Monday, September 14, 2009

Game 1 - Bucs vs. Cowboys - Likes/Dislikes

Raheem Morris' opener didn't go as hoped, but it wasn't all bad. Below is my take on the good and the bad of the '09 opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

What I Liked

Ronde Barber (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU)
I’ve been really hard on the old man this offseason/preseason, but he is the one member of the secondary who really stepped up today. On the first play of the game, he came in with a textbook run blitz stopping Marion Barber before he could get going. Later on the same drive, Barber blitzed again, sacking Tony Romo for a loss of 9 yards. On the Cowboys’ second drive, in a 3rd and goal situation, Barber was singled up on Martellus Bennett in a situation that greatly benefited Dallas. Barber played it like a veteran, mixing it up with the much bigger receiver, and the (bad) pass by Romo went incomplete. Dallas was held to a field goal, giving them a 6-0 lead at that point. On Dallas’ 3rd offensive series of the game, in another 3rd down situation, the Cowboys went after Barber who was singled up on Patrick Crayton. Barber again was playing aggressive coverage, broke up the pass, and forced the Cowboys to punt. The secondary was horrendous today, and the guy I’ve worried about most was the best performer by far. Way to go Ronde!

Carnell Williams (13 carries, 97 yards rushing, 1 TD)
Wow! Think he was fired up today? He got the ball on the first two plays of the game, totaling 13 yards on those carries. Donald Penn and Michael Clayton really sealed the left side well on the second run (11 yards). After a 14 yard completion to Jerramy Stevens, Carnell got the ball once again, running flat over Ken Hamlin and gaining another 14 yards in the process. On the Bucs’ 2nd offensive series, Carnell again got the ball on the first two plays, and again he tallied 13 yards on those totes. After giving way to Derrick Ward at the start of the 2nd quarter, he came in on a 2nd and 10 and took off on a 33 yard run off the right side. That jaunt took the Bucs inside the Dallas 5 yard line, and 3 plays later, Carnell went up the gut for his first score of the year. Like the rest of Tampa’s offense, Williams had a quiet 2nd half, but it’s clear that he’s going to be a part of this offense as long as he’s healthy. Welcome back!

Derrick Ward (12 carries, 62 yards rushing, 1 TD, 2 receptions for 21 yards)
In attempt to keep this Carnell’s day, I’ll just briefly mention that Derrick Ward already looks like a good signing whether he’s featured or once again part of a productive running combination.

Geno Hayes (5 tackles, 1 assist)
I don’t like that he showed up late for the first game of the season, costing him his starting assignment, but once he got into the action, it was hard not to notice him. On a 3rd and very long, Hayes was soloed up against Tashard Choice and took him down for a short gain. During Dallas’ first 2nd half series, after a 13 yard run by Bennett, Geno shot through the offensive line and popped Marion Barber, holding him to no gain. On the next series, Geno busted into the backfield again, this time tripping up Felix Jones and causing him to fumble. The Bucs started applying a bit more pressure to Romo on Dallas’ 3rd series of the second half, and Geno had two really nice back to back plays during that sequence. On a 2nd and 10, Geno teamed with Gaines Adams to get into Romo’s face and force him to get rid of the ball. On the following play, Hayes came right up the middle untouched, and again forced Romo to throw the ball away. Geno was very active today and routinely around the ball. Very nice debut, but his ass better be on time from here on out.

Michael Clayton (5 catches, 93 yards)
Here’s my offensive equivalent of Ronde Barber. The guy I hoped had played his last game as a Buccaneer in ’08 had quite an opening performance. Clayton only caught 5 passes once last season (week 3 @ Chicago), and his 87 yards in the finale against Oakland (on 2 passes) was the closest (by far) he came to 93 yards. The last time he totaled more than 93 yards was 69 games ago @ San Diego in his rookie year (9 catches, 145 yards, 1 TD). His second catch of the game went for 47 yards on a deep sideline route. It was a great pass put in a perfect spot by Leftwich, and it was an even better catch by Clayton. He was one on one with Terence Newman, and he maintained possession of the ball as he went to the ground. On the last play of the 3rd quarter, Clayton again went over the middle and was on the receiving end of a rifle pass from Leftwich and a solid shot from Gerald Sensabaugh. Clayton withstood the hit, but Sensabaugh needed help off the field. Nice toughness by 80.

