Ex-Bucs head coach Lovie Smith - Photo by: Getty Images
What happened in Indianapolis was not at all what Buccaneers fans were expecting or hoping to see.
It’s unfortunate because of the good vibes building around this franchise. The sun was just beginning to break through the dark, dense cloud cover before another storm front rolled on in. It started with last week’s upsetting Kwon Alexander news and came to a head Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
But the sky is far from falling. Tampa Bay’s 5-6 with five games left and an opportunity to square up with second-place Atlanta while twisting the knife a little harder on the Falcons as they continue to plummet.
There’s plenty of chatter going around about the Bucs taking a step back Sunday. Comment sections, radio talk shows, even a few players mentioning how their play reverted back a bit.
The second-half collapse, an inability to finish off drives, killer penalties, ineffective pass rush – it definitely looked like a brand of football all too familiar to Bucs fans.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Tampa Bay needs to suddenly rethink and rework everything its been doing as a team. The Bucs failed to play a complete football game on the road and paid the price. This is still the same team that’s on the rise, but also the same team that can’t fail to show up and still sneak away with victories.
Sunday was more of a quick reality check than anything else. This team’s learning how to win and a few of the bumps in the road the Bucs come across can still knock them off course.
Someone must have done something to yesterday’s officiating crew leading up to the game because that was getting ridiculous.
The Bucs need no extra help racking up penalties on their own and some of the infuriating flags came with huge implications.
One or two are probably missing, as well, but here are the calls that really made fans want to scream.
An eye-rolling holding penalty against Bucs offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile got things started. That negated a 2-yard Doug Martin touchdown run and Tampa Bay had to settle for a 30-yard Connor Barth field goal.
Then came defensive tackle Gerald McCoy getting hit with an offside penalty when a Colts offensive lineman clearly jumped first.
And receiver Mike Evans was called for offensive pass interference when contact with cornerback Vontae Davis was minimal and going both ways.
And guard Logan Mankins attracted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for giving a little shove to linebacker Daniel Adongo.
And a strip and fumble recovery from Colts receiver Griff Whalen followed by a horse collar tackle on the return were negated by a phantom defensive holding call on Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner.
And the leaping penalty that went against safety Chris Conte on a field goal attempt by Adam Vinateiri. Or maybe it was running into the holder? They didn’t seem to know, either.
It felt bad as it was going on in real time and it looks even worse when it’s all laid out in text.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
O-line? More like No-Line.
That’s a little harsh but Sunday’s effort in the trenches came up well short of expectations. Quarterback Jameis Winston rarely enjoyed a clean pocket to survey the field as the Colts’ 3-4 defensive front ran around and through Bucs linemen (and running backs) all day.
After looking so new-and-improved all season, this was the unit’s roughest 60 minutes of football to date in 2015. The five sacks and 12 quarterback hits on Winston both represent season-highs and rookie left tackle Donovan Smith turned in a particularly unmemorable performance.
The line did allow Doug Martin to pick up 97 yards on 14 attempts and crack the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in four seasons, but one of those carries went for 56 yards and the other 13 produced just 41.
SPEAKING OF DOUG
Where did he go in the second half?
It’s one of the main questions fans and media wanted to hear answered after Martin and Charles Sims gashed the Indianapolis defense for 14 carries and 94 yards in the first half and then went MIA in the second.
Of Martin’s 14 total attempts, only two came after halftime. Same thing with Sims – two of his four carries in the last 30 minutes.
Head coach Lovie Smith addressed the issue today and his answer just doesn’t seem to work. Here’s his entire response to a question on the running game Sunday:
“When you’re not running the ball, you’re not running because you like something in the passing game – a match up that you have that we think we can get a big play on. Even though we’ve been running the ball well we’ve been throwing the ball well, too, and we liked some of the matchups we had yesterday. We just didn’t execute the way we normally do. I’m not going to stand here and say, ‘Hey, if we just had run the ball more everything would have been fine.’ That’s not the case. It just didn’t all come together there. Sometimes things just don’t come together when you think they’ll come together. That’s just not where we are right now. We’ll bounce back this week.”
