One step too far
After we lost to Falcons we all thought the play-off dream was over, at least I did. Then a few results went our way and left us in touching distance of the promised land. We saw off the Redskins, albeit in heart-stopping manner, and then the 3-10 Lions came to town.
The Buccaneers were six point favourites with the bookies, the pick of all the NFL experts on GameDay Morning and the message board was overflowing with winning predictions. Then...we lost. The dream was over. The Baby Bucs weren't going to the play-offs.
The offense put up twenty points, and although failing to convert from the one yard line should have had a TD to Kellen Winslow given after a shocking offensive pass Interference call against Winslow in the endzone, did their part.
LeGarrette Blount rushed for 115 yards off of just 15 carries, Mike Williams caught 6 passes for 96 yards and a TD and Josh Freeman threw for 251 yards and a TD. The O consistanty moved the ball and the offensive line did a good job all day long (1 yard line excluded!). The offense did their job on the day.
For the first time in a long time this loss sits on the shoulders of Raheem Morris. I am a big fan of "Rah" and am a believer in what he and Mark Dominik are doing with these young Buccaneers. Any defense in the NFL would be hurt by the loss of Tanard "Dickhead of the Year" Jackson, Aqib Talib, Gerald McCoy and Cody Grimm.
But it wasn't the players called upon to replace these guys that allowed the Lions to run and throw all over the Bucs on Sunday. That was the play calling. On three third down plays Morris called a play that required Stylez G White to cover Calvin Johnson.
Darrelle Revis has trouble covering Calvin Johnson so what made Raheem think a 300 pound DE would get the job done is beyond me. Maybe get caught once. Possibly even make the same mistake again. But three times? Really Raheem? Three times? Sorry Coach but that is just not good enough.
On the first drive of the day the Buccaneers came out like bats out of hell and hit everything that moved, playing an aggressive style of defense that John Lynch would have been proud of. It was like the days of Monte Kiffin's defense. Then, all of a sudden, it stopped. The Pewter Pirates went back to their old ways of missing tackles, failing to get any pressure on the opposing QB and allowing opposition co-ordinators to dictate the game.
Calvin Johnson is an elite receiver in the NFL, probably one of the top ten in the game today and having managed to overcome Stylez White's coverage skills he was then given a fiteen yard cushion by EJ Biggers on two plays down the field.
If you watch Revis, Talib or any of the top cover corners in the NFL they get physical with the receiver at the line of scrimmage and break up the timing of the play between quarterback and receiver. Having not done that, I can only assume by design of the play, Johnson was able to make several vital grabs down the field to move the Lions into game tying and then game winning field goals. That comes down to the play calling. Coverages were not called to protect against their greatest weapon. That is dumb. Just dumb.
Raheem Morris defensive play-calling has been a revelation since he started doing the job at the end of last season. It is in fact one of the major contributing factors to the Bucs meteoric rise this year.
But on this day against a poor, 3-10, Lions team the call should have been to go on the attack, and stay there. If we take nothing away from this game, and this season in general, other than learning to beat teams who are down on their luck, down on their confidence and there for the taking.
You don't see the top teams letting the poorer teams off on either side of the ball and the Bucs have to learn to do the same if they are to continue to progress and make the post-season next year. This team is going places, big places. Any team with Freeman, Williams, Blount, Talib, McCoy etc is going to be a force to be reckoned with down the line. Anyone fancy the Super Bowl in Indiana in 2012?
Merry Christmas to all Bucpower.com readers and I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Holiday period.