The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pleased with the production from last Sunday, and believe that they can build off of it. The Bucs feel that there were more plays they could have made to have an even bigger game against the Dallas Cowboys. Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich thinks the team will build on their Week 1 performance of 450 yards of total offense.
"I see what we do every day in practice. Every time we go out there we get better," said Leftwich. "We get better as a team. That is all you can ask for. I see it everyday, so I have no real worries with the offense. I've been on good offenses, and I've been on bad, so I feel we still got a lot to accomplish. We still got a lot to do because nobody is going to give us nothing because on paper we should have a legitimate offense. We still have to go out there and work our tail off, which we have been doing. What we do every day gives me the confidence we can go out there and be successful."
Guiding the Bucs to that big game against the Cowboys was new offensive coordinator Greg Olson. On the eve of Tampa Bay's final preseason game, Olson replaced Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator. While the offense racked up a lot of yards and scored three touchdowns, Olson felt it was not enough. Olson said he was pleased with the preparation of the players. He said the Bucs missed some opportunities, but also praised the team for preventing sacks and not committing a lot of penalties.
"Obviously not good enough," said Olson of his grade for the first game. "Any time you are coming out of a loss, I don't care what side of the ball you coach on, or what position you coach, it is always difficult to come away with a loss. It is the ultimate team sport, and I told the guys we don't go out and try and match scores with what the other team scores. We don't come to the sideline and say let's match them. Our goal every time we come out on every series is to score touchdowns, and score points. We didn't get that done. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
"The overall execution, the mechanics the first time out was good, but we can get better."
Olson remained the quarterbacks coach after taking over as coordinator, and his starting signal caller said it was impossible not to be impressed with what Olson did in the time leading up the first game.
"That was great man, because it was tough. I know it was tough on him," said Leftwich. "All last week he was running around. I know he wasn't getting any sleep at night because his responsibilities change in a week. For us to go out there, and play the way that we played offensively is great knowing it was 10 days. Now we got more than 10 days so let's keep adding on to what we did last week because we got a chance. We still made mistakes out there. We did a lot of good stuff. We did a lot of good things, but we made mistakes out there that could have been big plays. We left some things out there that we will try to correct. Hopefully we can capitalize on it this Sunday."
Tampa Bay ran for 174 yards on the ground against Dallas. They averaged 5.6 yards per carry, and scored two touchdowns on the ground. Running back Carnell ‘Cadillac' Williams started the game, and ran for 97 yards on 13 carries. Derrick Ward had 62 yards on 12 carries. Both backs contributed touchdowns, and had explosive runs. Williams' long carry went for 35 yards, and Ward sprung a 22-yarder.
"We haven't had those in a little while," said Bucs guard Davin Joseph. "We haven't had those big explosive runs, so it really changed the momentum. It allows the play action to be effective later on in the game. It gets the running backs going. It gets the sideline going. It gets the offensive line going. It is really a huge momentum shift when you see the big runs, and really likeable guys doing well."
Not only did the offensive line do a good job of run blocking, they also protected their quarterback. Leftwich was not sacked once in 41 pass attempts. He completed 25 passes for 275 yards with one touchdown and a long pass of 47 yards to wide receiver Michael Clayton. The sixth-year veteran Clayton led the team in receiving with five catches for 93 yards. Clayton discussed how impressed he was with Olson, and the job he did last Sunday.
"We had a plan. We went out and executed a lot of plays," said Clayton. "Under the circumstances he was a little bit behind, and really had to attack the situation for the whole offense. Coach did an excellent job relaying from the sideline, putting in plays that we were able to make big plays. Sideline adjustments, and those are things that really stand out as things that he can do as an [offensive coordinator]. The attention was great from the top press box to the sideline. Putting stuff on the field, and that is what we look for, to be able to go out and make plays. We got all of that."
Olson, the former offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, praised his offensive staff for putting in a lot of hard work to make the transition smoothly for the coaching staff and players. According to Olson, offensive line coach Pete Mangurian slept at the Bucs facility on Tuesday night.
This week Olson will be going up against a team in a similar situation to his own. The Bucs travel to take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, and both teams made last minute changes at offensive coordinator late in the preseason. The Bills fired Turk Schonert and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt the day after their final preseason game.
"It is the battle of the backup coordinators," said Olson with a laugh. "I like Alex. I know him well. It is a difficult situation for him as well. I know a number of people on that staff, so it is never easy. I wouldn't wish it on anybody to be honest with you."
This week the Buccaneers think that the offense will be challenged by a tough Buffalo defense. The Bills had an impressive showing against the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Buffalo held the Patriots to 13 points until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
"Well I mean they are a good defense. They got good players on that defense," said Leftwich. "They are a team that is not going to do a whole lot, so from a standpoint of preparing for all these different kinds of things you don't have to do that this week. I think what they believe in is ‘we do what we do very [well],' and as you guys have seen in the game they are a very good defensive football team. We got to make sure that we execute well on offense in order to have success against these guys, and we'll start that preparation today."
Not only did the Bills do a good job of keeping the Patriots off the scoreboard for the majority of the game, they also showcased a tough run defense. Buffalo held New England to 73 yards rushing in the game. Running back Earnest Graham thinks that if the Bucs focus on themselves, the team will be able to continue their offensive production.
"They are solid all the way around," Graham said. "They are a tough team on both sides of the ball. For us we have to focus on what we have to do. We have to correct some things that we didn't do well last week. We have to get better every week so we are focused on what we have to do."
Graham only received one carry that went for one yard against the Cowboys. Head coach Raheem Morris explained that Graham was going to get more carries but deferred his touches to Williams. Morris praised Graham's unselfishness, and said it needs to be contagious throughout the team. Graham was asked if it was tough to give his carries to Williams.
"No not really tough to be honest," said Graham. "I mean I was playing. I was playing special teams. I was playing some fullback. I was doing a lot of things in the game. At that time Cadillac had been out for a while, and I know as a running back you can lose your rhythm. Especially when you start as well as he did. It was about that time for him to get back in the offense in the second half. It wasn't tough. It was a decision I felt needed to be made, so I understand it is a long season. I understand I'm going to get my carries."
Graham believes that in time the situation could reverse itself, and other running backs will offer their carries to Graham because he is playing well.
"That's how we all see it," said Graham. "When somebody has something good going as a running back, and you start feeling it, you let that guy go because he is in a rhythm. We all understand that as a group."