Bucs - 49ers: 10 Things We Think We've Learned

Al Messerschmidt

The Bucs got taken to the woodshed by the defending NFC Champions. Did we learn anything from this game?

And there it is, Buccaneer fans. The gap between the haves and the have nots feels like a gulf today, doesn't it? The San Francisco 49ers showed Buccaneer fans what a well coached team looked like. The Niners were methodical, calculating, efficient and pretty damned good.

Their young QB found ways to extend drives, make plays and put points on the board. Their defense made every single tackle, intimidated without getting penalized and controlled the opposing offense.

The Niners could have easily come in and laid an egg. Upsets were in bunches this week as the contenders faced doughnut games and let downs. San Francisco was coming off perhaps their biggest win of the season and had to travel across country and play at an hour when they're usually just arriving at their stadium.

Yet, they were at the top of their game and opened up a can of ole fashioned whupass on the Bucs in front of a rare sold out crowd.

Did we learn anything from this debacle for the Bucs?

1. Sander has called for the firing of Greg Schiano. It's tough to argue in favor of Greg at this point. His offense is stuck in the stone age. His defense too undisciplined and his special teams...well, they aren't too special are they? The Buccaneers gave us a little fool's gold in the middle of the year - winning four out of five games and looking pretty competitive in doing it.

A tough game on the road in Carolina was their only setback. It was an ugly loss but hey, it's a playoff contender with an excellent defense on the road.

This game against a very good 49ers team was going to tell us all we needed to know.  At home, facing a team from the west coast coming off an emotional hard fought victory. The stars were aligned for the Bucs to at least be competitive.

Yet they fell behind 17-0 and after the Niners took the gas off the pedal and the Bucs pulled within 20-14, San Francisco revved up that engine again and put Tampa Bay away (with a little help from Eric Page and Russell Sheppard).

I'm not going to sit here and say the Bucs shouldn't have tried a trick play. We've been lauding Gamblin' Greg for his out of the box thinking the last month, so it's unfair to rake him over the coals when it backfires.

The trick play isn't the issue. It's his team. The Bucs and Niners could play 10 times and San Fran would probably win 9 of them.

That's really the problem isn't it? You could say the same about the Carolina game. The Saints. Seattle, Detroit, Arizona, the Patriots - pretty much most teams on the Bucs schedule this season.

Yes, Tampa Bay has faced the toughest schedule in the NFL. That's a fact. It's also a fact they lead the NFL in injuries. They're starting a rookie QB and are down to their third string running back.

But you know what? Plenty of teams have injuries. That's not an excuse. The Bucs were supposed to be one of the good teams this year.  They've had multiple opportunities to win ball games and it's difficult to argue that coaching hasn't cost them dearly.

Look, it's good that the team rallied around coach Schiano. It's good that Schiano has changed up his coaching style to relate better to his players. It's nice they went on a little hot streak.

Sunday was a turn the corner kind of game. Get that win and you're really on to something. Upset the 49ers and you've earned your way back for 2014.

Get slapped around, embarrassed, outcoached and outclassed and you pretty much illustrate every reason the naysayers say you have to go.

If I'm Joel Glazer, today I don't see the progress I need to sell to my fans that we're getting there. Tampa Bay has lost 11 of their last 16 games, with a roster filled with former pro bowlers, high priced free agents and high draft picks.

This isn't the Raheem teams that didn't have a single starter who would start for most other teams in the NFL.

Some say the Glazers won't fire Schiano because they would still owe him $6 million a year for the next three years. They are paying $16 million a year to watch a shutdown corner play zone.

I think the Glazers want to give Schiano another season. They want him to find a way to succeed in the second half of this season. You can't be successful hiring a new coach every couple years. That's how the Bucs became the Yucks in the 80's and early 90's.

Yet, in today's NFL - where teams jump from the first overall draft pick to the playoffs by just making a coaching change - you don't have time to be Chuck Noll and lose your first three or four years before you become a perennial playoff team.

It's win now, baby. Schiano came in with question marks and has done nothing to answer those questions. In fact, he's added a couple more.

I've said all along, I think Greg Schiano needs six wins to save his job. He's got to beat the Rams, who just pistol whipped the Saints...and a Saints team that could be battling for their playoff lives.

Frankly, it's tough for me to see the Bucs winning one more game, none the less two. And that folks, isn't enough. That isn't acceptable. It's time to admit your mistake and find the best coaching staff you can to rectify it.

If anything, the Bucs will be attractive because they have talent on the team. A tweak here, a new play call or player there and yes, this team could do the worst to first move.

2. Mike Glennon has now gone three straight games throwing less than 200 yards. More egregiously, Tampa Bay's offense managed 8 yards - just 8 flippin' yards in the fourth quarter. In today's NFL - how in the world is that even possible?

Glennon wasn't terrible against that top notch San Francisco defense but he completed just 53% of his passes and his offense was 1-of-10 on third down. Glennon's inability to help his team sustain drives led to a 19:40 second differential in time of possession.

