Observations of the Bucs/Cardinals 10/31/10 Scarefest

1) (Insert John Carpenter's Halloween theme song here)

2) Okay, new rule: no trick or treating on a Football Sunday until AFTER the Bucs' game is finished.  Stop ringing that doorbell...!

3) The theme of the 2010 Buccaneers season: the 4th Quarter nail-biter.  The Bucs had gone into halftime with a 24-14 lead, which was awesome, and came out into the 3rd Quarter with another TD drive making it a 31-14 game and seemingly out of Arizona's reach.

And then the Cardinals scored 21 unanswered points to make it a 35-31 4th Quarter lead, forcing Freeman to drive the Bucs' offense late AGAIN for a game-winning come-from-behind score. Seriously, I think they're doing this on purpose to make Josh look good for the Pro Bowl voters.

4) Player of the game: for the first time in AGES we've got a game where there's more than one legitimate contestant for the title.  Sure, props need to go out to the various players who made the game a victory, but there's usually just one guy who stands above all the rest while the others deserve a pat on the shoulder and a firm handshake.  This game, we've got three serious options for Player of the Game:

4a) WR Mike Williams, for making the long pass reception look too damn easy.  Yes he had dropped passes during the game, but the ones he caught were good for 105 yards and an awesome TD reception.

4b) RB LeGarette Blount, rookie UFA, stepping up for the first 100-plus rushing game for the Bucs by a running back this year as well as two TDs especially the game-winner.  Yes, he had a disastrous fumble that the Cards scooped up for a quick defensive TD that cut the lead to 31-28, but I give him some slack 'cause it looked like he got seriously shook up that play.

4c) CB Aliq Talib, with his two INTs, one an early return for a defensive score that pretty much drove rookie QB Hall from the field and the second a key late-drive game-clincher that stopped the Cardinals from getting either a TD to win or a FG to tie.

5) Goat of the Game: whomever among the Bucs coaches who wanted to keep calling dinky run plays late in the game in some crazed attempt to burn up the clock, rather than figuring out some short-field ball-control passing attempts to ensure first downs instead of punting on 4th down each stalled drive.  Okay, it looks like Freeman can throw over 20 yards downfield, we got it.  Any chance of seeing him work on the 3-and-5 situations passing a six or seven yarder?!

6) For the Bucs being 5-2, this is still a shaky-looking team.  Good enough to pound Arizona early to a 31-14 lead, but lacking in across-the-board talent to secure that lead for the rest of the game.

For the most part, this is what I call a Second-Tier team: the middle-of-the-road type team that can play good any Sunday but not a dominant enough team to strike fear in the hearts of others.  We can beat the likes of Arizona and St. Louis... but the likes of Atlanta or Baltimore?  I doubt it...

7) Statistics of the Game: The ones that are NOT for losers?  Let's try the turnover ratio: Bucs secure 4 turnovers in INTs, two of them directly into touchdowns (and one for a FG that meant the difference).  The game went back and forth because of turnovers: The Cardinals were able to stay in the game thanks to the Bucs' two fumbles.

7a) The Stat That Means Little: The Bucs get a sack (OMG A SACK GLORY GLORY) from the defensive line (thanks Stylez), but the sack comes late in the 4th Quarter after 150,000 plays (or did it feel that way).  The only reason that sack means anything?  The sack - and the fumbled attempt at a pass that ended up in a Guard's possession - stalled a Cardinals last-chance drive.

The problem regarding sacks for the Bucs remain: the D-line is not pressure on opposing offenses the way we're used to seeing.  There's been more blitzes from the LBs and corners, and even then our defensive front rarely forces the QB out of his comfort zone.  I counted about three times that either Cardinals QB got under pressure, with one that caused that first INT to Geno Hayes and his TD return.

7b) The Bucs have a 100-yard receiver (Williams) and a 100-yard rusher (Blount) today.  When was the last time we had both in the same game?

8) Let us think of good things that happened this game: Blount looks to be the kind of runner that can endure where the blocking isn't going to be that good.  Better yet, he looks to be a runner that can not only pound it but even avoid the hits.  That hurdle he did avoiding the tackle on that late 4th Quarter run, the one for 48 yards, that seriously was a thing of beauty.

9) Our secondary's performance today was haphazard at best.  One drive, they'd be stifling the Cards, next drive giving up deep throws.  I think Biggers was the corner having a rough day of it.

10) Next up: The Atlanta Falcons, at Atlanta.  I bet Monday Night Football was wishing they had picked it up for their schedule...

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