The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended the 2011 season in the way they had ended most of their preceding games: with a blowout loss. Turnovers, penalties, a lack of tackling, terrible coverage, bad angles: all the same old issues came up again. As usual in this ten-game losing streak, the Bucs looked terrible - and the game was never as close as the eventual scoreline would indicate.
The Bucs gave up a touchdown on each of the Atlanta Falcons' first five possessions. They wouldn't give up a touchdown the rest of the game, mostly because the Falcons pulled all of their starters at that point. It wasn't until after the Falcons went up 42-0 that the Bucs' offense finally woke up, as the Bucs scored three touchdown the rest of the game to make the score seem somewhat respectable. But scoring touchdowns against prevent defenses and one off an interception of a backup quarterback is not all that impressive.
As the Bucs continued to get pounded by another offense, they gave up 6.6 yards per carry over the game. Worse yet, they gave up 10.1 yards per carry to Michael Turner - including an 81-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Everyone looked bad on those runs, with the low point perhaps happening when Mason Foster was run over by diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers at the goal-line.
Tackling was so horrible and putrid that Raheem Morris benched starting safeties Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson midway through the second quarter, after numerous missed tackles and blown plays in coverage. That didn't really work, as the Falcons' starters immediately got that 81-yard touchdown run - but the thought was there. The rest of the way the Bucs' defense did keep those Falcons in check including some goal-line stands, but stopping backups should not be difficult for a starting NFL defense.
On offense, the Bucs once again could not run the ball, ending up with 16 yards rushing from running backs on the day. It took until the second quarter for the Bucs to move the ball down the field - and once they did, they did it by passing only. Josh Freeman ended the day with 274 passing yards, completing 31 of 45 passes with two touchdowns, three interceptions and two sacks - and he lost a fumble on one of those sacks.
As this was the Bucs' final game of the season, they experimented some. Josh Johnson lined up at wide receiver a couple of times, and the Bucs took two deep shots to him. It's a little sad when your backup QB looks like the fastest receiver on the team.
Despite some production in the second half, the Bucs ended this game as yet another blowout. The saddest part of all of this is that this may be how Ronde Barber leaves Tampa Bay. The veteran cornerback was forced to leave the game with an arm injury, and may have played his last game in a Buccaneer uniform, especially so if Raheem Morris is indeed fired on Black Monday.
And with that, this torturous season finally comes to an end. Bucs fans can look forward to another offseason of trying to build a winner, to the many changes that are no doubt coming, and to the hope that will come when a new season starts.