Each week, Bucs Nation reviews the game film of the Buccaneers previous game to give you insight and observations on some things we may have missed in the excitement of the action.
No matter what Raheem Morris says, stats aren't for losers. They tell the tale of a tough defensive outing that seemed to snow ball in the finally six minutes of a game the Buccaneers should have won.
The eye in the sky doesn't lie and the eye told us a lot about the breakdowns in the Buccaneer defense in Sunday's disappointing 41-34 loss to the Giants.
It also told us a bunch about the Giants unflappable quarterback Eli Manning.
After the jump, we'll give you some things you might of missed while throwing your remote at the big screen and cursing Don "Red Dog" Ettinger - the inventor of the modern day version of the blitz.
- Eli Manning is an unbelievable quarterback. Yes, he threw three interceptions (four if you count the one Ronde had that was called back on a Talib hold) but the eye tells us so much more about Manning. In the first half - the rush was getting to Manning. Four man rush, the Blitz - it was getting there. Manning stood in the pocket and delivered strike after strike - perfectly on point where his receivers could do damage with it. Manning's accuracy was uncanny folks. You can see why Giants fans get frustrated with him because this kid is special (and not in the Forrest Gump kind of way).
- One of the more interesting things about this game was watching the Buccaneers and Giants offenses perform on the same field. To tell you they looked like carbon copies of each other is no exaggeration. The only major difference between the plays called on Sunday was the selection. The Bucs focused on the running game while the Giants attacked with the pass. There were points in the game where it was a bit "anything you can do I can do better" and for awhile, the Bucs were getting the better of that battle. Even in the fourth quarter, after Manning had rallied the troops and put the Giants ahead, Freeman was trying to out Eli- Eli. Unfortunately we'll never know what would have happened had Mike Williams held on to that ball at the 15 yard line with 15 seconds left.
- To counter the Bucs' blitzing and pressure from the front four, Manning went to a quick release. One, Two Three - Bang. One, two, three - bang. On the plays he held the ball longer (especially in the first half) he took a big hit - but ever unflappable, he stood right in there and delivered the pigskin.
- Hakeem Nicks abused Aquib Talib and Brandon McDonald with one move off the line of scrimmage. Whenever the Bucs pressed Nicks, he would fake to the outside and cut inside - the Bucs corners didn't jam him at the line and would get frozen by the outside move, allowing Nicks the inside shoulder nearly every time. Eli would deliver the football right on the money to Nicks in stride, allowing him yards after the catch.
- As a result of routinely getting beaten at the line of scrimmage pretty much all of the Bucs corners resorted to grabbing and holding. The Giants talented receiving core was just too hard for this secondary to handle.
- The eye agrees with what we saw on the telecast - the helmet-to-helmet call on Mason Foster was borderline as Domenik Hixon was still in the act of being tackled. Foster was finishing off the play and led with his shoulder - Hixon just went down after Foster had initiated the move to hit him.
- Meanwhile, the no call on Kenny Phillips' hit on Vincent Jackson was terrible.
- It evened out the next series as Mark Barron should have been called for tossing Andre Brown to the ground after he was out of bounds.
- While Eli was stunningly accurate most of the game - there were at least six passes he would've like to had back. Four were intercepted (three counted). On the first pick by Foster, it was a poor pass by Eli, didn't get enough air under it to put it over Foster's head.
- On the second interception, the Bucs only rushed three and dropped into zone. Eli just overthrew the intended receiver Cruz (who was being held by Ronde Barber) and it landed right into McDonald's lap.
- On the third interception - it appeared that the Bucs had some intel. Eric Wright acted like he was going to blitz and Eli flashed a hand signal to Victor Cruz. Wright seemed to recognized the signal and instead of blitzing sat in the flat where Cruz was going to be - Eli took a quick step and fired straight into Wright's numbers. Wright's return, of course, was a thing of beauty. It looked even more amazing on the eye.
- The protection for Josh Freeman was surprising great - giving him time to go through his progressions. Josh didn't do as well this week with his progressions as he did against Carolina but I believe he was focused on attacking down field more against the Giants depleted secondary.
- Josh was sacked twice. On the first sack - it looked like the Bucs were attempting to set up a screen as the linemen allowed the linebacker Chase Blackburn to walk right in and sack Freeman. On the second sack, Freeman held the ball too long and didn't see a wide open Dallas Clark in the middle of the field. Eventually, Jason Pierre-Paul worked his way back to the quarterback.
- Demar Dotson actually did a pretty outstanding job on both Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck (who were flipping alignment throughout the game).
- If you're looking for a culprit in the Bucs' below average running game this week - look no further than the tightends, who couldn't handle Pierre-Paul and allowed edge penetration that blew up many of Doug Martin's running plays.