Most people understand what Smith’s throwing out there, but are they buying it? Meh. That sounded like a lot of empty coachspeak. How long does it take to realize the matchups you thought looked good aren’t playing out with equal effectiveness on the field?
After Martin went for 5 yards on the last play of the third quarter, Tampa Bay never ran the ball again and they were only down 19-12 while at midfield and driving.
LET’S GO, JUDE
This weekend is a huge game for rookie cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah.
The good thing about being an undrafted rookie from a small school is that expectations are low. No one’s expecting these guys to do much, mainly because they’ve barely ever heard of them.
Bucs fans are going to learn a lot about Adjei-Barimah the next couple weeks and the team needs him to rebound from yesterday’s disappointment. Containing Indianapolis’ receiving tandem of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief presented a challenge to begin with and Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck apparently saw Adjei-Barimah as the guy to attack early and often.
The rookie out of Bowling Green did rank second on the team with nine tackles yesterday, including a couple nice open-field takedowns. That’s great to see, but the coverage has to tighten up.
The vast majority of what the rookie’s accomplished up to this point has been viewed positively. Now comes dealing with adversity and criticism.
Piggy-backing off of that topic, corners like Adjei-Barimah and Sterling Moore didn’t get a lot of help from the Bucs pass rush.
Going up against a jumbled-up offensive line playing without left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Tampa Bay didn’t affect Hasselbeck as much as fans were hoping for leading into Sunday’s game.
Yes, Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence and Howard Jones added three sacks to the Bucs’ season-long total and statisticians credited the defense with 11 quarterback hits. Yes, the front seven eliminated Indianapolis’ running attack to the tune of 27 yards on 26 carries.
Yet Hasselbeck still managed to post a 100.8 passer rating and complete 26 of 42 attempts for 315 yards and two touchdowns while looking comfortable and confident attacking the Bucs secondary.
This is another one of those recurring issues that doesn’t seem to be going away this season and likely won’t until changes come next year.
Here’s what I’m thinking about! In his day after presser, Lovie Smith said “I’m discouraged By Secondary Play, But Trust They Will Respond” – coach speak at its best. There is no need to complain about our secondary because it is a patchwork quilt that is going to be exploited by veteran QBs at every turn. I take no pleasure in calling out players by name because it is not their fault as they have been extras in this movie, but now find themselves in leading roles.
Jude Adjei –Barimah and Sterling Moore are two UDFAs who have never played CB in the NFL. Sterling originally signed with the Raiders but was cut, then signed as a FS with the Pats and eventually ended up playing nickel back in Dallas. He was signed to the Bucs with the understanding that he would get a shot at playing corner. Jude is a FS out of Bowling Green that has never played corner, but has good speed as he ran a 4.48/40 on his pro day. No need to even mention the others as they can’t beat out two players who never even played the position.
Hopefully, we can fix this with one proven veteran UFA CB in FA, one FS and one CB taken early in the 2016 draft. We need two F-14 Tom Cat fighter pilots protecting the air space deep and over the middle. We need Maverick and the Goose cruising the sidelines. You can tell these high motor supremely confident types by their swagger and bravado! We don’t have these skilled personalities now. But today’s NFL requires these prima donnas to keep up with the MIGs (WRs) opposing offenses will be throwing at us. These players rank only second to a franchise QB or premium Left tackle. They are must haves!
Time for a change and change we must as we deserve better than what we’re getting. No fault of Jude and Sterling – good men they are. But this is a nuclear arms race and we need weapons of mass destruction. Go Bucs, Get it done!
Mac, I would also add that no defensive backfield is going to hold up to an ineffective D-line that can’t to the QB. It pains me to think that yet another high draft pick as talented as Jonathan Banks is a bench warmer and will be cast off only to become a Pro Bowler with another team; dare I say the Patriots?