Five times Tampa Bay went 3-and-out. Only twice (both scoring drives) did Tampa Bay manage a drive of more than 16 yards.

Of course, a lack of running game didn't help matters. Yet we knew going in that it was going to be nigh impossible to run the ball on that superior San Francisco front seven.

Good quarterbacks have the capability to put their teams on their back and carry them. A game manager waits for turnovers or the running game to win them ballgames.

Once again, Glennon was indecisive with the football, taking to long, failed to make the right choices time and time again while missing wide open receivers with inaccurate or late passes.

It's going to be tough for the Bucs to put all their eggs in Glennon's basket next season. If we can't see more - then another option will need to be brought in. A veteran like Cutler or if the Bucs drop this last two games - perhaps a draft pick.

Needless to say, we don't know if Glennon's the guy. If Schiano does survive, to me, it would be difficult for him to stake his career on this kid.

3. The Bucs defense fought and clawed, trying to keep their team in the ballgame. It's tough when you're on the field for 71 offensive plays and are getting no help from your offense, a few things are going to go against you.

The Bucs are typically better against the run - but allowed Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James too many running lanes. It helped the Niners take the pressure off of Colin Kaepernick - who helped himself by making some outstanding plays out of the pocket, especially on 3rd down.

San Francisco converted 6 out of 15 third downs and didn't turn the ball over (Kaepernick was intercepted on a spectacular play by Lavonte David but Gerald McCoy was called for a neutral zone violation).

If turnovers are the only way you can stay competitive - that's a problem.

4. I know every Buc fan in the stadium held their breath when Lavonte David hobbled off after his interception return for a touchdown that wasn't. Losing David would have been a devastating (and perhaps final) blow to a Bucs defense that seemed to be coming together a bit the last few weeks.

Thankfully, after taking off a few series, he returned to the game.

Its a shame that play didn't stand for David, it would have gotten him on every single highlight package in the league and given him some notoriety.

Here's hoping the players and coaches can do what the fans could not - recognize that this young linebacker deserves an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii.

5. The one thing that has been there for the Bucs during their little spurt of success has been the running game. This week Tampa Bay ran it 12 times for 39 yards (3.3 yards a carry). For a football team that feeds off their running game, being that ineffective and then abandoning it all together is not a recipe for success.

It was really an easy game for the 49ers' defense. They just had to worry about covering Vincent Jackson and Timmy Wright while waiting for Glennon to toss the ball out of bounds or make an errant/late throw.

6. Did you find it interesting that the only time the Bucs found success against San Francisco's defense is when the play calling went from the offensive coordinator and head coach to just the quarterback during the two minute drill? It's probably no coincidence Glennon looked his best on those two drives and had the Niners back on their heels a bit.

Of course, as soon as they went back to the huddle,  abandoned the spread offense and went back to their plodding 1980's style of play calling, the offense returned to being hopeless.

7. The Buccaneers totaled 2 sacks and 3 QB hits against San Francisco this week. Kaepernick gave you visions of the elusiveness of Michael Vick - just when it looked like the Buccaneers had him corralled, he would make some crazy play that got the Niners a first down.

Against a normal QB, Tampa Bay would have likely had another banner day from the defensive line. That's an encouraging sign.

If they ever learn to minimize the stunting, this defensive line could become something special.

8. Speaking of special - can we get William Gholston a start for crying out loud? Gholston was again solid, making 8 tackles, 1 for a loss and even defended two passes. Meanwhile, "Starter" Daniel Teo-Nesheim was nearly goose egged again, managing 1 tackle.

Why is this guy starting? I just don't understand it.

9. Next season the Buccaneers will play the NFC North, AFC North and the NFC East and West team that finishes in the same position they do. The Bucs will have road games in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Home games will include Green Bay, Minnesota, Baltimore and  Cincinnati. Currently the Bucs reside in 3rd place in the NFC South. If everything stayed the same, Tampa Bay would host Arizona while heading to New York to face the Giants.

Of those 10 opponents only three have 8 or more wins (although a fourth will be added after tonight's Ravens/Lions matchup).

We all know things change in the NFL, bad teams get good, good teams go bad but at least at first blush, the Bucs schedule in 2014 isn't exactly daunting.

Then again, they play in the NFC South. They'd need to do better than 1-5 in division (assuming they lose to New Orleans).

10. Speaking of doing better - the Bucs will never be playoff contender again if they can't protect Raymond James Stadium. For the 5th consecutive year, the Bucs failed to secure a winning home record, finishing 3-5. Its no coincidence that matches their playoff drought.

By comparison, in the 13 years of Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, Tampa Bay only failed to have a winning record at home three times. They only had a losing record twice.

The Bucs are an awful 14-26 at the Pirate Ship since 2009, a whopping winning percentage of .350.

Want to know why fan support has waned and the Bucs are having trouble selling out the stadium? That's your culprit right there.

Until the Bucs can make Ray Jay a tough place for opponents to come into and play, they won't sniff the post-season.

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