Sorry, no good lessons taken from Eagles' blowout
We learned so many things Sunday while watching Philadelphia whip the winless, hopeless, over-matched Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-14.
I'll bet no one ever suspected Donald Penn has better hands than Michael Clayton. Or that Josh Johnson might be the best open-field tackler on the Bucs when he cut down Philly cornerback Asante Samuel (unfortunately, it was on an interception return).
We learned the gamblin' man, Raheem Morris, probably should never go to Vegas.
We learned that Tanard Jackson's return was not the cure to the secondary. We learned that any reference to the Bucs from here on out as a "running team" should be met with derisive laughter. We learned that future criticisms of the defensive line probably should not include Jimmy Wilkerson, but that doesn't mean that we learned the Bucs discovered a pass rush.
They didn't. We learned that Clayton is not the only Bucs receiver who drops passes (see Bryant, Antonio). "I personally had two big drops," Bryant said. "If I get them, we probably win the game.''
Let's not get carried away there, Antonio. We learned that it's best not to take a snack break when the Bucs are on defense. They gave up three two-play touchdown drives. Three! I'm not sure I've ever seen that.
But then, that was in keeping with the tone of a rather wacky football game. You know that when a look at the stat sheet shows Penn, the offensive tackle, with 15 receiving yards when he caught a deflected pass late in the first half – on third-and-10 – and ran to Philly's 8 yard line to give the Bucs a chance to pull within a touchdown at halftime.
Alas, two plays later Johnson threw the second of his three interceptions, so once again the Bucs figured out what they were doing right and corrected it. Just as they did twice when Morris gambled on fourth down and went for it.
Neither gamble worked, but that doesn't mean they were wrong. On fourth-and-2 at the Eagles' 26, Morris bypassed a field goal attempt with new kicker Shane Andrus and called a slant pass to Clayton. Clayton was open. The pass was good. Clayton dropped it. Later, on fourth-and-1 at Philly's 23, Morris gambled again – and lost again, when Johnson fumbled the snap.
Look, I like a good gamble as much anyone and in this case they made sense, even if they didn't work. You can ask why Andrus is even on the roster if you don't trust him to make a field goal of 40 yards or so, but I think it was more a case of needing to score as many points as possible. With no pass rush and no secondary – there were scorch marks on the secondary after two more long scoring passes, these of 51 and 40 yards by Jeremy Maclin – why play for field goals?
"You're on the road, playing in a hostile environment, you've got fourth and inches, you wan to be aggressive," Morris said. "You feel like you should be able to get a yard on anybody, and we (didn't). They stepped up and made some big time plays."
And for what it's worth, Johnson (who should get combat pay for the way he was tossed and chased in this game) completed a fourth-and-goal 9-yard TD pass to Kellen Winslow. That pulled the Bucs within 17 points. Hey, take what you can get.
I know I didn't believe the Bucs had any chance in this game and I'm pretty sure you didn't either, so the one-sided loss was about what we all suspected. You can look around and place blame on this area or that, but the truth is there isn't one area of this team – at least not right now – that is playing well enough to win.
That includes coaching. Oh, there was more one more thing we learned Sunday. We learned 0-16 seems a little more realistic every week.
Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune 12 October 2009