Thank you for acknowledging the bogus penalties, game changers as they were.
I’m not saying we don’t need to improve our personnel on defense and in particular, the D-line; but what I watched was nearly every time Hasselbeck went back to pass they were in mass-protect and double-teaming each one of our four rushers. Couple that with the quick and accurate release and it made it very difficult to get the oldster on the turf.
We are talent poor. We have Charchick Darby and Greg Spires rushing the passer. You can call me Al Singleton playing LB. Sabbi Pish at safety. We are expecting the role players to be our bed rock players. Ain’t going to happen…
Gruden pointed out a bogus holding call last night, and blasted the refs for being flag happy. It’s a problem that’s creeped into the NFL, getting like the NBA. The flag on Mike Evans is a perfect example, it’s a play that at best could go either way, so why even throw the flag? Refs are also reacting to flopping. While watching redzone I saw a receiver act like he was grabbed, and got the flag. They’re throwing flags for what they think they should’ve saw, instead of what’s actually seen. Our corners aren’t the best, but they aren’t being helped by pass rush, or solid safety play. We’re loosing Kwon for basically the rest of the season so not expecting much defensively down the stretch. Win 2 out of 5 I’ll be happy.
No corners are going to look good in Lovies 10-yard cushion zone defense. What a joke. We dont need good corners as much as we need a good coach. Lovie sucks period.
Well said Goldson. Lovie defense doesn’t know what press coverage is. Just a thought….why don’t they try Banks at free Saftey. Big kid and could actually cover a tightend. Saftey’s anymore need to be more coverage guys then bangers!!!!!
Anybody we draft high ..Lovie seems to want to dump them.
priority in draft is a DE. Two of our last wins was helped by blitzing; why didn’t we do it against a QB who no longer is a deep threat and only throw short/medium passes? DL isn’t going to be fixed this season; they need additional help by blitzing from time to time. What am I missing?
I thought the calls were bad until I saw them in text. Now I think they were horrendous and definitely cost us the game.
It just wasn’t this game either.
Every game I saw this weekend(4)there were terrible calls or non calls.
As for the deficiencies of the Bucs, I have addressed them previously.
A weak DL due to poor drafting by previous regimes.
Defensive secondary lacking for the same reason and please don’t bring up Aqib Talib and Darrel Reavis.
Talib was a time bomb that everyone wanted gone and Reavis, or any other CB, isn’t worth 16 million a year.
He hasn’t made more than 12 mill since he was waived.
Well PR-ites, I think we all know the issues on defense and no doubt we could have dominated the Colts and won the game 12-10…but it’s hard to overlook that our offense went AWOL in the second half and was the catalyst for our loss.
In terms of improving our defense – which we clearly need to do to be a contender (Colts game aside) – I agree a great looking DE would be nice, but we are unlikely to be picking in the top-10 at our current pace and that means the best Des will be gone most likely…picking in the middle of the pack we’re more likely to be staring at top OGs, CBs, DTs, LBs, RBs and second tier OTs, DEs and QBs. Where are our biggest needs OT (I know that’s a bit contentious) and DE….with the next need at….CB….the way we solved this problem last time around was with Mr Rice in FA…sadly I don’t think any top DEs are UFAs this year, but maybe we can find someone??????
Unfortunately we got bit by some terrible flags, that’s the first time I’ve watched a game and thought it was fixed, and a veteran QB who just nickle and dimed us to death. Why weren’t the corners pressing like they did the last two games?
While our d-line did get pressure, Hassleback was releasing the ball at a 2.6 second clip. I don’t care how good your line is , if the QB is getting it out that quick, no lineman is going to get there. That’s why I feel our biggest need is secondary. Somebody with an attitude and I believe like above, we will be picking too late to get a game changing DE. Also too late to get Ramsey or Hargreavse from Florida. Tough spot to be in. I do think we win about 2 more game though and 7-9 would be a damn good season in my book.
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