Missed chance derail Bucs offense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense, trying to find a groove after producing just one touchdown in each of the first two games of the season, had the look of a much more efficient unit early on Sunday in Foxborough. The second play the Buccaneers ran was a 28-yard completion to wide receiver Josh Freeman, and another first down followed in rapid order.
However, the drive stalled at New England’s 20 and, worse yet, kicker Rian Lindell missed his 38-yard field goal try wide to the right. Tampa Bay’s second possession of the game was even better, chewing up 76 yards and converting on two third downs, but it too stalled inside the red zone. This time the field goal was good, but the Bucs had just three points to show for 126 yards of offense in the game’s first 13 minutes.
To Williams, who had 49 of those yards and also drew a big pass-interference penalty on Kyle Arrington, that rendered the early offensive successes almost moot. “If you move the ball and don’t put up points, you might as well not move the ball,” said Williams. “So I think as an offense we need to put up more points and give our defense a better chance.”
Indeed, Lindell’s field goal would prove to be the Bucs’ only score of the game, which meant New England’s relatively modest 23 points was more than enough to send Tampa Bay home with an 0-3 record. Tampa Bay’s defense was strong early, allowing only 139 yards by halftime, but as the offense began to have shorter and shorter possessions, New England’s extra time on the field began to wear on them. Still, New England scored just six points after halftime. The game simply slipped away from the Buccaneers as they let one scoring opportunity after another go for naught.
“You know, I thought we hung in there early,” said Head Coach Greg Schiano. “It was a good football game and then as time went on, we didn’t make plays, and we didn’t convert. It wasn’t an explosion; it was a gradual tipping of the scales. When you stop making plays, it just goes like that.”
The Buccaneers didn’t punt until the third quarter and they only turned the ball over once on offense. Rather, they repeatedly moved the ball across midfield and then came to a halt just on the edges of scoring territory. That’s revealed most tellingly in one tough statistic: Tampa Bay was zero-for-fourth in fourth-down tries on the day, all of them in New England’s half of the field. One of the main issues the Buccaneers will focus on when they examine the game tape on Monday will be the manner in which those scoring chances slipped away.
“We certainly had our opportunities,” said Schiano. “I think we had something like 14 plays in their territory in the beginning of the game and came away with three points. To get to the bottom of the cause and why it’s not working the way we believe it should, we have to study the tape. And it starts with me and we have to work through everything. And we have got to get better. There is no magic pill, we’ve just got to keep working and hopefully start to get into a little bit of a groove. We did some things at times, offensively, but then were unable to finish drives and you aren’t going to win this league that way. We have done it before as a group; we are not doing it now. So, we need to figure out why. And that’s what we will do.”
Running back Doug Martin, who followed up his 144-yard outing last weekend with 108 combined yards from scrimmage on Sunday in Foxborough, had just one carry in the red zone all day. Martin was obviously as frustrated by the lack of scoring as the rest of his teammates, but he maintained a feeling that true production is just around the corner for the Bucs’ offense.
“We’ve got to keep working to get the offense into the end zone,” he said. “We have to put points on the board. Our goal is to get into the end zone and we just have to be more efficient in those situations. We just have to finish. We have to execute. Everybody has to do their job and follow through. If all 11 guys do that then it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s just little things. It’s little details and just executing. We are right there.”
One of those details might be one of the many intangible aspects of the game. After moving the ball well but failing to find the end zone early, the Buccaneers’ offense slowly began to struggle more and more. Schiano wasn’t sure if the early frustrations spilled over into later possessions, but if they did, that was an issue that must be corrected.
“Whether it did or it didn’t, you can’t let it,” he said. “I know they are human beings, but you are on the road, you are in a hostile environment and you’ve just got to keep fighting. Certainly it helps if you go in there with moving the ball and scoring points, it helps you get off to a good start, but games are going to play out differently every week and when you are on the road especially, you know, the previous plays can have an effect on the future plays. But, you have got to be able to put it behind you and go to the next one. That’s competition. Maybe it did have an effect; I’m not sure.”
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree played a higher percentage of plays on Sunday than he had in the first two weeks because both Williams and fellow starter Vincent Jackson missed chunks of the game due to injuries. Ogletree finished with two catches for 35 yards, as well as a more up-front look at how the troubles unfolded for Tampa Bay’s offenses, and what could have been. “Obviously, we have to score more than three points but I think we did some good things on offense and we just have to sustain drives and put some points on the board when we get a chance,” he said. “We definitely can’t let it affect us. We have to move on to the next drive, the next play and next series, but like I said, we did some good things, we are just going to have to cash in when we get a chance.”