Buccaneers vs. Rams: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 23-13 Loss to St. Louis
The Buccaneers don't need to change the talent on defense, which has been incredible all season. Nor do they need to make huge changes on offense, which will see the return to health of multiple stars next year.
The changes must come in terms of scheme and coaching.
So what can the owners and front office of the Buccaneers learn about their franchise moving forward after Sunday's disappointing loss?
It starts with the rookie under center and his struggles to cope with the pressure of being an NFL quarterback.
Mike Glennon’s Hesitation Hurts the Tampa Bay Offense
Mike Glennon’s rookie season has been memorable in large part because he’s avoided making mistakes while leading the team on quite a few scoring drives.
In fact, Greg Schiano previously praised Glennon for letting a “bad play die,” according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
But it’s that same mistake-free mentality which seems to feed into Glennon’s hesitance in the pocket and leads to unneeded sacks and throwaways.
As Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation pointed out during the game against St. Louis, Glennon seems hesitant to even throw the ball away, which is something he did well in college.
On Sunday, Glennon was punished for holding onto the football too long on multiple occasions, including a fumble on 3rd-and-short in the fourth quarter in a seven-point game.
There has been a lot of discussion as to whether or not Glennon is the future at quarterback for the Buccaneers. If he continues to be this hesitant, he’ll never survive in the NFL.
Taking sacks and missing open receivers leaves points on the field, which is something that simply cannot happen in today’s high-scoring NFL.
Inconsistency on the Offensive Line Leads to Struggles
Ever since Carl Nicks was sidelined with an MRSA infection in his foot, the Buccaneers have tried a handful of players at left guard to take his place.
Jamon Meredith seemed to have settled in to the position, starting a few games in a row, but on Sunday against the Rams, he was benched for Ted Larsen during the first half.
The interior of the offensive line for Tampa Bay, and the guards specifically, have been weak all year, with Davin Joseph not living up to his Pro Bowl history and Carl Nicks sidelined with injuries and infections.
Moving forward, the Buccaneers will need more consistency on the offensive line and may need to make some changes in the offseason to improve at the position. Because no matter who lines up under center for the Bucs, they need a line to keep the quarterback upright and to set the table for the running game.
The Running Game Doesn’t Work Against Good Defenses
As Rick Brown of the Lakeland Ledger pointed out earlier this season, Greg Schiano’s offensive philosophy is to "run, run and run the ball more."
In fact, the Buccaneers have seen all of their success this season since a renewed focus was placed on the running game at the start of November after Mike Glennon threw 51 times in a home loss to Carolina.
But it’s become quite evident that the Buccaneers simply cannot run the football against good rushing defenses. Apart from an outlier of a game against Seattle, the Buccaneers have not eclipsed 80 yards as a team against top-15 rushing defenses (coming into Week 16) this season (Jets, Cardinals, Panthers, Lions, 49ers, Rams).
If the Buccaneers want to succeed in the future, they’ll have to learn how to balance their offense against tough defenses.
Mike Glennon cannot beat a defense on his own, and the Buccaneers have too much talent at running back between Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey not to succeed on the ground in the future.
In 2014, the Buccaneers must find a way to run against good defenses.
Buccaneers Benefit from St. Louis Mistakes, Could Not Turn Them into a Victory
The Buccaneers picked up their first touchdown of the game thanks to a St. Louis penalty early in the drive, which gave them a free 15 yards.
In previous weeks, that would have been the story about the Buccaneers' opponents, benefiting from the league-leading number of penalties Tampa Bay commits.
But offsides, and pass-interference penalties for the Rams helped the Buccaneers on their three scoring drives, which is encouraging for Tampa Bay fans who finally got to see their team benefit from opponents' mistakes.
The Buccaneers made mistakes of their own, but for a team which creates so many turnovers and yet still struggles to score points, it is important to take advantage of an opponent’s mistakes.
Tampa Bay committed only three penalties on Sunday, compared to seven for 85 yards from the Rams.
It wasn't enough to earn a victory because the offense wasn't good enough to outscore St. Louis. But Tampa Bay fans must take encouragement from the fact that they were on the good side of a few mistakes on Sunday.
Gerald McCoy Is Approaching Warren Sapp Status
Usually when a player becomes “fifth best” in a statistical category, it’s not worth talking about for more than a second or two.
But when a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers approaches the top of the sack leaderboard at his position, it’s time to take note.
As Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com points out, Gerald McCoy has moved into fifth on the Buccaneers' defensive tackle sack list, which puts him squarely in the discussion as the best defensive tackle in the NFL.
Why? Because he’s entered Warren Sapp territory.
McCoy has been virtually unstoppable this season, getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks every week and being held and tackled by offensive linemen to prevent him from adding up even more sacks.
And with nine sacks, he leads the 2013 Buccaneers and has proven that when he’s healthy, he’s a dominant force on par with the Hall of Fame defensive tackle he now chases for sack records in Tampa Bay, Warren Sapp.
Lavonte David Continues His Impressive Season
As Gil Arcia of The Bay Cave pointed out on Twitter, if Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David doesn’t make the Pro Bowl, the system probably needs to be adjusted.
He continued his incredible season on Sunday, racking up 11 tackles (including two for a loss), recovering a fumble and nearly coming away with another fumble recovery on a chasedown play when he ripped the ball away from tight end Jared Cook.
Along with Gerald McCoy, David has emerged as a superstar on defense who will anchor the Tampa Bay defense for years to come. Heading into next season, the Buccaneers must continue to surround these stars with good role players on defense and a much better offense than the 32nd-ranked unit they have now.
The Buccaneers Missed an Opportunity to Beat a Team on Their Level
The St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot in common.
Both teams are playing with backup quarterbacks, and on Sunday, both were missing key young receivers as well.
Both teams had positive turnover margins coming into the game and were the only teams in the NFL with losing records despite a positive turnover differential.
And both teams are playing for pride, as they’re not in the playoff discussion this late in the season.
So for the Buccaneers to fall short in this game means they missed an opportunity to win a game that would prove they’ve got the ingredients to win in the future.
The offense for Tampa Bay was lacking, and the defense couldn’t do enough to slow down the Rams, who added a rookie running back and a group of relative unknowns at receiver to their backup quarterback.
All in all, this game was a missed opportunity for the Buccaneers, who now must defeat the New Orleans Saints on the road to pick up a fifth win of the season.
The Buccaneers and Greg Schiano Failed to Make a Statement
Gil Arcia of The Bay Cave posted on Twitter during Sunday’s game that the final six quarters of the season would be very important for Greg Schiano.
And Schiano failed his first test.
The Buccaneers continued a trend of poor second-half performances on Sunday, as they scored only three points and saw a poor snap on third down in the two-minute drill end their hopes of a comeback.
Mistakes, penalties and poor offense have plagued the Buccaneers this season, which was supposed to be a year of contending for the playoffs under Schiano with an improved defense.
But Sunday saw the Buccaneers allow a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 2013, and that signaled what fans have seen all season in Tampa Bay: Every week, the team has found a new way to disappoint.
The Buccaneers are too talented of a team to have only four wins. Greg Schiano doesn’t deserve another chance with this incredible roster.