The Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered another crushing late defeat. This time against division rival New Orleans in a game the Bucs really had to have if they had any aspirations of being a playoff team in 2013. The cold hard truth is only 12% of teams that start 0-2 make it to the post season. None of the teams who made the playoffs last season were 0-2.
Yet, 0-2 is where the Bucs find themselves. Worse, they're heading to Foxboro to face a rested New England Patriots team with 0-3 a real possibility. If you're wondering - only 5 teams since 1980 have made the playoffs after starting 0-3.
The last was in 1998.
But hey, each game is a learning experience. Let's talk about what we learned this week.
1. The Buccaneers are terribly coached. There's no other way to say it. When you have constant issues with your players lining up in illegal formations, communication issues, substitution issues, burning time outs because they're late getting the play in - that's terrible coaching. On the sack/fumble play, Fox's cameras caught Freeman screaming at the sideline, "Send in the (censored) play!" As you know, it resulted in disaster. On the brilliant fourth down goal line stand, the Bucs had 10 players on defense. Imagine if they had 11. We'll talk about the Adrian Clayborn penalty in another point, but the other personal foul penalties were just stupid, idiotic plays that just should not happen. The Bucs discipline is keeping them from winning football and that falls straight on the shoulders of the coaching staff.
Fox commentator John Lynch said multiple times, "This is stuff that just can't happen at this level of football." John, it shouldn't happen at any level. The Buccaneers have gazillion coaches on their staff - not one of them can teach how not to hit helmet to helmet? None of them can teach Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson to check with the referee to make sure they're lined up on the ball (as most players in the league do)? It's also on the players themselves, make no mistake. Goldson, Jackson and Williams are all vets. They should know better. That lack of detail is the difference between winning and losing.
2. Greg Schiano has completely bungled the Josh Freeman situation. Freeman has that deer-in-the-headlights look about him and truly it's just a matter of time before he's holding a clipboard. The offense is completely shot at this point and it's because the quarterback is so rattled he can't even complete the simplest of passes. Freeman is again locking on to his playmakers - the guys he trusts to help bail him out. 17 of Freeman's 22 passes were targeted for Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams. Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins used that against Freeman for the interception.
Folks, Mike Glennon will not help the Bucs win football games at this point in his career. But the situation between the Head Coach and the starting quarterback is so toxic, its bringing the entire offense down with it. With Doug Martin rumbling for 144 yds on 29 carries and the offensive line giving Freeman plenty of time to throw, there's no reason why they could only manage 7 points on offense (and that was set up by a turnover).
There was even a report that speculated that Freeman would demand a trade (Freeman's camp is denying this).
There is only one inevitable end to this situation. The season will go down in flames with Freeman, if it hasn't already. I don't blame number five - I blame the coach. All of this could have been avoided. But Schiano doesn't believe in Freeman and its become a huge divisive force and distraction. After the game when asked if Freeman would be the quarterback next week, Schiano replied, "I see no reason why he wouldn't be. I'll have to evaluate the tape."
Do what we all know you want to do, Greg. Send Freeman to the bench. Put in Glennon. But if you're going to do it - don't go back. Make a clean break. Send Freeman to the farthest corner of the bench and leave him there.
Perhaps you will give a little more leeway and backing to "your quarterback" than you afforded the quarterback who owns most of the records for quarterback play in the Buccaneers record book.
3. There are three things preventing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from having a very good defense. Idiotic penalties, communication issues and the inability to slam the door in the closing seconds of the game. The Bucs had a tremendous day defensively, limiting Drew Brees and the Saints to just 13 points for 59 minutes. But the constant barrage of personal foul penalties and pass interference calls has to stop. The Bucs were amazing at overcoming these errors against one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Goldson and Black's penalties were inexcusable. You know that's going to get called. You sent your message in Week One. Now you're just being stupid. Lower your strike zone. Ahmad Black, there was no reason to come in late with that hit. He had already dropped the ball and you go head hunting and hurt your team.
I will say I thought the penalty on Mark Barron for pass interference was a little ticky tack. There was hand checking on both sides, Barron got his head around at the last second and played the ball.
The penalty on Adrian Clayborn was simply ridiculous. He hit with his shoulder and yes, he was near the head gear but I still haven't seen a replay where there was helmet-to-helmet contact. It looked like a great football play that would have resulted in a crucial turnover. Instead, 15 yds to a Saints offense that doesn't need help. (UPDATE: Courtesy of Joe Bucs Fan, looks like the Times Picayune had a great shot of the helmet-to-helmet contact. I stand corrected, although still don't like the rule.)