He did have a penalty (Tampa’s first of the season) where he negated a 14 yard 1st down pass to Bryant from the Dallas 20. Instead of getting inside the Dallas 5, the Bucs were unable to move the ball any further and ended up with a blocked field goal and a missed scoring opportunity. That aside, it was a heck of a game by Clayton. In addition to the long awaited breakout game in the passing game, he was again a key contributor in the running game. He made a very smart play on the Bucs’ first snap of the 4th quarter. Clayton took an end around looking to throw a TD, and when he saw nothing was open, he wisely threw it away. Some starting QBs can’t even pull this off consistently. This kind of performance is what we need to see from him on a regular basis.

Donald Penn
I thought the left tackle had a nice game, keeping Dallas rushers from getting to Leftwich. On a play that saw a Leftwich pass go off of Clayton’s hands, Penn did really nice job of preventing DeMarcus Warre from getting to the QB. Pass blocking has been his strength, and he showed it today against one of the best. The whole offensive line deserves a game ball because Leftwich didn’t get sacked the entire day. Great job guys.

Byron Leftwich (25/41, 276 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble)
Facing constant pressure, Tampa’s starting QB had a fine opening performance, but I’m going to start with what I didn’t like. The first of the two plays I didn’t like was where Leftwich, under pressure, overthrew a wide open Derrick Ward in the flats. Ward would have easily picked up the first down and continued the drive for Tampa. The Bucs were forced to punt on the next play. The second one happened after a long run from Ward. Leftwich threw a deep ball to Bryant that probably would have hit the scoreboard in Dallas. It was intercepted by Mike Jenkins, but due to an illegal contact penalty, the Bucs got the ball back. I haven’t gone back and watched the play, but I’m hoping Leftwich got hit on the play and that caused the pass to be thrown with that trajectory.

That’s not awful. The good? He displayed toughness that would have been lacking if another QB was given the 1st team job. In the 4th quarter, he went deep over the middle about 30 yards and was a little behind Clayton. He did that with Marcus Spears busting him in the gut. On the next play, he hit Stovall in the middle of the field for a gain of 13. Leftwich went through is progressions, looked off Carnell in the flats, and then went back to Stovall. Veteran play that I couldn’t see McCown making. Three plays later, on 3rd and 4, Leftwich again connected with Stroughter as he was getting hit; great pass. The drive stalled when he and Clayton had poor timing on a 2nd and 7. Clayton stalled his route a bit, and it didn’t help that he had an official in the way. Two plays later, on 4th down, Winslow, once again under pressure, found an open Winslow who would have had a 1st down, but he dropped it. The Bucs turned the ball over on downs, and that was basically the ball game. I couldn’t see McCown sitting in there as well as Leftwich did today under that pressure.

I also wanted to mention a play where I need to come to Leftwich’s defense. On 3rd and 5 on Tampa’s first drive of the 2nd half, Leftwich threw a nice pass that Stovall couldn’t catch. The announcers blamed Leftwich for not throwing a better ball, but if you watch the play, Leftwich led Stovall inside and kept the ball away from Terence Newman. It was a fine pass and should have been caught by Stovall for a first down. Instead, the Bucs had to punt. Overall, I thought it was a heck of a performance. No, he’s not going to win any awards for leading a 34-21 loss, but in addition to the toughness and leadership, he also showed the ability to move the ball downfield, completing passes of 47, 30, 20, 19, 17, 17, 13, 14, 14, 14, 14, and 14 yards. Good start by Leftwich.

What I Didn't Like

Mike Nugent
0-2 on field goals. One was blocked, and one was horribly wide right at the end of the first half. You suck dude!

Gaines Adams
This guy really sucks. Once again no sacks and was run by on a constant basis. On the third play of the game, he was easily taken out of the action on a 7 yard run by Tashard Joice. Felix Jones ran right by him on Dallas’ first play of their 2nd drive on his way to a gain of 19. In the middle of the second quarter, Patrick Crayton took an end around 16 yards, but it was called back. On that play, Gaines (shockingly, I know) overpursued and left the outside wide open for Crayton. With Geno’s help, he almost got to the QB one time, so I guess it wasn’t a completely wasted day. Right? You couldn’t tell that the $42 million bonus baby bust even played today if you looked that the boxscore. He didn’t even register a single tackle. Lucky for him, the moron had an offside penalty on 2nd and 1 in the 2nd quarter. That got him in the record books. On the next play, Miles Austin burned the secondary for 6. What a waste this guy is.

