Back to school in Tampa
So the Buccaneers go into their bye week at 2-1. Better than some had expected. The Bucs now have a week to review what they did so wrong against the Steelers that they didn't do wrong against either the Browns or the Panthers. Although the Steelers are an elite team in the NFL the Bucs should have kept the game a lot closer than it ended up, if not had the 3rd W of the season. It didn't happen but it should be a big learning experience for the whole team.
In the first two games of the season the Buccaneers didn't give up the big play, the old "Bend but don't break" was back and although giving up yardage they didn't give up the score. This was optimised by the goal line stand against the Panthers last week. This week we saw the Bucs get burned for TDs of 46 yards when Cody Grimm on his NFL debut had nothing short of a nightmare by losing a ball that was thrown down his throat.
They followed that up with a 41 yard score that Aqib Talib should have picked off with some ease, whereas he eventually tipped the ball into the waiting Steeler receiver's hands for another big play TD. This has simply not happened in past weeks.
A big reason that the above events were allowed to take place was that the new holy trinity of McCoy, Miller and Price at DT had zero pressure in the backfield all game long. This gave a very shakey Charlie Batch time to make big plays down the field and allowed the Steelers to run for nearly 200 yards rushing.
We all thought that the play of these three, along with Crowder and White on the outsides in the past weeks we a reason for optimism but what Sunday proved was that Panther/Brown lineman are not in the same league as the top teams in the NFL. They handled our D-Line with no problems. None. They have come up against the best this week and need to learn from footage of how they were handled with such ease and take that into future games.
On the offensive side of the ball the Bucs did ok against the league's best defense. Josh Freeman threw one, tipped, interception but again made smart choices on the whole and made some nice plays with his feet and arm. All this in addition to throwing for nearly 200 yards against THAT defense. Mike Williams looked the part against top quality opposition, once again showing that this young man is going to be something special in the NFL.
The big disappointment for me was the play of Cadillac Williams. Caddy is a trier and a hero in my book for coming back from two injuries that would of ended many other player's career, but I do think that in order to take this offense forward then we need a home run hitter in the backfield. Cadillac isn't that anymore. Without this the Bucs are totally reliant on Freeman to make plays to win the game, this isn't going to happen, especially with very small rushing yardage in each game.
The play of LeGarrette Blount in his cameo appearance was encouraging and he showed on his TD that he is a hard, tough runner, but with the Bucs were falling further and further behind that experiment was quickly put to one side. This needs to be explored during the bye week and I would like to see that experiment be used a lot more against the Bengals. The same goes for Arrelious Benn's late play making catches in traffic, off tipped balls and all over the field. He needs to be part of the offense by the time we play the Bengals. A big part.
Its been a great fortnight being 2-0 and watching teams like Cowboys, Vikings etc slip to 0-2, but we all knew we weren't going to the play offs but we are setup or a much better season than many pessimistic and generally negative people had predicted. I said we'd win seven games this year and I stand by that. The Bucs will not play a better D all season and even the "Steel Curtain" couldn't stop us moving the ball.
Have a day off, watch some tape and come back ready to take it to the Bengals. BUT if we give up the big play against an offense that contains TO, Ocho Cinco and Cedric Benson then we will be chasing the game again. Raheem and Freeman etc need to learn from what they've seen today from the Steelers and it will prove to be a productive experience all round.
Enjoy the bye week!