Tampa Bay's dress rehearsal did not go according to plan. The Buccaneers' starting offense looked awful, while the defense once again struggled to pressure the quarterback throughout the game, leading to a very narrow and ugly 17-16 win.
While the offense looked bad all-around, the defense wasn't consistently horrible. Despite the suspect pass rush the defense looked fairly solid despite missing Darrelle Revis and pulling Dashon Goldson and Gerald McCoy from the game early on. But the offense's lack of any production throughout the preseason has to be a real concern for the Buccaneers, even if Doug Martin was held out.
The Bucs started the game on defense, and promptly allowed the Miami Dolphins to drive to their 20-yard line before stiffening up with a ridiculous red zone series. It took Miami 10 plays to get a field goal, with multiple tackles for loss and stops for the Bucs defense. Akeem Spence, Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn looked especially good during that period.
But it wasn't the defense that got the team points. It was special teams, with two consecutive punts ending in turnovers going the Buccaneers' way. The Bucs got a Brian Leonard touchdown on one of them, and a field goal on the other, giving them a 10-3 lead. Freeman struggled early on, although most of it wasn't his fault: Vincent Jackson had one drop, and the offensive line struggled throughout. Gabe Carimi at left guard and Donald Penn at left tackle looked especially bad, the latter giving up two sacks.
Freeman's struggles were highlighted by him just dropping the football during the two-minute drive after a couple of good passes. The Dolphins recovered, drove down the field and took a 13-10 lead. They had gotten a field goal back as a result of a big punt return and another red zone stop for the Bucs earlier on.
The starting Tampa Bay offense missed Carl Nicks and Doug Martin and had Davin Joseph for just a couple of series, but looked awful overall. It managed just 63 plays on 27 first half play, and it didn't get much better in the second half, starting with a three-and-out and being forced to punt on the next drive, too. To be fair, the receivers weren't helping out Freeman, with a couple of drops on some quality passes, too. The pass blockers gave up four sacks as well.
Overall, though, it was just a horrible performance by Freeman. Inconsistent (or more, awful) with his accuracy and even stepping up into a sack on a couple of occasions. He ended the night with 6 completions on 16 passes for 59 yards, with four sacks. Yikes.
Somehow, though, the Buccaneers did manage to get a chance to win the game at the end as Sean Baker picked up a fumble forced by William Gholston, and ran it back 55 yards into Dolphins territory. Peyton Hillis then got the Bucs into the red zone, where Mike Glennon finished it off with an easy crossing route to David Douglas, who could walk into the endzone untouched. That finished up an ugly offensive display on at least one positive note.
The defense finally finished off the Dolphins, with a Steven Means sack and a Keith Tandy interception being the final notable plays. His first sack of the season, and the fourth Tampa Bay sack of the game. Ugly offense, solid defense. Buc Ball is back, I guess.
Akeem Spence had a very good game as the starting nose tackle, holding his ground in the middle and even getting into the backfield a couple of times. He looks like he could be an upgrade on Roy Miller, incredibly.
Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn both looked good, and Clayborn actually had a better game than I saw him have at any point last year. He regularly beat Jonathan Martin at left tackle and got into the backfield on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who couldn't make an impact and was starting over Da'Quan Bowers.
Special teams fumble recoveries. Lucky, but the Bucs got two of those on a rainy field. Overall, special teams looked good, although they did give up a big 38-yard return. And Rian Lindell hit his field goals.
Red zone defense. Twice the starting Miami offense got in the red zone, and they walked away with a combined two field goals. The defense was otherwise a bit up and down, with Leonard Johnson getting targeted a lot, but the Bucs held their own inside the red zone.
Trevor Scott managed three sacks, somehow. He was signed this week and it does look like he's making a quick push to make the roster, and even get some playing time. Bowers should have been credited with the sack on the second of those three sacks, however.
Da'Quan Bowers didn't get the start, again, despite playing better than Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, again. I'm not sure what Greg Schiano's problem is with Da'Quan Bowers, but it can't have anything to do with the tape. Bowers is the better player and should be the starter.
Vincent Jackson had another drop and generally hasn't made plays this preseason. We'll see if that keeps up, and I highly doubt it, but it's something to be a little concerned about.
Donald Penn and Gabe Carimi looked like a bad combination on the left side of the offensive line. Donald Penn gave up two sacks early in the game. In fact, the entire Bucs offense early in the game looked bad.
Josh Freeman's accuracy. It was bad, again. He was overthrowing guys or leading them too far, and even skipping a pass into the dirt McNabb style. It just wasn't very good, and that's a real concern as that was his biggest issue last year.
Giving Da'Quan Bowers just a handful of snaps in the first half. You want him to be an every down player, right? Why is Trevor Scott getting more snaps than him.
Ugly, ugly line stunts. Not all stunts are bad, but a bunch of them are. And the stunt on the Brandon Gibson touchdown was one of the worst I've ever seen. Everyone was crossing multiple faces on what was going to be a quick play, since it was inside the red zone. Just bad.
The entire starting offense. Ew. That includes Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, both of whom came up with some drops and failed to make the tough catches. In fact, every Buccaneers seemed to struggle catching passes, both good and bad.
More from Bucs Nation:
- Darrelle Revis will not play against Dolphins, Joseph will
- Buccaneers vs. Dolphins: Tampa Bay Roster Cheat Sheet
- Buccaneers vs. Dolphins preseason 2013: Six things to watch when Tampa Bay is on defense
- Buccaneers vs. Dolphins Preview: Six things to watch on offense
- Buccaneers Fantasy Preview: Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Josh Freeman