TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes a pass during the season opener against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense could not get anything done in the first half. They ran just 23 plays gaining 108 net yards in the first half, most of which came in a two-minute drill toward the end of the half. The Bucs couldn't sustain a drive, and they couldn't keep the Lions off the field. This lead to a Bucs defense that was simply tired at the end of the second quarter, when the Lions just dink-and-dunked them to death.
Part of the problem on offense was and has been over the years a lack of tempo. When you look at the top offenses in the NFL, they all play quickly. The time between one play and the next play is small, and this forces defenses to play basic and limits the amount of substitutions they can make. But the Bucs have never been able to establish a tempo like that early in games, and it's only when they go to their hurry-up offense at the end of games that they can dictate the tempo of a game.
A lot of things went wrong on offense today, but to me that stands out. This is not something that is a result of playcalling or scheme, it is the lack of a sense of urgency on offense. It seems that the Bucs are pretty lackadaisical whenever there's no immediate time pressure.
This is something the Bucs and Josh Freeman specifically have to fix. Tampa Bay has a potent enough offense to dictate games early on, but they never get off to a fast start. The reasons for that are legion, but a lack of tempo stands out. If Freeman can get his team to the line of scrimmage faster, that gives the Bucs one leg up.
Even the Detroit Lions played with good tempo throughout the game, but especially in the first quarter. They didn't allow the Bucs defense to get set and forced them to play fairly basic. There's no reason why the Bucs can't do this, yet for some reason they don't.
The Bucs realize this, too. The entire second half was played in a hurry-up offense, which automatically meant a much better tempo. And lo and behold, the Bucs had some success that way. Playing with tempo doesn't need to be accompanies by a true two-minute offense, and the Bucs can still run the ball. All they need to do is line up quicker. How hard can it be?