it in the end zone on third-and-goal before Tynes’ 21-yard missed field goal. Manningham had two catches for 25 yards on the drive, while Bradshaw had 17 yards rushing on four carries and Jacobs rushed for 19 yards on four carries.

The Giants had a similar drive in the third quarter, marching 64 yards in 12 plays while advancing to the Tampa Bay 12. Manning provided two big plays through the air, the first of which was a 20-yard completion from Manning to Manningham on third-and-12 from the New York 26. On first-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 31, Manning hit tight end Matt Boss with a 24-yard gain that pushed the ball down to the 12. Three plays later, Tynes’ 26-yard field goal was good and the Giants led 17-0 with 5:48 left in the third quarter.

With 4:59 left in the third quarter, Tampa Bay gained its initial first down of the game on a 3-yard run by Williams on second-and-3. Then the Bucs proceeded to get their fifth straight third-and-out of the game after picking up the first down.

New York increased its lead to 24-0 with 12:26 left in the fourth quarter thanks to a 12-play, 72-yard drive. Manning rushed for a key first down with a 9-yard scramble on third-and-8 to the Giants’ 39. Manning was the difference again on third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 25 as he completed a 10-yard pass to Steve Smith despite pressure from three Bucs defenders. Two plays later, Manning threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sinorice Moss, who had a step on cornerback Aqib Talib down the right sidelines.

Johnson entered the game and replaced Leftwich at quarterback with 9:33 remaining in the fourth quarter and ignited the Bucs offense, which had generated only 35 yards up until that point. Johnson drove Tampa Bay from its own 26 down to the New York 5. The big play of the drive was a 15-yard scramble by Johnson on second-and-9 from the Bucs’ 25. That represented the Bucs’ second first down of the game, which came at the 8:39 mark of the fourth quarter.

On the next play, a 25-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Bruce Johnson gave Tampa Bay a first down at the New York 40. Johnson completed an 8-yard pass to rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter on fourth-and-4 at the 21. Stroughter picked up another first down with a 15-yard catch on the next play. However, with four tries from the Giants’ 5-yard line, Johnson failed to complete a pass and the ball was turned over to New York. The Bucs’ best opportunity for a score was a Johnson pass to Michael Clayton, who dropped a catchable pass in the back of the end zone.

That play was just one of the embarrassing moments from an embarrassing performance by the Buccaneers on Sunday. Although don’t tell that to Morris.
“We don’t use words like embarrassed around here,” Morris said. “There’s no such thing as embarrassed. What you put on tape is who you are, what you are and what you did today. That’s what they were today. They were exactly that on tape. We got beat by a grown-man team and we have to find a way to step up to the challenge and be that guy.

“No, I’m never embarrassed. We have to go out and step up and play. We don’t use words like that.”

The score was not as indicative of how much the Giants dominated the Bucs. It should have been worse.

“It’s disgusting, to be honest with you,” Williams said.

The Bucs’ 86-yard performance against the Giants on Sunday ranks as the third-worst in team history behind a 78-yard effort in Tampa Bay’s 17-0 home loss to Atlanta in 1977 and the team’s 65-yard outing in the infamous “Snow Bowl” at Green Bay, which featured former Tampa Bay quarterback Steve Young presiding over the hapless Bucs.  The team’s five first downs against New York on Sunday is tied for the worst in franchise history.

The following are the Bucs’ most futile efforts over the last four decades when factoring in total yardage, first downs and points scored:

1. December 1, 1985 at Green Bay
Packers 21, Buccaneers 0
5 first downs, 65 total yards

2. November 27, 1977 at Tampa Bay
Falcons 17, Buccaneers 0
8 first downs, 78 yards

3. September 27, 2009 at Tampa Bay
New York Giants 24, Buccaneers 0
5 first downs, 86 total yards

4. October 3, 1976
Colts 42, Buccaneers 17
6 first downs, 89 yards

5. November 26, 1978 at Chicago
Bears 14, Buccaneers 3
6 first downs, 92 yards

6. December 5, 1976 at Pittsburgh
Steelers 42, Buccaneers 0
8 first downs, 105 yards

7. December 14, 1991 at Chicago
Bears 27, Buccaneers 0
7 first downs, 106 yards

8. December 14, 1997 at New York
New York Jets 31, Buccaneers 0
6 first downs, 111 yards

9. September 19, 1976 at Tampa Bay
Chargers 23, Buccaneers 0
5 first downs, 125 yards

10. September 10, 2006 at Tampa Bay
Ravens 27, Buccaneers 0
8 first downs, 142 yards

Tampa Bay’s defense was quite bad once again, surrendering 397 yards, including 226 yards rushing, and allowing the Giants to convert 63 percent (10-of-16) on third downs. The Bucs offense was comical, generating zero points, 86 yards and not getting its initial first down of the game until 4:59 left in the third quarter.

So that leaves Tampa Bay’s most productive player on Sunday coming from special teams where punter Dirk Johnson was pretty solid. Due to Tampa Bay’s inept offense, Johnson punted seven times for 311 yards, averaging 44.4 yards per punt with a 37.9-yard net average. Johnson didn’t have a punt downed inside the Giants’ 20, but didn’t have a touchback, either. In fact, Johnson has yet to have a touchback through three games.

Although the Bucs didn’t know it at the time, this game was over from the minute the Giants marched 80 yards in 12 plays to score their opening touchdown, which came on a 6-yard run by running back Brandon Jacobs. With 8:05 left in the first quarter, this contest was done and New York was the winner. The Giants scored more points and gained almost as many yards as the Bucs would have all game.

Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud had 14 tackles to lead the Bucs. … Safety Will Allen got his first start in over two years and made 10 tackles. … Tampa Bay’s offense was so bad that cornerback Corey Webster only needed four stops to become the Giants’ leading tackler on the day. … Tight end Kellen Winslow had a team-high three catches for 14 yards. … Rookie receiver Sammie Stroughter had a team-high 23 yards receiving on two catches. … Wide receiver Brian Clark had three special teams tackles. … The Bucs did not record a sack for the first time this season.

The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:

WR Michael Clayton
LT Donald Penn
LG Jeremy Zuttah
C Sean Mahan
RG Davin Joseph
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE Kellen Winslow
WR Antonio Bryant
TE Jerramy Stevens
RB Derrick Ward
QB Byron Leftwich

LE Jimmy Wilkerson
DT Ryan Sims
DT Chris Hovan
RE Gaines Adams
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Quincy Black
LCB Aqib Talib
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Will Allen
SS Sabby Piscitelli

Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that were declared inactive for Sunday’s game:

QB Josh Freeman (emergency QB)
C Jeff Faine
WR Maurice Stovall
DE Kyle Moore
DE Dre Moore
OT Demar Dotson
OL Marc Dile
RB Earnest Graham

The Buccaneers did not announce any significant injuries from Sunday’s game against the visiting Giants.

The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Giants game at Raymond James Stadium was 63,689. The kickoff temperature was 88 degrees under cloudy skies with 75 percent humidity and a feels-like temperature of 100 degrees.

The Buccaneers (0-3) head off on the road to Washington to square off against the Redskins (1-2) at FedEx Field on Sunday, October 4. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET and will be televised on Fox.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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