Buccaneers vs. Saints: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 42-17 Loss to New Orleans
So with the disappointing 2013 campaign at a close, what can we take away from a beatdown at the hands of their division rivals in New Orleans?
Apart from the fact that the Buccaneers aren't in the same class as their dominant division foes, the game was telling in regard to the ability of the head coach and quarterback in Tampa Bay, among other things.
But let's start with the rookie quarterback, who got off to a hot start against the Saints on Sunday.
1 of Mike Glennon’s Best Games
Mike Glennon took to the field in the first half of Sunday’s game and matched Drew Brees pass for pass. He picked up two touchdowns on the team’s first four drives and seemed to be in total command of the offense.
He made multiple throws that showed confidence in his receivers, which is something he struggled with earlier in the season. A tough throw to Tim Wright down the seam stands out as evidence that Glennon is growing in confidence.
The rookie from NC State also stood tall under pressure and didn’t allow himself to get scared by blitzes. He finished with 22 completions on 41 attempts with 219 yards and two touchdowns while throwing a second-half interception due to miscommunication.
The second half ruined his statistics for the day, as he had to throw with a huge deficit and saw receivers drop passes and slip on routes as if they had given up for the season.
Glennon’s future is likely tied to the fate of his head coach, but as I wrote for Bleacher Report after a Week 15 loss, he deserves a chance to show what he can do in an offense that isn’t managed by such a poor coaching staff.
2nd-Half Offensive Woes Continue
According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers actually improved their third-quarter scoring average on Sunday in disappointing fashion, scoring three points to improve the average to 2.1.
All season, Tampa Bay has failed on offense while giving away leads on defense during the second half. And Sunday against the Saints was no exception.
Glennon was not as sharp after halftime, the mistakes and penalties increased, and the scoring dried up as it normally does for Tampa Bay.
Offensive woes in the second half are nothing new for head coach Greg Schiano. As Adam Helfgott of Bleacher Report wrote back in 2008, this has been a problem for the former Rutgers coach since his time in New Jersey.
Nothing has changed for the head coach, who now sees the same sorts of struggles with his NFL team. Schiano’s stubborn systems and schemes have set back the Tampa Bay offense, and they are the reason why the Buccaneers rank last in the NFL in offense in 2013.
Running Game Is Too Inconsistent
The Buccaneers benefited from a trick play on a flea-flicker pass, which was set up by the Saints’ respect for the running game.
If only the Saints knew they had nothing to fear.
The Buccaneers were able to break a few decent runs, including an impressive carry by Brian Leonard that included a hurdle over a defender. But the running game was too inconsistent and would stall out a drive as often as it would extend one.
The team is using its fourth and fifth options at running back this season with Leonard and Bobby Rainey, so it’s tough to judge them too harshly.
But moving forward, the Buccaneers have to find a more consistent running attack. Mike Glennon is good when he’s able to use play-action passes, and defenses have trouble keeping up with offenses that can vary play-calling throughout the game.
Time of Possession Obsession Hurts Tampa Bay Offense
Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times opined earlier this season that Greg Schiano may be more focused on winning time of possession than winning the football game.
Sunday’s effort against the Saints may have been the proof.
To start the third quarter, the Buccaneers took more than eight minutes to drive down the field and score a field goal.
The Saints responded by driving 92 yards in around five minutes for a touchdown that would seal the Buccaneers’ fate.
Time of possession is a fine statistic, but as Bleeding Green Nation’s James Keane pointed out earlier this year, it’s not something coaches should strive for.
Keane points out that time of possession isn’t a “first order” statistic, and nothing a coach does in practice or during a game can directly impact time of possession. Coaches should instead focus on efficiency and protecting the football, as those will help a team win while also likely earn a good amount of possession.
However, for Schiano, it seems as if his obsession with time of possession hurts the offense. It also likely means even a new offensive coordinator in 2014 would spell the same lackluster output from the Buccaneers.
Breakdowns on Defense Cost the Buccaneers
Greg Schiano’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have steadily improved on defense since he arrived, but there are still signs of frustrating breakdowns and missed assignments that ruin otherwise solid play on the defensive side of the ball.
On Sunday, they allowed Kenny Stills to get behind the defense for an easy, long touchdown reception, and they also failed to contain Drew Brees, allowing the typically immobile quarterback to scramble for a touchdown.
This has been the case all season, as Tampa Bay has the talent on defense to match up with any offense but lacks the discipline and schemes to finish plays and avoid breakdowns.
Moving forward, the Buccaneers must be more consistent on defense and put more effort into basics like zone responsibilities and quarterback containment.
Awful Tackling by Keith Tandy and the Tampa Bay Defense
The Buccaneers were without starting strong safety Mark Barron, who has improved in his second season in the NFL.
In his place on Sunday was Keith Tandy, who didn’t have the most impressive game from a tackling perspective.
On two plays in quick succession on a New Orleans drive early in the game, Tandy seemed to slap and grab at offensive players rather than going for a tackle. In both cases, he allowed positive yardage as a result of his missed tackles.
The other defenders for Tampa Bay missed their fair share of tackles during the game, which has plagued the team all year long. The talent is there, but the execution has been lacking all season.
The Trick Plays Are Not Sustainable
The Buccaneers benefited from a trick play on offense early in the game on Sunday, hitting on a flea flicker for a long touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood.
But at the end of the first half, an inept attempt at a fake field goal left most fans scratching their heads as to what the Buccaneers were trying to do in a relatively close football game with an opportunity for a field goal.
The explanation from the head coach didn't help matters.
Speaking to the media at the postgame press conference, Greg Schiano told the assembled media that he “tried to catch them off guard without a timeout.” But with Tampa Bay having only two receivers going out for passes and a punter running hopelessly in the backfield, I’m not sure any team would have been caught off-guard.
Much like the failed end-around on a kickoff return against the San Francisco 49ers earlier this season, the trick plays that the Buccaneers have used once the season was lost are not a sustainable method of gaining momentum and winning football games.
Fire Greg Schiano
One would think that a head coach of a 4-12 football team would need to defend himself to fans who pay good money to watch his team play.
But not Greg Schiano.
“I don’t think I need to say anything,” he said in response to a press conference question about what he’d say to fans who question his performance in the aftermath of this dismal season.
He could say that he shows up every day to work and does the best he can, but if his best is only winning 11 games over his first 32 contests in charge, perhaps his best isn’t good enough for the NFL.
The stubborn schemes and lack of adjustments or adaptation to opposing game plans resulted in a talented team that is lacking in wins.
Schiano does not deserve a second chance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His record speaks for itself.