This column is going to be a little personal for me because I'm writing about the team that I played for six out of my seven years in the NFL. The one thing I can assure you of is you will never have to wonder about whether I am biased in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I wholeheartedly am with every fiber of my being.
I understand that's a turnoff for some people, but frankly I don't give a shit. You see, I am not a Bucs "fan;" I am a Buccaneer and I always will be. I invested blood, sweat and, yes, tears in that team as a player from 1996 to 2001. I put everything into being the best player I could be for them. I also met some lifelong friends in that locker room, and we created memories together that will live on forever. I still live in Tampa, and I have no problem telling you that I want the team I played for most of my career to win every single game on its schedule. It is what it is.
In the interest of full disclosure, I interned for three weeks this spring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their OTAs, and it was a fantastic experience for me, personally.
The good news for anybody wanting a serious critique of the Bucs is this: Nobody is going to be a sharper critic when it comes to how they play because I want to see them do well. I don't sugar coat anything, and I am always going to be fair with my praise and criticism. I also want Bucs fans to know exactly what is going on with their team without the generic hyperbole in either direction, because an informed fan is a better fan, in my opinion.
Happy talk and silver lining bullshitting isn't going to do anybody any good, so you aren't ever going to catch me trying to convince you that the Bucs played well after they shit the bed on Sunday. What I will do is try to get to the bottom of their bowel malfunctions and call out the guys who were the biggest contributors to the brown stain. My hope would be that those guys can get their act together and put a better product on the field.
More Stephen White
Which brings me to the topic at hand, the embarrassing ass kicking the Bucs suffered on Sunday at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Being that it was the second time in six games that they got their doors blown off, I figured it was time to take a look under the hood and break down exactly how they allowed a team to come onto their home field and score 28 unanswered points in the first quarter alone. This is also going to be cathartic for me to a certain extent, because I hadn't been that disgusted after a Bucs loss in a long long while.
So come along with me on this (not so) quick journey as I point out what went wrong and who screwed up in the first quarter of that game.
I can't break down every single play in the first quarter, so instead I will point out some of the bigger, most obvious errors on the part of a player or players. I am not cherry picking, just trying to shed light on what and who were the problems on Sunday. My major motivation is that I know this team can and should be better than it is. I watch film every week and what I don't see is the team getting out-schemed. What I do see is guys not doing the simple stuff consistently, and the Bucs end up losing a lot because of it.
Let's get on to the finger pointing.
To keep it simple, the guy who is most at fault on any given play will have a red circle around him. At times, other guys also contributed, and they will have yellow circles around them.
Right from the start ...
1-15-BLT 15 (15:00) J. Flacco pass short left to K. Juszczyk to BLT 33 for 18 yards (C. Butler)
That guy in the circle is linebacker Danny Lansanah. He has a flair for making big plays, but he also makes a lot of simple mistakes.
The Bucs are playing cover 3. Lansanah is supposed to have the flat zone wide toward the sideline. He isn't there because the Ravens ran a play action fake right at him, and he bit on it hook, line and sinker. Instead of taking on the fullback up high, he tried to submarine him and cut his legs. He fell on the ground, and the nearest Bucs defender was covering the deep third on that side. The fullback caught the ball and ran 17 yards.
Talk about a harbinger of things to come.
1-10-BLT 33 (14:27) J. Forsett right guard pushed ob at TB 15 for 52 yards (M. Wright)
The next play the Bucs, appear to be in cover 3 again with safety Mark Barron (red circle) rolled up into the box. The Ravens ran a simple fullback lead play with Justin Forsett.
With eight men in the box, the Bucs had someone for every gap. The fullback basically adds another gap with his block. That meant the middle and will linebackers had to fast flow to the right to take either shoulder of the fullback. Gerald McCoy (yellow circle) lined up to the left in the B gap between the guard and tackle. Defensive end Mike Johnson lined up outside the tackle, leaving only the A gap for Barron to fill.