Elbert Mack
Talk about an awful performance! On Crayton’s end around, Mack was taken out of the play by Tony Romo. Really Elbert? He tried to man up Miles Austin on the next play and was lucky the ball was overthrown. On the next series, Mack had the first of his two remarkably horrible plays. On the 3rd play of Dallas’ 5th drive (after Adams’ awesome offside penalty), Mack had horrible coverage on Austin, applying zero pressure and just turning and running with him downfield. After Austin catches the ball, Mack makes a weak attempt at pushing Austin out of bounds, and was an overpaid spectator for the rest of the play. Then, on the second play after Tampa’s score to open the 4th quarter, Mack looked awful on Crayton’s 80 yard TD. He played way off Crayton on the snap and then released him for Witten who was all of one yard upfield, covered by Wilkerson, and heading out of bounds. Aqib Talib seemed to be pissed at Piscitelli on the sidelines, but I’ve got to give this one to Mack. Sabby looked clueless too and could have been deeper, but Mack gave absolutely zero effort on the play. He probably messed up again, but I quit paying close attention after that.

Sabby Piscitelli
He looked absolutely putrid today, although he was able to make it through the 1st quarter without looking like a buffoon. His first offense happened on a 4th and 2 when he ran into the punter and gave the Cowboys a 1st down. It’s not like he even “ran into” the guy. While he was on the ground, Sabby swung his legs around like a moron and kicked the punter. Know where you are! No, the Cowboys didn’t end up scoring on the drive, but that was still a horrible play. He was also a little too deep IMO on a 20 yard completion to Witten on that same drive. Ruud allowed Witten the inside and looked like he expected more help from Piscitelli.

Ok, here’s how I saw Dallas’ score on their first 2nd half drive. On 2nd and 10, Romo connected with Roy Williams for a 66 yard TD. As Williams went in motion, Jermaine Phillips motioned for Sabby to move up. Piscitelli was slow to move and looked completely lost at Flip’s direction. The whole Buccaneer secondary was slow to react today, and this play was a prime example. Sabby needed to be up closer, and Flip needed recognize the formation and move to his left. The only other receiver to his right was Martellus Bennett who Aqib Talib had manned up. Ruud and Black were both shadowing Witten. As I mentioned earlier in Mack’s section, he was also to blame on Crayton’s 80 yard TD. He’s clueless far too often for a 3rd year player. One more thing worth mentioning. It wasn’t a big play at all, but on a 3rd and 5 in the third quarter where Romo overthrew Williams, Sabby took a really weird angle to the play/ball. He didn’t come straight at Williams and, once again, looked confused.

This is why Piscitelli shouldn’t play FS, and this is why he can’t be counted on in the back of the defense. If he’s going to be on the field, he needs to be put up close to the action, where he’s not relied on to be the last line of defense. Because when he is, he fails more often than not. Overall, the Buccaneer secondary was slow, out of position, and clueless. I realize it’s a new scheme, but it’s still football boys. Don’t think Buffalo isn’t going to be all over this next week.

Jermaine Phillips
Why not get these guys all done with at once? I don’t know if it was the scheme or the shift back to safety, but Flip flopped today. He did do a nice job in run support, but when he wasn’t trying to play his position and Piscitelli’s, he was overpursuing, and finding himself out of place in the secondary. On the first play of Dallas’ second possession, he missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage on Felix Jones who took it 19 yards to Tampa’s 29. He had a shoddy tackle attempt on the play where Austin abused Mack. After Austin had caught the pass, Flip came in passively and made a weak tackle attempt on a guy he outweighs by about 20 pounds. He was playing way too soft on a 13 yard completion to Bennett 2 plays before Roy Williams abused Piscitelli.

Jeremy Stevens
On the blocked FG, he allowed Gerald Sensabaugh to come in and make the play, choosing to take the outside guy instead.

Earnest Graham getting 1 measly carry
Only 1 carry for the guy? What’s with that?

Antonio Bryant’s injury
Bryant went out in the 4th quarter with an injury to the same knee that kept him out all preseason. No word on the seriousness of the injury yet, but that’s certainly not encouraging. He was also quieted most of the day by mainly Terence Newman.

Bucs’ Defense
0 sacks on the day. Thumbs down asslcowns!

The 2nd Half Buccaneers
This team came out horribly flat in the 2nd half and was unable to put the nail in the coffin of a bumbling Cowboys team. Piss poor performance guys.
In Summary
I liked what I saw from the offense today. The line kept the sack happy Cowboys from getting to the slow footed Leftwich and paved the way for 174 yards rushing. It was a very good performance, and even though I was looking closely, I couldn’t find anything to bitch at Trueblood about. Carnell Williams looked back, and Derrick Ward seems like he’s going to be a regular contributor. Leftwich looked every part of the leader I expect him to be for this team. He’s never been the best QB in the league, but young Freeman can learn a thing or two from a guy he’s been compared to.