- LeGarrette Blount was in the game for a single play - and it ended up being the second sack on Freeman. Blount was late getting out of the backfield leaving Freeman with no safety valve to dump the ball off to. Blount didn't see the field the rest of the ballgame.
- Through the first three quarters - the game was going just as Greg Schiano had drawn it up. The Giants were churning up a ton of yardage between the 20's but when they hit the red zone, the Bucs slammed the door and forced field goals. When they weren't forcing field goals, they were making plays on the ball.
- The Giants may have seemed to have success on the ground against the Bucs - especially with Andre Brown - but the eye tells us a different story. Nearly every big run the Giants had came on a draw that was well disguised by Eli Manning and the Bucs sold out on the pass either over pursuing with the blitz or dropping back into their Cover two shell. When it was a straight on running play - the Bucs stopped it effortlessly and with authority.
- The game may have really changed on three bad plays for the Bucs: 1st - Freeman's interception. It was an inaccurate pass late over the middle where he simply sailed a pass over a wide open Sammie Stroughter who was sitting down in the zone. It allowed the Giants to gain momentum and cut the lead to one score. 2nd - With 8:36 left in the game Mike Williams caught a pass about a yard short of the first down. Instead of turning and trying to bull his way to the marker, he got cute, trying to spin and juke his way to the first down. Had he just lowered a shoulder and powered his way there - there was no way Giants corner Michael Coe would have stopped him as he was already off balance. It cost the Bucs at least a couple of minutes they could have run off the game clock. 3rd - Was Greg Schiano's timeout just before the Eli-to-Cruz 80 yd bomb. Schiano called the time out to simply put Eric Wright back in the game to blitz Eli. It was a tell and the Bucs could have used that time out later in the game.
- Speaking of that play - there were many levels of fail for the Buccaneers on that one. First - the Bucs sold out on the blitz. They played Cover-One safety high and man-to-man on the outside. The Giants picked up the blitz perfectly. Eli used his eyes to move Barron to the opposite side of the field, leaving Ronde alone with Cruz. Ronde sat on Cruz's route, expecting him to cut an in or an out - but Cruz ran past a flat footed Barber on the streak. With no safety help - it was an easy throw and catch for Eli and Cruz.
- With 6:05 left, the Bucs missed a golden opportunity to answer - but unfortunately Freeman and Jackson were on different pages. Freeman expected Jackson to run an out and threw a timing pass to the sideline. Unfortunately, Jackson ran a streak. The shame of it is it was almost a carbon copy of the Eli-to-Cruz play. Freeman used his eyes to move out the safety and came back to Jackson, who had beaten his man and was streaking behind the secondary alone. Freeman had already let the timing pass go before realizing that Jackson had turned his route upfield.
- On Eli's last touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett, the Bucs did not blitz. Tampa Bay played cover two but the winded defensive line put absolutely no pressure on Manning. He looked through four reads and pump faked moving Barron out of the area and leaving McDonald one-on-one with the bigger Bennett. McDonald panicked and lost his technique, playing the player instead of the ball and Bennett, with his height advantage, reached over and hauled in the touchdown pass.
- On the Bucs last scoring drive - Freeman finally found Clark open in the middle and hit him three times before going for the deep ball score to Mike Williams. Freeman threw it up as a jump ball and Williams came down with it after the ball bounced off the corner's helmet.
- On the Giants final drive. Eli's 24 yd completion to Barden - Bucs were in zone, rushed 3 guys Mark Barron was late getting over.
On Eli's final pass - the 50 yder to Nicks - The Bucs sold out on the blitz and was in his face but Eli delivered the perfect strike - Ahmad Black was late getting over to help with coverage.
- On the final drive - 1st and 10 - Freeman completed a 19 yd pass to Vincent Jackson. Had he waited just a couple more seconds (he had the time), Mike Williams was coming wide open deep with a safety too far away to make a play.
- Freeman's last pass, he threw off his back foot and overthrew a wide open Dallas Clark at the 32 yd line. Intercepted. Had he made the play, the Bucs would have use their last time out - setting up one throw to the end zone. Freeman also had Martin wide open in the flat. Martin could have easily gotten 10-15 yds and out of bounds before the clock expired.
- On the controversial kneel down, the Giants should have known the Bucs were coming after them on the play. All the defenders dug in and were ready to charge on the snap. Right or wrong, the Bucs intentions were not hidden and the Giants should have prepared themselves.
- Coaching-wise, I don't know what else the coaching staff could have done to slow down the Giants. By the fourth quarter, the defensive line was gassed and Manning had time to pick and choose his routes. With both Talib and Wright banged up - the Giants receivers were just too good for the Bucs secondary. Sure, you could have cooled it on the blitzing when you're up by 14 - but Schiano likes to bring the pressure on quarterback. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. When Eli has that look in his eye in the fourth quarter - you just hope you have enough points. On Sunday, the Bucs didn't.