In the first game of the new regime, there was plenty to be happy about, and plenty to get your Gruden face on about. The opening game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned out to be a loss, as they fell to the Tennessee Titans 27-20.
The Bucs actually held the lead until the second half, long after the starters were gone. In our first glimpse of the new team, the defense actually looked fairly impressive, holding Chris Johnson to 7 yards on 7 carries. They also held the passing game in check, forcing Kerry Collins to go 4/9 for 37 yards, 0 TD's and 2 INTs. One of the two field goals given up was after an Earnest Graham fumble on their own 20, which saw the defense stand tall.
The Bucs first string offense was a different story. The offensive line looked like a disaster, excelling in neither pass blocking or run blocking. Luke McCown, who ran with the starting offense went 4/8 for 19 yards, and had several plays where he was hurried, leading to 2 carries for 14 yards. Neither Ward or Graham got going, combining for 10 yards on 8 carries.
Once the starters gave way, Leftwich and his long windup hooked up with Bryan Clark on a 24 yard TD pass to give the Bucs their first TD of the year. The defense would give up two first half field goals as the only points to hit the board for the TItans. Towards the end of the half, Leftwich moved the team down to field goal range where Mike Nugent would nail a 51 yard field goal. The end of the first half was the end of Leftwich's night, though he would go 6/14 for 61 yards and the TD.
While the backups were running, the defense for the Bucs still looked decent, minus one blown coverage. They also allowed a long TD run after having the running back stopped in the backfield.
The big story was how would future franchise QB Josh Freeman look. He was kept on a fairly short leash, but displayed a good arm and the ability to create some time with his legs. He threw mostly 6-8 yard passes and got into a rookie habit of staring down his target. This lead to an interception that was returned for a TD. He telegraphed the pass, the DB jumped the route, and it was the "Welcome to the NFL" moment we all hear about. All in all though, nothing to be discouraged by. 5 of 9 for 52 yards and the pick were Freeman's totals. Baby steps for young Freeman.
Josh Johnson also received some playing time and showed a live arm, good decision making and outstanding mobility. He completed three of his 5 passes for 15 yards, but the big play was created with his legs, as he scampered near untouched for a 43 yard TD run. He sure isnt making it easy for anyone to let him go.
The first string displayed some rust as the OL couldnt protect and the DL didnt get much pressure. Hopefully this is just a preseason/new scheme thing. Otherwise, we could be in trouble.
The 27-20 loss sends the Bucs to 0-1 and the Titans to 2-0 on the preseason. The Bucs next game is Saturday, August 22nd at Jacksonville. Keep your PC tuned to Buc Em for additional outlooks on the game, position grades, and thoughts stemming from the first live action of the year.