Barron was lined up too wide at the snap, which gave the guard a good angle to go up to the second level and cut him off. He also cut him to the ground, so Barron couldn't try to go around the block and make a play. The truth is Barron, who is supposed to be a "John Lynch type" in this defense, should have made the tackle on Forsett for maybe a 1 or 2-yard gain if he was lined up correctly. But he wasn't.
McCoy potentially had a shot at making the play. He also ended up getting cut, in his case by the tackle, and that split second he was playing the cut block was just enough to prevent him from getting down the line fast enough to get a hand on Forsett.
Make no mistake about it, this was supposed to be Barron's play.
The guy with the yellow circle farther away from the ball is the other safety, Major Wright. After Forsett got through the A gap, it was Wright's job to limit the damage and get him on the ground. It wouldn't have been an easy task with all that space, but he had to find a way to get it done. He didn't. Instead, he took a bad angle, and Forsett ran right past him up the field.
One alignment problem in a simple eight-man front was directly responsible for what ended up being a 52-yard run.
2-10-TB 15 (13:19) J. Flacco pass short right to T. Smith for 15 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The Bucs stopped Bernard Pierce for no gain, but what was important about the play is that the Bucs lined up in man-to-man. The Ravens knew it was man-to-man because they motioned a guy out. Somebody in the booth might have noticed that cornerback Brandon Dixon opened up like cover 3 on the snap. It was pretty obvious because he was the only person in the secondary using that technique. Probably because he was dead wrong.
On the next play, pictured above, the Bucs were again in man-to-man, and Barron was again on the line of scrimmage outside the tight end. Unfortunately, while the Ravens might have noticed Dixon's screw up on the play before, evidently nobody on the Bucs sideline did, because nobody corrected him and he once again opened up like he was playing cover 3 (red circle), the only guy in the secondary to do so.
At this point let me take the time to say this is what makes me laugh when a guy like Solomon Wilcots, one of the announcers for the game, shows the replay and says "this doesn't look like the normal Lovie Tampa 2." Well, duh. It was supposed to be man-to-man, not Tampa 2, and this Dixon cat screwed that up as well.
Just to make sure everyone understands why this was a big problem, in cover 3 Dixon would have, in theory, had the benefit of an underneath zone defender helping him out on what ended up being a slant route. With no underneath help, he might as well have been on the sideline sipping Gatorade.
Nothing about this was complex, just one guy fucking up the call. Period. 7-0.
The Bucs offense joins the fun
1-10-TB 20 (13:11) M. Glennon pass incomplete short left to V. Jackson
This screen shot is from the first play of the Bucs' first drive, a play action pass. The offensive line gave Mike Glennon pretty good protection. This time the red circle isn't around the guy who screwed up, but the guy who is wide open, Mike Evans on a deep dig route. Not an easy pass to complete, but he is open.
Glennon has no idea Evans is open because he's locked on to his first read, Vincent Jackson. Jackson is trying to beat Jimmy Smith in man-to-man, and running one of the slowest in-and-out routes in human history.
Glennon keeps waiting and waiting for Jackson to come open. By the time he realizes it's not going to happen, the rush is finally about to get him, so his only option is to throw the ball away over Jackson's head.
I don't know why he reverted back to this bullshit, but he is going to have to scan the field for more than just Jackson if the Bucs are going to have any chanced to turn this season around.
2-10-TB 45 (11:25) D. Martin left guard to TB 45 for no gain (B. Williams)
This play is a pretty good example of why the Bucs can't get their running game going. The guy with the red circle is fullback Jorvorskie Lane, and the guy with the yellow circle is center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Just look at the potential lane Martin has to run through at the time of this screen shot. If Lane makes his block and Dietrich-Smith can move that defensive tackle, a bus could run through that hole.
But Lane didn't make that block. Hell, he didn't even lay a finger on rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley and totally whiffed on the play. Dietrich-Smith, who initially tried to hook Brandon Williams for some odd reason, also couldn't find a way to stay between Williams and Martin. This run netted a total of 0 yards for the Bucs on Sunday after Williams reached out and grabbed Martin and Mosley finished him off.
