Six games into the season, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have surpassed their win total from all of last year. Now that is some progress. Everyone in the organization deserves credit for turning around the franchise in this quick a manner. Although a lot of work still has to be done, its nice to see the team competitive once again. And as fans, that's all we can ask for. We want to come home from a long week of work, sit on the couch, and watch the Bucs compete and be in contention for victories. Last year was a complete nightmare to witness, but there is now hope going forward that there will be meaningful football in January. The latest victory came in dramatic fashion, as the Bucs overcame a 14 point deficit a home to topple the St. Louis Rams. Let's take a look at how each unit fared in this nail-biting contest.
Until the game's final drive, it had been a frustrating day for the Buccaneers offense. They only had 232 yards of total offense and four field goals against an average Rams defense. But it wasn't all gloom and doom for the unit, as Josh Freeman led the team on a 81 yard drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to win the game. LeGarrette Blount provided a spark in the running game that has captured the attention of coaches and fans. He should see an increased workload against the Arizona Cardinals next week after having 12 carries for 119 yards on Sunday if you include the bonehead play by Jeremy Trueblood that negated a 47 yard scamper. Freeman did a nice job of buying time with making plays with his legs himself, as he 5 recorded carries netted 40 yards. Freeman was inaccurate in spots again, but did not throw an interception (although a few were dropped) and now has just 3 picks in 199 pass attempts. Not bad for such a young player that is slowly improving on a weekly basis. The penalties killed any momentum the offense tried to build, a surprising problem considering the team has been quite disciplined so far in 2010. More growing pains were on display for the offense, but when the game was on the line they came through with an excellent effort.
Why does this keep happening? The Bucs were gashed for run after run in the first half, and fell behind 17-6 at halftime. Then all of a sudden, the defense comes out in the second half and limits the Rams to 4 punts on 4 drives and 75 total yards. Raheem Morris must have some sort of jedi mind trick ability or some incredible motivational speech tactics to turn things around. If I'm having a bad start to the day, I want to hear whatever it is he is saying to the team, because if he can improve the defensive performance that much during a 15 minute break at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon, then give me some of that. In the Buccaneers 4 wins this season, they have allowed a total of 11 points in the second half, and all of those were in game against the Bengals. It was a little disappointing not to get a few more turnovers against Sam Bradford, but he did a good job limiting his mistakes. Aqib Talib dropped a pair of interception opportunities in the end zone, but they did not give up a long pass play for the first time this season. There was little pass rush to speak of, and now the sack total currently stands at 5 through six games. Awesome.
Special Teams: C+
Nothing of great importance happened in the kick and punt return games, so it's time to praise Conner Barth for his performance. He was 4/4 on the day, and helped the Bucs score points when they couldn't find the end zone. He is 10/12 on the season, and will need to keep it going because the team will most likely be in a lot of tight contests. The Bucs were dead last in field goal kicking a year ago (61.5 %), so having stability in the kicking game is certainly not taken for granted. Robert Malone was solid in the punting game, pinning the Rams deep on several occasions. The coverage units were solid as usual.
Overall: Watching this honestly felt like witnessing a AA baseball game (not a empty stadium joke). There were a few blue chip prospects (Freeman, Bradford, Williams, Long), but the game was played as a much slower pace than the better teams in the league, and the mistakes cost both teams dearly (they combined for 18 penalties for 137 yards). Freeman's heroics saved the team once again and he continues to develop into a future star. However the offense ranks 29th at 16.3 points per game, something that will have to improve if they want to get to the team's stated goal of 10 wins. If the running game can get going with Blount, it will only make Freeman more effective in the passing game. The problems on the defensive side of the ball are hard to diagnose because of their Jekyll and Hyde nature in each half of football, but it's clear that the defensive line has to win the battle in the trenches more often if they want to be a consistent unit. Overall, it was another dramatic victory that will provide the team momentum as they play 4 out of their next 5 contests on the road.