Cardinals rally to keep Bucs winless
It's not all the quarterback's fault. Between the two of them, Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said that at least a dozen times after they decided to bench quarterback Josh Freeman for Sunday's game against Arizona. It appears they might be right.
While Freeman watched from a team suite high above a mostly empty Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs lost their first start under rookie replacement Mike Glennon for many of the same reasons they lost each of Freeman's last three starts. Make no mistake, the quarterback played a big part in this 13-10 loss.
Glennon finished his day by throwing interceptions on two of the Bucs' last three possessions, including one that led to Arizona's only touchdown. He was also credited with the fumbled handoff that set up Arizona's first field goal and helped set up Jay Feely's 27-yard winning field goal by taking a sack at his own 1-yard line on the possession sandwiched between the interceptions.
But as Schiano was quick to point out in the aftermath of his team's fourth straight loss and ninth in its past 10 games dating to last year, this setback was, yet again, not all the fault of the quarterback. “As I've said before, it's everyone,'' Schiano said. “And it starts with me. It's our coaching and it's our playing. The quarterback is a part of that, but there was a bunch more.''
The defense was certainly a part of it. Though Glennon's first interception and last sack created short fields for the Cardinals, the defense failed for the third time this season to protect a lead during the final two minutes of play. The running game, meanwhile, continued to run mostly cold. It produced just 80 yards on 31 carries, with the longest run coming when safety Dashon Goldson broke off a 22-yard gain on a fake punt in the fourth quarter.
As usual, Doug Martin got the bulk of the work in the conventional running attack, but he struggled to make an impact. He gained 12 yards on one carry, but 33 on his other 26 for a 1.3-yard average. “We didn't run the ball effectively all day,'' Schiano said. “They did a good job of shutting down the run on us. But I still think we had our opportunities and we just didn't do very well.''
The reasons for that will sound familiar. On a day when the Bucs' only touchdown was set up by a first-quarter fumble recovery by Gerald McCoy, their longest drive — 61 yards — resulted in nothing more than a field goal. The reason for that, once again, was a pre-snap penalty, the Bucs' 12th of the year. In this case it was receiver Mike Williams committing a false start on third-and-8 from the Arizona 27-yard line. That penalty created third-and-13 from the Arizona 32, and when Glennon's pass was batted down just off the line of scrimmage the Bucs had to settle for Rian Lindell's 50-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 27 seconds left in the first half.
Lindell never took the field again. He doesn't handle kickoffs, and the offense never came close to getting into his range. Tampa Bay produced 10 yards or fewer on six of 14 possessions and 21 yards or fewer on eight of those drives. Its one touchdown gave the Bucs with four for the year, which ranks 31st in the 32-team league ahead of Jacksonville's three. “It was definitely a frustrating day, because with the way our defense was playing we definitely felt that (if) we didn't turn the ball over we would win,'' Glennon said. “Unfortunately we turned the ball over and that's how it ended.''
Actually, what ended it for good was another penalty. And much like when like linebacker Lavonte David hit quarterback Geno Smith to set up the game-deciding field goal in the season-opening loss to the Jets, it was a roughing penalty. Safety Dashon Goldson earned his third personal foul of the season for unnecessary roughness by plowing into receiver Jaron Brown as Brown was still coming down from a leaping 19-yard catch at the Bucs 19-yard line. The penalty moved the ball to the Tampa Bay 9-yard line. Three plays later, Feely hit the 27-yard field goal to finish off the scoring with 1:33 to play. “It was a very tough game, a tough loss for our guys,'' Schiano said. “We did a lot of things well, we just did too many things wrong. We made too many mistakes at the end to win.''
Glennon took all the blame for his mistakes, particularly the two interceptions. On a day when he completed 24 of 43 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown to Mike Williams, he said he made one play he shouldn't have. “I just have to put the ball about another foot in front,'' Glennon said of his first interception, a pass intended for Vincent Jackson. “That's the difference there, because he was open. The read took me there and it was a great play call.''
Coming on second-and-6 from Tampa Bay's 11-yard line with 3:23 to play and the Cardinals in a position where they would have had to use their timeouts to stop the clock, some might question the play call. "Hey, it gives me confidence that they would call a pass play right there,'' Glennon said. “I just have to make the throw. That was my focus all day. Just take what the defense gives me and protect the football. It wasn't like I was trying to get greedy with that throw. I just didn't put it exactly where it needed to be. That's the one I'll keep replaying in my head.''
He has two weeks to replay it. The Bucs won't play again until they face the Eagles at home on Oct. 13. It figures to be a long two weeks, but not just for Glennon. “Certainly we're being tested right now,'' Schiano said. “We just have to stick together. And we will. We're all one and that's the way we'll get through this tough stretch and it's also the way we'll win big here.''