Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans were treated to some of the worst offensive football on Sunday, as ultra-conservative play calling mixed along with a failure to execute dominated the afternoon as they fell 16-10 to the Dallas Cowboys. I wrote last week that the current Buccaneers team is going to be a work in progress. Well, there seems to be plenty of work to be done, this time on the offensive side of the ball.
After surrender 510 passing yards to Eli Manning and the New York Giants last week, the secondary had to be of concern heading into Dallas against QB Tony Romo and his talented receivers. The Buccaneers defense stepped up, keeping the team in the game all afternoon. The Buccaneers defense held the Cowboys offense to one touchdown all afternoon. The held Dallas to just 38 rushing yards on 27 attempts (1.7 ypc). Romo was harassed all afternoon, sacked four times, throwing an interception while fumbling twice. An overall impressive defensive effort.DT Gerald McCoy continued his excellent play, recording two sacks, giving him three for the year.
The Buccaneers offense was another story. After a first quarter touchdown, the offense went into hibernation, never to be seen for the rest of the afternoon. Dallas ran just 55 offensive plays while gaining only 166 yards on the day. For most over the afternoon, Tampa had under 100 yards of total offense. No facet of the offense showed any promise. The running game sputtered and Josh Freeman struggled under center.
Freeman had shown improvement in the first two games of the season, but on Sunday, he completed just 10 of 28 passes for only 110 yards. Freeman struggled with his accuracy, with several passes sailing well over the heads of intended targets. WR Vincent Jackson was targeted seven times, recording just one reception. Freeman was sacked twice, tossed an interception and finished the afternoon with a passer rating of just 45.2.
I understand that Freeman is just three games into Greg Schiano’s new offensive scheme, but his struggles on Sunday have to be cause for concern. Freeman went over an entire quarter without completing a pass. Entering his fourth season in the league, you’d like to see Freeman be a little further along in his development.
With the Buccaneers trailing 16-7 late in the game, Tampa ran a series of curious running plays. Freeman explained after the game that his helmet radio went out and he checked down into the running plays. Wouldn’t you think at this point in his career that he would realize the urgency of the situation and call a play which tries to push the ball down the field while down by two scores?
Rookie RB Doug Martin and the running game struggled as well. Martin carried the ball 19 times, but 12 carries were for 2 yards or less. Not the sort of run-centric offense Greg Schiano had hoped for.
It was an afternoon that brought back memories of failed offenses in Buccaneer days gone by.
The contest did not go without replacement referee controversy either. A total of 23 flags were tossed, Tampa drawing 10 of them. Tony Romo fumbled the ball while being sacked by Michael Bennett, CB Eric Wright scooped up the ball and scored an apparent touchdown. The ball was ruled dead. Schiano challenged the play and it was overturned, awarding the ball to Tampa on the Dallas 31.
Yes, this is a young team. Yes, the Buccaneers have had two grueling road games against NFC East opponents. However, the Buccaneers in all reality should have won both of those games. A failed nine point lead at the end of the third quarter last week and now a non-existent offensive effort on the back of a stellar defensive game plan.
The Buccaneers are a work in progress. That being said, it’s been a while since Bucs fans have been treated to such a defensive effort. To see it wasted is a shame.
In related Buccaneers news, DE Adrian Clayborn was carted off the field in the second half and the initial news is not good. In the post game locker room, Buccaneers players speculated that Clayborn might be lost for the season with a knee injury. Clayborn will undergo tests this afternoon.