Still a run-first offense?
After my self-imposed bye week I watched in a mixture of surprise and excitement as the Buccaneers let the Chiefs come to town and then proudly sent them home again covered in bumps and bruises of all shapes and sizes. For the first time this season the Buccaneers dominated a game in every phase.
As a fan of many years and as someone who has rewatched a lot of games for these columns in recent years this was just about as complete a performance as you get from the Pewter Pirates. The Chiefs weren't great on the night but don't let that detract from what was a much better Buccaneers performance than we had seen before the bye.
The Bucs had been losing close games before they all had some time off. A lot of those games came down to nervy finishes and Tampa just didn't have the nerve to do what it took to finish the job. This game never got close enough for them to have to worry, that test will surely show itself against the division rival Saints next week, but this performance did show that the Bucs had done some serious thinking about their strategy in the bye week.
I wrote a few weeks ago that this team, under Greg Schiano, needed to decide what it wanted to be. Since joining coming over from New Jersey, with all the staff he could carry, Schiano has preached a run first philosophy for the Buccaneers. This Sunday may just change his mind.
Although the Buccaneer backfield ran for nearly 150 yards on Sunday it was Josh Freeman's 328 yards from just 15 completions that should really open the eyes of some within the coaching team. I'm not suggesting that Sullivan and Schiano didn't know that Josh Freeman could through the deep ball and I'm not suggesting that Josh's game against his hometown team was flawless (it wasn't) but it does prove what so many of us Monday Morning Quarterbacks have been saying for a while now... let Freeman do his own thing.
When Freeman is given the chance to use his tight end sized frame and cannon of a right arm to step up and throw the deep ball good things happen. Mike Williams would no doubt agree. As Freeman's main deep target on Sunday Williams reeled in numbers from 2010 making some great grabs while closely covered.
Big Vincent Jackson to the party too as the man finishing off drives and putting up points, exactly what the Bucs paid all that money for. Although Freeman passed for all those yards only six receivers caught a ball and only Jackson and Williams had more than two catches. It was a case of quality not quantity.
One game against a poor Chiefs' defense doesn't mean that the Bucs can begin throwing it around like Drew Brees' offense passing for 500 yards a game but it does mean that teams have to respect the passing attack. It makes other teams have to solve a problem.
I've watched a lot of the Houston Texans this year (for Fantasy Team reasons, not that its doing me any good!) and if you stop Arian Foster then Schaub passes for 300+ yards because of the single coverage. If you don't have eight in the box and stop Foster then he runs all over you for 100 yards all day long.
That is the kind of scenario that this passing performance can hopefully create for Tampa Bay. Do you stack the box and stop the emerging one-two punch of Martin-Blount, if you do then we're going deep to Williams and Jackson, or you double cover them and the Muscle Hamster and his partner in crime go for 150 yards on you? Your choice...
Is this the start of something big? Is it another false dawn? With the Bucs' defense playing like they are this season the Offense has to step up and make things happen, yesterday they did just that. All I know is that I wouldn't want to be the Saints this week trying to work out how to stop this offense.