Communication issues prevented Barron from getting the call that the Bucs were flipping from man to Cover 2. The result was Jimmy Graham, the Saints most deadly weapon, wide open for one of the easiest 56 yd scores you'll ever see.
Then in the waning seconds, Drew Brees does what Drew Brees does. The Bucs were still aggressive instead of falling back into that prevent defense - but it didn't matter. Brees was accurate and dialed in. His throw to Colston with Leonard Johnson stride-for-stride that set up the game winning field goal was amazing. An accurate throw combined with an unreal catch by a talented receiver.
Still, you have to find a way to stop that play if you want to be a top notch defensive team in the league. Buc fans know something about great defense. Great defenses shut the door - make that pick or sack that ends the game. The Bucs defense is vastly improved but there's still a ways to go.
4. It was good to see the old Doug Martin back. After a frustrating afternoon in New York, the Dougernaut sliced and diced the Saints defense on his way to 144 yds. If the Bucs were able to sustain drives with the passing game, it could have been a huge day for the offense. In the end, it turned out to just be a good job in a losing effort.
5. Mark Barron was a mixed bag on Sunday. There were times when Barron looked like an All-Pro, making plays on the ball, delivering bone crunching hits and even getting in on a sack against one of the toughest QBs in the league to put down. Yet he was also abused all day by Jimmy Graham and his missed check cost the Bucs a touchdown.
6. What an effort by Dashon Goldson on Jimmy Graham late in the first half. If not for Goldson trying to wrestle the ball away from Graham as he headed toward the goal line, the powerful Saints tight end might have been able to battle his way into the endzone. Instead, Graham was desperately trying to retain possession while his butt cheek touched the turf. It set up an epic goal line stand that will go down as one of the best in Bucs history.
7. I've been one of Mason Foster's biggest critics when it comes to pass coverage but I have to say that his electrifying 85 yd interception return for a touchdown was simply an amazing display of athleticism and want to. Foster faked the blitz and dropped into coverage where Brees hit him in the numbers, then he weaved his way down the field for the crucial score that put Tampa Bay in the lead. Great play, Mason.
8. How about that Bucs pass rush, huh? Brees was battered and bruised after this one as the Bucs hit him time and time again, dropping the Saints superstar four times. Brees had 20 incomplete passes, something highly unusual for one the most accurate QBs in the NFL. Tampa Bay now has 9 sacks in two games. They'll need that pass rush again this week against Tom Brady.
9. If Freeman is the starter this week, I think he needs to just let it all hang out. They take too long getting the play in from the sideline? Call your own dang play and go at it. Run around, play sandlot football. Have some fun. It may tick off your head coach but that guy isn't in your corner anyway.
10. Schiano's ultra-conservative play call on the 3rd and 6 showed not only the disdain he has for his quarterback but his lack of killer instinct in a close game. If the Bucs secure that first down, the game is over. Instead, they do a pitch out to Doug Martin who fails to secure the first down and then trot out Rian Lindell to try to make a long field goal. Lindell was let go of the Bills because he was 60% in those attempts. So you either go for the jugular on 4th down or you punt it deep and make Drew Brees go the length of the field with hardly any time and no time outs.
Bonus: I thought because of his long deal that Greg Schiano was safe. Right now there seems to be a power struggle going on with Schiano and Bucs GM Mark Dominik. Last time that happened in Tampa Bay, the coach won. But that coach was coming off a Super Bowl victory. Schiano certainly doesn't have that pedigree. In fact, with the murmurs of discontent coming out of One Buc, its quite the opposite. Three years remaining on the contract is a lot for the Glazers to eat up but they may not have a choice. If Schiano does bench Freeman, he may finally lose the vets and that may be his undoing. The Glazers rarely make in season changes but if they were so inclined to do so - there's plenty of candidates. Dave Wannstedt, Butch Davis and Mike Sullivan could all fill the role as interim head coach.
I don't think we're there yet - but the Glazers have spent a lot of money on this football team and they aren't getting results. The Bucs have stars on both sides of the football. This team should be 2-0 the way their defense has played. Instead, Tampa Bay has now lost 7 of their last 8 games.