I have been critical of Martin, but he can't block for himself and run at the same time.
I'm also not absolving the coaching staff when it comes to the problems in the running game. Somewhere along the line, somebody should have pointed out that the Bucs starting guards and center were not going to be able to handle the Ravens defensive tackles one-on-one. That obviously didn't happen, because they kept calling runs that were blocked with one of those guys singled up against Williams or Haloti Ngata. That usually didn't turn out well.
3-10-TB 45 (10:52) (Shotgun) M. Glennon pass short left intended for L. Murphy INTERCEPTED by J. Smith at BLT 47. J. Smith to TB 22 for 31 yards (D. Dotson)
Glennon gets the red circle this time because this was just a dumbass decision, no two ways about it. Receiver Louis Murphy, the intended target, is in the yellow circle.
The thing about this play that doesn't make any sense to me is the Ravens showed blitz. They had Ngata lined up on the center and three defenders on each side all lined up outside of the respective offensive tackle. Yeah, maybe they could have been bluffing, but for Glennon to be surprised when they did in fact blitz makes no sense.
Surprised he was, and that led to him trying to complete this pass to Murphy off his back foot while drifting away from the pressure of blitzing safety Darian Stewart. Just not a good decision at all.
Glennon basically had two options on this play after he didn't see the blitz pre-snap. Either he could have eaten the sack and lived to fight another day, or he could have thrown the ball to Murphy's back shoulder, forcing him to sit down in that little open space and perhaps even pick up the first down. What he absolutely cannot do is try to make that throw off his back foot and still lead Murphy to the sideline on an out route. There was simply no way he could have seen if there was a defender out there (news flash: there was) just waiting for him to throw that exact pass for a hot route. It was too dangerous of a throw to even attempt.
Or not, because he damn sure threw it didn't he?
Oh, and why in the hell were the Bucs lined up in an empty set against a team that blitzes as much as the Ravens do on third down? *cranes neck at the coaching staff*
Ravens strike again
2-9-TB 9 (9:33) J. Flacco pass incomplete short middle to O. Daniels.
3-9-TB 9 (9:28) J. Flacco pass short middle to T. Smith for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN
The Ravens took over on the Bucs 22 yard line. They ran for 12 yards on first down mostly due to a defensive line stunt that put the whole defense in a bad spot. The Ravens then tried to run the ball again, but the Bucs rose up and stopped them for a loss. Then came two bad plays on defense for the Bucs, only one of which I will break down.
On second-and-goal from the 9-yard line, the Bucs called Tampa 2 coverage. This is where I am not sure there are many "football smart" players on their defense just yet. If a defensive coordinator calls Tampa 2 in this situation, it's pretty obvious they are expecting the Ravens to pass. If they should happen to run then you can always rally to it, but it's a top priority to make sure that if they do throw, they have to dump it off short of the goal line. I used to kind of take for granted that veteran guys would understand that, but now I see I can't take anything for granted with this Bucs defense.
One of their best players on defense is linebacker Lavonte David, but he's still struggling to understand how to play in this defense too. Ravens tight end Owen Daniels ran a shake route where he ran to David's level, faked an out route, then turned right up the field. That route is a bitch to cover in man-to-man, but in Tampa 2, David shouldn't really be jumping anything short before the quarterback throws the ball.
But he fell for the fake, and Daniels was wide open up the seam. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball a little too high on that play for an incomplete pass, a momentary reprieve for that Bucs defense.
The Bucs decided to run Tampa 2 again on third-and-goal. You know what? I totally agree with the call, even in hindsight. I agree with it because had everyone done what they were supposed to, Flacco was likely going to have to throw the ball away because everything was going to be covered. Bucs nickel back Leonard Johnson had other plans, however.