The defense, a couple bright spots aside, was pathetic. Old scheme, new scheme, no scheme; I don’t care. It’s still football boys. Virtually no pressure up front against a good but old Dallas line and far too many big plays allowed in both the running and passing game. A thin secondary looked invisible the majority of the time. It certainly won’t get any easier next week against the Bills. Those who were looking at week two’s road game as a win might need to reevaluate things. They don’t have a TE of Jason Witten’s caliber, but Terrell Owens and Lee Evans are noticeably better weapons than Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, and Miles Austin. There’s a lot of work to be done on this side of the football.


  1. Graham told the coaches to stay with Caddy because he was doing so well.

    Adams did get some pressure yesterday. It probably doesn't show up on television.

  2. Didn't know that about Graham. The guy is a team player.

    Regarding Gaines, how wide of a screen do you need to see him getting into the action? Apparently my 50 inch isn't enough.

  3. Mr. Talbuc…or should I say, DR. Talbuc with a dissertation in Bucaneer studies, I would say you’ve nailed game 1.

    Here’s what went through my mind:

    -- To paraphrase Gregg Easterbrook, sometimes the best play is to run the ball into the middle of the line. I don’t think I’m alone in wondering how things would have shook out if the Bucs had gone into the locker room up 7-6. I think the staff should have understood that when you have a shaky back unit and a front four that only rarely had gotten close to Romo, you have to limit the other teams possessions. Do the Bucs win? Probably not, but they they certainly were not going to win going into the half down by six.

    -- Somewhere Stuart Schweigert, who I presume is out of the league, was sitting on a couch after having watched Sabby Piscatelli and thought ‘Shoot, I’m better than that guy!’

    -- At some point its not a concession that your system is a failure should you decide to work in some zone.

    -- Every time I saw Ronde make a nice play I couldn’t help but think ‘Well, that’s his last one.’

    -- I continue to hear that Gaines Adams is using his speed to get to the quarterback. Then no wonder he’s crap; let me tell everyone…he’s not as fast as the commentators seem to believe, and I would bet real money he is the last guy to come off the ball of the four lineman on the field on any given play.

    -- Say what you will about the myriad of flaws in BL’s game, but I have to concede that the last guy that wore a Bucs uniform that could make some of the throws he can is now in the teams front office. I think the guys on offense respect him and believe he gives them the best chance to win. Not that that’s saying a lot.

    -- When Cadillac gets taken down with anything other than a textbook wrap-up tackle, I hold my breath until he gets up. At this point it’s gone past his helping the Bucs for me; I WANT the kid to be o.k, and have a nice rest of his career.

    -- Does anyone know if Matt Bryant caught on with another team?

    -- Yeah it was a loss, and yes it got ugly at points. But the Bucs are not going to go 0-16. They have (assuming Faine and Zuttah are ok) a top-10 o-line, an NFL caliber quarterback, a very good ground game, should be able to implement some corrections to shore up the pass-defense.



    Go Bucs!

  4. Hey, one more thing. Anyone know where Matt Schaubs qb-rating ranks today? Oddly enough, I do. It's 25th out of 28.


  5. Thanks TPE!

    I don’t know what happened at halftime. Momentum seemed to be in Tampa’s favor, but it was a complete reversal in the second half. Disappointing to say the least.

    I think somewhere Sean Key is saying that he could do a better job than Piscitelli.

    Adams just seems so disconnected from the action most of the time. On his offside penalty, I could have had my eyes closed and known it was him who jumped.

    Leftwich isn’t and will never be a perfect QB, so that leaves openings for the haters to squawk. He hangs in the pocket, sees 50% more of the field than McCown does, and can throw a 30 yard bullet. No, I’m sure Clayton didn’t appreciate getting set up for that big collision with Sensebaugh, but bottom line, it was a completed pass. No other Buccaneer QB in the last 5 years completes that pass, and like you mentioned, you may have to go as far back as Williams.

    I hope Carnell is the Comeback Player of the Year. He seems to be one of the more genuinely good people in football and has had a lot to overcome injury-wise. I’d be rooting for him even if I wasn’t a Bucs fan.

    Matt Bryant is still available, but I’m not sure he’s healthy enough yet to kick.

    Regarding your last point, as I mentioned in my season preview, I just want to see total effort and steady improvement. This may not be a playoff team, but that doesn’t mean (not that you’re saying this) the season should go to waste.

    Regarding Schaub, yeah that was a brutal opener. It’s got to get better…right? Missing Kevin Walter isn’t the reason they lost, but there’s a gargantuan drop off from him to Andre Davis or Jacoby Jones. It won’t get much easier against the Titans this week.