Don't blame the defense for loss
On a surface where the feet seem to move an extra five miles per hour, against a team that seems to enjoy making the explosive plays, simple miscues can hurt. Really, really hurt.
And in a 28-21 loss to the Rams Monday night, the Bucs can point to a few crucial regretable moments as an explanation for the outcome. Statistics will show that the Rams scored tons of points and looked very much like the well-oiled machine that once was known as the Greatest Show on Turf. But the truth is, at least two of those touchdowns can't be hung on the Bucs defense.
Ahead 14-7 late in the second quarter, the Bucs botched a punt return and started a drive on their own 4. But center John Wade's bad snap never got past his body and fell to the carpet and was swooped up by defensive end Leonard Little at the Bucs 5. "You can't turn the ball over like that," said Wade. "We turned it over a couple of times when the defense gave us opportunities."
The Bucs defense did its best to hold off the Rams, who needed four tries to get the ball in for a 1-yard Marshall Faulk touchdown run. With the scores tied at 14, Bucs linebacker Ian Gold picked off Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and returned it 31 yards to give the Bucs a first down at the Rams 15. But another gigantic miscue was looming. On the next play, running back Michael Pittman broke for an eight yard run off the left side but fumbled at the Rams 7. Safety Adam Archuleta, who forced the fumble, scooped up the loose ball and sprinted down the field for a 93-yard return for a touchdown.
That one couldn't be hung on the defense either, which kept coming up with turnovers. Down 21-14 in the third quarter, defensive end Greg Spires forced a fumble that was recovered by Anthony McFarland at the Rams 20. The Bucs took advantage of the turnover and scored seven plays later on a 1-yard touchdown catch by backup tight end Will Heller.
But while the Bucs defense can't be blamed for either of those two scores, it'll shoulder full responsibility for the Rams first score, a 52-yard bomb from Bulger to Torry Holt in the first quarter, and a 46 yard connection between the same two Rams in the fourth quarter. Holt's long receptions were particularly devastating, considering the Bucs Cover 2 defensive scheme is specifically designed to prevent teams from completing deep passes. The timing didn't help either. Holt's second touchdown came only minutes after the Bucs drew even on Heller's touchdown reception.
And then there's kicker Martin Gramatica. Gramatica, who struggled all last season, began this season looking like he had dispatched whatever demons had been haunting him. But in a game where neither team had more than a touchdown lead, Gramatica missed two field goals, from 35 and 48 yards. "We missed some scoring opportunities with missed field goals," Jon Gruden said. "Quite honestly, (those misses) cost us the game."
"It's hard to put a finger on what we're doing wrong," Derrick Brooks. "We have to be responsible and accountable."
Roger Mills The St.Petersburg Times 19 October 2004