After 11 games the Buccaneers offense is still a head-scratcher. From ill-advised penalties, to bad quarterback play, and the complete inability to run the football, Tampa Bay’s offense is complete void of any type of identity and continuity. That’s a big reason why this team is 2-9 after a 21-13 loss at Chicago.
Nothing more illustrated that point than the Bucs’ second-to-last drive, when after getting the ball in great field position – the Bears’ 45-yard line – and 3:04 left on the clock, Tampa Bay couldn’t pick up a first down.
On first down, quarterback Josh McCown completed a 9-yard pass to running back Charles Sims leaving the Bucs with second-and-1. With 2:42 left from the Bears’ 36-yard line McCown threw a deep sideline route to rookie receiver Mike Evans who was unable to make the grab (the refs missed a hit on a defenseless receiver – make no mistake if that was Dashon Goldson a flag would have been thrown).
Tampa Bay next faced a third-and-1, and the Bucs lined up in a shotgun formation and handed off to Sims, who was slowed up by the Bears penetration after left guard Logan Mankins whiffed on his block.
Then the complete and utter disaster of a play call decision took place. With 2:18 on the clock, Tampa Bay inexplicably choose to run a hurry-up quarterback sneak instead of calling a timeout or letting the clock run to the two-minute warning and talking things over. The most crucial play of the game and head coach Lovie Smith is signaling the offense to hurry up and run the play?
An offense that showed a lack of urgency all day, including having to call a first half timeout, and also getting flagged for a delay of game in the second half, finally decides to rush a play?
Besides the rushed play call, the decision to run behind Evan Dietrich-Smith, an average center, who had been beaten routinely all day by defensive tackle Stephen Paea and the interior of the Bears defensive line is even more puzzling.
As we all know, it didn’t work. McCown was stopped well short of the yard to gain, and the game was essentially over. Then Smith wasting a timeout to challenge a spot that had no chance of being overturned was just icing on the cake. Blame McCown, blame the offensive line, but when you think back on the reasons the Bucs lost this game, add Smith and the offensive coaching staff to the long list of problems on Sunday.
Smith talked about the last series following the game.
“We had a second-and-1 and we had opportunities there,” Smith said. “You have to be able to pick those up. Whatever we did was not good enough. We have to be able to handle that situation a lot better.”
Of course there was no guarantee the Buccaneers would have driven down and scored and then converted a two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime. Even had they accomplished that, they were still facing overtime. That series wasn’t the only reason Tampa Bay lost, but was a microcosm of an inconsistent unit that wasted a great defensive effort in holding Chicago’s offense to just 204 yards.
There are numerous issues to fix this offseason, including addressing the quarterback position and upgrading the offensive line, but finding an offensive coordinator and possibly some new assistants on that side of the ball needs to be at the top of the list.