Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris answered questions regarding his struggling defense on Monday. On Sunday, Tampa Bay's defense gave up a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter to lose to the Miami Dolphins 25-23. The Bucs defense had a hard time stopping the Dolphins rushing attack, pressuring Miami quarterback Chad Henne, and stopping the Dolphins two-minute offense. Morris went through the two-minute defense that allowed 10 points with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, and a field goal to lose the game late in the fourth quarter.
"That was clear on the field. We called Tampa 2," said Morris. "You go back to your philosophy which has been this way for years and you call ‘Bucs'. You call Tampa 2 and they hit the dig behind it. They only need a little bit closer for a field goal and they got a pretty good kicker. You have to play a little more aggressive but you still play two high safeties so you go to a two-man mentality. Now you're matched up. Then you get a 15-yard penalty on Geno [Hayes], so they move closer. You have to play aggressive because you can't let them hit a few zones or a few pockets because they still have enough time to do that, and hit a long field goal to beat you. Then they hit a pass on the sideline, which was a stop fade, which we should be able to play. We worked that particular play. [Devon] Bess made a great catch. Henne made a great throw. After that they went to their run the ball, set up the field goal type of offense."
Morris said that he second-guessed himself after the game and thought of perhaps sending a blitzer to try and harass Henne. Tampa Bay had a hard time generating a pass rush against the Dolphins. The Bucs had six sacks against Green Bay a week earlier, but managed only two quarterback hurries and no sacks against Miami. The Buccaneers were playing without starting right defensive end Stylez G. White. On Monday, White said he expects to practice and play this week. Morris attributed the Dolphins' offense as being advantageous to blitz against.
"When you play Dan Henning that is not the answer," Morris said of the Dolphins offensive coordinator. "They're a max protection scheme. He is going to leave in more bodies than you can send, unless you go all out. You go all out or you play coverage. Our choice was to play coverage and it worked on third down. Third down was our big time stat. It was where you want to be and was winning football.
"The five three-and-outs, the two big turnovers, they just have happened to have the big plays in the two-minute there at the end. You can't blitz them. That is just the nature of the beast."
Miami was 5-of-14 (36 percent) on third down on Sunday against Tampa Bay. While the Buccaneers were able to play reasonably well on third down, they continued to have a hard time stopping the run. The Dolphins were able to run for 199 yards on the ground. The Bucs entered the game with the last rated run defense in the NFC. After Sunday's games, the Buccaneers are 29th overall defensively, and 30th against the run. Tampa Bay is giving up 167.3 yards per game on the ground. By the sounds of Morris' comments, the run defense will not improve until the Bucs are able to add new players in free agency and the NFL Draft.
"We are just not made right now to knock people back. That's just not how we are cut," Morris said. "We don't have big intimidating linebackers or big intimidating linemen."
"We don't have the big people, the big personal, to get the knockout runs, the big person up front who absolutely dominates a block and gets a tackle for a loss. We'll get there. We'll find those guys. We'll go out there and get them. Right now we got to play with the guys we have." FREEMAN AND FAINE Against the Dolphins the Buccaneers had issues with ball security. Starting quarterback Josh Freeman had four fumbles. Two came on missed snaps, and two came on sack fumbles. Freeman had some fumbled snaps in his first start, and the Bucs feel that he needs to develop a better relationship with center Jeff Faine.
"We got to a better job of that," said Morris. "I'm sure that is a chemistry deal. That is sometimes that we have to grind it out in the offseason. Grind it out through practice this week and the next week. We had them this week, but we can't have any."
The fumbled snaps cost the Bucs a turnover and lost yardage. A shotgun snap got away from Freeman, but was recovered by the rookie quarterback for an eight-yard loss. The other fumbled snap was with Freeman under center, and was recovered by Miami. Faine talked about the two missed snaps.
"The one that went through his hands, I think if you asked him, he probably just took his eye off the ball," said Faine. "I'll look at it again, but it was right there. The one that is really the center quarterback exchange is the one that we that we fumbled. It is not second nature yet, and it needs to become that way. The relationship with him, and me, we need to get there. It is just working over and over again. You can't those type of looks in practice, in pre-game and in practice."
Faine was asked in his experience if it takes a long time to develop the chemistry between a center and quarterback.
"Hopefully it is not too long," Faine said. "I've never really had a problem in the past. Obviously it is something that needs to be worked out right now for us, and it will come. The biggest thing is just like a batter in a slump. You can't think about hitting a ball you just have to go there and do it."
JACKSON A BRIGHT SPOT Starting free safety Tanard Jackson has registered a turnover for the Buccaneers in the last four games. Jackson had interceptions in three straight games against Carolina, New England, and Green Bay. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns. Against Carolina he also forced a fumble, and recovered a fumble Sunday against the Dolphins. Jackson's fumble set up the Bucs first touchdown of the game, and first score of their fourth quarter comeback.
"He's a good player, he's a really good player," Morris said. "He's been that way since he came here. He gets the ball in his hands and he looks like a punt returner. He can score. He finds a way to be around the ball. I think he had tackles in the game and a fumble recovery. He is splash play type player. He's always going to be around the football. He has since I've been around him. Every time he gets out there he has an ability to make a play."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org