It would be an understatement to say I haven't been a fan of Leonard's play over the past couple of seasons. I said last year the Bucs needed to try to upgrade that position, and he's right back out there stinking up the joint. That's him with the red circle around him above, and that's Torrey Smith about to catch another touchdown right behind him. Now after what I've said about Tampa 2 so far in this column, what do you think is wrong with that picture?
See, you aren't even an NFL player and even you know after reading a blog post that Johnson should have backed his ass up to force the short throw rather than allowing Flacco the passing lane for that slant to Smith.
I don't take anything away from Flacco, but some of his touchdown passes were straight up gimmies thanks to the Bucs ineptitude. 14-0.
3-8-TB 17 (5:06) J. Flacco pass deep middle to K.Aiken for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN
The Ravens get the ball into the red zone again. Five plays later, it's third-and-8 from the Bucs' 17-yard line, and the Bucs decide to call Tampa 2 again with their nickel personnel in the game.
A little quick history. Bucs starting middle linebacker Mason Foster had been out a few weeks with a shoulder injury. His backup Dane Fletcher was awful. Because he kept screwing up Tampa 2 and not getting deep down the middle of the field, the Bucs decided to sub Lansanah in for him on nickel in the previous game against the Saints. Lansanah actually did pretty well that week, but then last Sunday, he had a total brain fart. Yep, that's him with the red circle. The guy you see running past him on this screen shot? That's Kamar Aiken right before he catches the first touchdown of his career right up the middle of the field.
Lansanah was dropping with Aiken initially and all was well. Then, out of the blue, Lansanah just decided to turn away from Aiken and settle at around the 10-yard line.
What. The. Fuck?!?!
Fletcher was doing that exact same kind of shit, which is why they put Lansanah in the lineup. Then he turns around and does the same shit? If everybody is making the same stupid mistake, maybe somebody ain't teaching it worth a damn.
I'm just saying. 21-0.
One more for good measure
3-9-TB 19 (:12) J. Flacco pass deep right to M. Campanaro for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWN
The offensive series following the Aiken touchdown led to yet another punt with less than four minutes left in the quarter. The Bucs couldn't possibly give up another touchdown in that amount of time, could they?
You bet your sweet ass they could!
That's Leonard Johnson in the red circle, about to get his ass toasted in man-to-man. The guy with the blow torch who caught the touchdown was Michael Campanaro, and yes, that was also the first touchdown of his career. SMDH!
That dude in the yellow circle is Barron. I circled him because in trying to disguise the fact that the Bucs were playing man-to-man, Barron lined up in a Tampa 2 look on the other side of the field from Johnson and tried to run to the middle on the snap. By that time, he had no chance of helping Johnson over the top on a deep ball. Would he have been a factor on the play had he lined up in the middle from the get go? I can't say for sure. He sure would have had a better shot at it though.
Back to Johnson. The truth is his coverage wasn't all that bad. The real problem is that he has been burned so many times that he panicked and didn't turn around to find the ball. Had he actually seen the ball, I think he might have had a decent chance to intercept the pass, or at the least to deflect it. Instead, he gave himself no shot of making a play by keeping his focus on Campanaro.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you give up 28 points in the first quarter of your third home game of the year.
I am absolutely disgusted.
Not because guys "quit" or "didn't have heart" or are "soft" or any of those other bullshit insults fans have for their team when it gets its ass kicked. No, I'm disgusted because if guys would ever play the defense the way it's supposed to be played -- which isn't all that hard, by the way -- this Bucs team has enough talent to be dominant, even with the lesser-talented guys pressed into playing time because of injuries.
I'm disgusted because one guy seems to kill the Bucs running game every time they try to run the football.
I'm disgusted because it's Week 6 and some guys are making the same mistakes they were making in the preseason, which means the coaching isn't sinking in.
I don't know what all the answers are to get this team to play better, but I do know it better get done in a hurry, because 1-5 can become 1-10 in the blink of an eye. After the last few years of mediocrity, I don't know that many fans will stand for that again.