It's been awhile since we've featured this column, but after a tough loss to the Panthers, I thought this might be a good time to bring it out. Any loss is not one that is welcomed, but even in losing conditions there can be positives. I've been saying all along that as long as progress is being made, I feel we can get somewhere. Believe it or not, we are making progress in some areas, while in other areas, we are a stagnant heap of failure. Lets take a look at all three categories and see what fits where.
Overall offense minus the quarterback- There are several things to pick up on here. The 469 net yards of offense. A 100 yard receiver. A near 100 yard running back. Antonio Bryant has finally become involved in the offense and is looking like a #1 WR when the ball is thrown his way. He made two sick catches and ended up with 5 catches for 116 yards. Cadillac almost made his return to 100 yard land by posting a 92 yard rushing day on 17 carries and added another 14 yards on 2 catches. The Bucs also won the time of possession battle, a near miracle in itself
Running game - The ground game in general produced on the higher end of the spectrum, churning out 5.9 yards per run play. That's phenomenal. Both Ward and Caddy hit some huge gainers and Freeman chipped in with some yardage on the ground also. Additional bonus, Caddy played against Carolina and made it off the field safely.
No big plays- Outside of the 66 yard bomb to Smith, the defense really didn't give up many big plays. There were a few 20+ yard runs, but we didn't see any wide receivers running unchecked through our secondary. I don't know if that is a function of who we played (Redman and Moore) or if the switch back to the Cover 2 has solved those woes. Probably a combination of both.
Freeman's five picks- I choose to put this in the bad as opposed to the ugly mainly because we knew there would be days like this for a rookie QB. I don't like the 5 interceptions and hope it never happens again, but it had to happen at some point. We probably won't know for another 10 starts if this was an aberration or if this is what we should expect. Count me in the camp that says it will get better, but we can't ignore that it happened.
Connor Barth going 2 for 4 in field goals - Just disappointing, particularly after what we've been through this year with kickers. Any other year, it still sucks, but we chalk it up as a bad week. This year, it seems we may have angered the football gods and invoked the Curse of Bryant.
157 rushing yards against - As Buc 'Em user RuudAwakening said, its something to be optimistic about, given the last two times we faced Carolina they put up over 250 yards on the ground each game. But don't think for a minute that I'm happy about it. We seem to let anyone run over us. Maybe at the NFL Combine, they should let college RB's face off against our defense.
A big, fat 0 for 4 in the red zone - There aren't many ways to discuss this. It was a combination of bad play calling, bad execution and some great plays by Carolina. If we get anything in any one of those 4 red zone trips, the game probably plays out much differently. Beason spoiled two of the trips on great plays but the other two were just missed opportunities by everyone involved.
28% on 3rd down conversions - We led in time of possession, but that was more due to Carolina's offensive futility than our prowess. This number needs to be about 10 percentage points higher. This would allow us to extend drives and wear down a defense.
Tackling - How many times are we going to talk about this? Sabby showed up with an arm ful of air a few times, but it seemed that on multiple occasions, Stewart was hit within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage and somehow would shake free for a longer gain. The point of contact should generally be where the tackle is made. I'd love to see how many yards after contact we gave up. I would venture a guess and say that 90% of the rushing yards happened after first hit. We have to tackle better. This has been an issue for at least two years now.
# of passing attempts/play calling - I won't beat you to death with my play calling agenda, because by now you know where I stand. But 46 passing attempts for a rookie quarterback in a game that we were in until the end, this can't happen. Particularly after said young quarterback has shown he is having an off day. It seemed there was little or no help or adjustment in the game plan. I am astonished at our lack of game planning overall, and we all have talked about the lack of halftime adjustments (thus we get killed in the 3rd quarter every game), but against Carolina, it was obvious to a blind man (no offense to anyone, particularly the refs) that Freeman was struggling. And Olson kept calling pass plays. Adapt man. Play calls, game plans, personnel, these aren't things set in stone, they can and should be fluid.
These lists don't encompass everything, nor are they intended to give a complete overview of the game. They are just a few things that stuck out to me. What do you think about the lists? Anything you would add? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below.