There weren’t a whole lot of positives to pull out of a game in which Tampa Bay gave up four sacks, had two turnovers, produced just 30 yards rushing and a net total of 169 yards of offense, but after reviewing the film of the Bucs’ 16-10 loss to Washington, head coach Jon Gruden did see some things the offense can build on.
“We had some chances to make some plays and the film fairly illustrates that,” Gruden said. “Joey (Galloway) had a chance to make a big play early in the game. We didn’t come up with that play. We had some opportunities to make some plays with some success of opening drives in the second half. We did have a couple breakdowns, communication with the noise was a factor. We missed some blocks in key situations and we have to pay for that. Washington applied a lot of pressure, in a three-man line and a four-man line. They gave us a lot of looks, I credit them for that. It was a combination of them playing very good defense and us not taking advantage of some opportunities when they presented themselves. In the end that was the deciding factor.”
Part of the reason Tampa Bay’s offense struggled in Washington was because of the variety of blitz packages Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Williams threw at the Bucs. In fact, word has it that Williams called for some type of blitz on about 60 of Tampa Bay’s offensive plays.
Until they show the ability to make defenses pay for blitzing, Gruden expects defenses to continue to blitz his offense.
“We look forward to the blitz,” Gruden said. “That’s where you get some opportunities to make some big plays. The Redskins blitz package was for the most part a five-man origin and without man-to-man coverage it was more of a zone blitzing scheme, but they hadn’t disguised their intentions going into the regular season. We’re going to get our share of blitzes just like everybody else. We do have to pick these blitzes up and we have to deliver some plays along the way or it will be a long season. It will be an area we will continue to work on and take pride in.”
The Bucs offense simply wasn’t in sync and didn’t even convert a third down into a first down until midway through the second quarter. But that might not come as a surprise to some people since Tampa Bay’s starting offensive line didn’t play together until the final preseason game vs. Houston. In fact, several starters, including Galloway and tailback Charlie Garner, were sidelined for a significant amount of practice time and exhibition games, which might help explain Tampa Bay’s dreadful offensive outing vs. Washington.
“I’m sure I could make excuses, but that’s the reality of where we are,” Gruden said. “(Tackle) Derrick Deese suffered an injury and missed a majority of camp. (Guard) Matt Stinchcomb missed a majority of camp if you want to be honest. Charlie Garner missed some time, Joey Galloway missed some time, we’ve had some guys in and out of the lineup, that cannot be an advantage for you going on the road in a loud place like that. We’ve got to be better than we were yesterday, no matter who we play and what the circumstances are.
“Again, some of the problems could be pointed in that direction, but we still had some open looks and some opportunities to make some plays and we did not make them. It’s a combination of a lot of things. They are a very good defensive team and they are a different defense then they have been, with the addition of (safety Sean) Taylor, the young safety from Miami, the addition of (Shawn) Springs to go along with (Fred) Smoot. (LaVar) Arrington and Washington, two physical rushers. A blitzing style and an opening game on the road is a tough combination. Very similar to how we played Philly a couple of years ago. When you play a team that blitzes, you can look bad at times if you are not sound in your pickups and your assignments. But we did have some chances and I’ll make no excuses other than we have to coach better.”
Although Tampa Bay allowed four sacks and produced just 30 yards via the ground game, Gruden suggested the offensive line didn’t play as poorly as some might think.
“At times we had good protection and at times we showed some areas we need to improve,” said Gruden. “I thought Brad (Johnson) was given some opportunities to throw the football in some good situations, difficult situations, and looked pretty good. At times it was solid. At times we got on edges and we weren’t as complete in our pickups as we need to be.”
By falling behind 10-0 in the first half, the Bucs were forced to somewhat abandon their running game, rushing the ball just 15 times against the Redskins. And when they did run, the Bucs were ineffective. The running game is an area Gruden said his offense must improve in. It all starts up front, but Garner and fullback Mike Alstott and Greg Comella have to play better, too.
“We need to do a better job of running the ball, period,” said Gruden. “Our backs have to be more disciplined, I think. Our blocking from right to left, play side [to] back side needs to be better. Our lead back needs to be better. And we’ve got to give our guys some better diagrams too. So it’s the combination of all those things. The execution. It’s calling the right play in the right situation. It’s out of success. We’ve got to have success when we run the ball. We can’t go from one yard, two yards, zero yards in repeated situations. You see a team that’s continually blitzing us and we didn’t fight back in other avenues. So we’ve got to stay committed to it and that’s what we’re going to make an effort to do this week.”
Despite the plethora of blitzes thrown their way, Gruden said the Bucs offense had chances to make some plays and simply didn’t execute. While the blame can be spread around, Gruden suggested Johnson, who completed 24 of 37 (64.8 percent) of his passes for 169 yards and threw one interception, could’ve played better against Washington.
“I think when he looks at the film, as we looked at it this morning, he sees a couple of opportunities that got away from him,” Gruden said of Johnson. “It’s a combination of all of us. We enjoy the good times together and we have to go through some tough times and bumps along the road together also. There were some opportunities I am sure he would like back, but unfortunately you don’t get a second chance.
“We had a couple chances down the field. And we obviously had some chances underneath that could’ve become big runs after the catch. At the end of the day those add up.”
But Gruden isn’t blaming anyone but himself for Tampa Bay’s offensive woes against Washington.
“If I have to point one finger I’ll just point that finger right at myself,” said Gruden. “I thought we’d play better offensively. I thought we’d be better. But we weren’t for a lot of reasons. Again I credit Washington.”
Needless to say, the Bucs are concerned about their offense, or lack thereof. And they’re going to have to remedy their problems in somewhat of a hurry since the Seattle Seahawks, who went to the playoffs in 2003 and held the New Orleans Saints to just one touchdown Sunday, are next on the schedule.
“I’m going to be concerned until we start showing some rhythm, some balance, some good mixture in terms of how we attack,” said Gruden. “It’s been a tough preseason given that fact that we haven’t had any of our guys together for any extended period of time. It’s our first game together. It’s the first time Mike Alstott has gone wire-to-wire at fullback in about a year. It’s something we have to learn from and we have to grow from this game. I am confident that we can do that. We just have to find a way to win this week against Seattle.”
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