After reviewing the Bucs' win on Sunday over the Seahawks, it doesn't really lend itself to my normal The Good, The Bad, The Ugly breakdown. So instead I will just toss out some random thoughts.
1. If you have read this blog for any length of time you know how hard I ride Geno Hayes. Now make no mistake about it, Geno was the defensive MVP on Sunday. Talk about filling up a stat sheet, the guy had a sack, an interception, several big tackles and generally he was all over the field. Hell some of his best plays wouldn't even show up in the stat sheet, for instance when he ran through a running back's block and almost got to Seahawks quarterback Matt Hassleback on a blitz. But still, having said all that, I still have to wonder what in hell he was doing on one running play where we got gashed.
We were in an over defense with the safety rolled down to the tight end. The Seahawks ran a basic fullback lead play strong where by the fullback leads up on our middle linebacker, Barrett Ruud after running through the strong side A gap and then the running back cuts off that block. Now because we had our safety rolled down to that side what should have happened is that Ruud takes on the fullback and the safety covers the outside cut of the running back, while Geno hangs back in the weakside B gap which is the only place left for the running back to go. But inexplicably Geno runs strongside to get in the same gap where Ruud and in this case Sabby Piscetelli already are and there is nobody at all in the B gap.
Guess where the running back ran.
You guessed it, the B gap.
Its funny because I happened to be listening to 620 AM WDAE last night and they had Ronde Barber on for their "Total Access" show and he was talking about Geno Hayes and he said, paraphrasing, that as many splash plays as he makes, he still makes some quote "boneheaded" plays as well. And this was another example of it. Now obviously it didn't cost us the game or anything, but this is what I mean when I say he has to get in his playbook more. When he is able to make the normal easy plays AS WELL as the big splash plays on a consistent basis, the sky will be the limit for that guy.
2. Jerammy Stevens showed up to play on Sunday. I don't know if it was because he was playing his old team, or if he was tired of getting called out, but Stevens actually blocked his ass off on Sunday. He was actually a big reason as to why we were able to run the ball so well, especially in the second half. But here is the thing about that, once you show on film that you are capable of having that type of game, then that is something you had better do EVERY week. See for me, it was never about whether or not he could block. Hell I have seen him block well his first couple of years here. Its about whether he was getting the job done this year, and he decidedly was not and the running game suffered for it. So whatever it was that motivated him to go out there and bust his ass on Sunday had better motivate him these last two games as well. Otherwise he is a prime candidate to be seeking other employment after the season ends.
3. The Demar Dotson experiment at tight end had some mixed results. Dotson blocked his ass off and at times drove his guy 5 yards or more down the field. However he had a penalty for not reporting and several times for whatever reason they ran the ball away from him instead of behind him and the results were not great. They didn't actually use him a lot in the second half and we were still able to run the ball pretty well, however I hope they continue to get him involved because the guy was an asset on Sunday. If we can nail down the little things like getting him to report on every play and actually calling running plays in his direction when he is in then he will make a difference these next two games when we run the ball.
4. It was really nice to see Josh Freeman bounce back from his early interception. One reason why in my estimation is that they kept him under center for just about every early down and only used the shotgun on 3rd down plays. To me this accomplished a few things. For one it kept the defense honest because the threat of the down hill running game is still there. For two throwing out of the shotgun requires that a quarterback take his eyes off of what is going on down field for a half a second in order to catch the ball. By dropping back from center he is able to see what the opposing secondary is doing as he is taking his drop steps and can deliver the ball quicker when he sees a guy who is open. The fact that we committed to the run so heavily also helped him tremendously in my opinion.
5. It was good to see the Moore boys, Kyle and Dre, get some more playing times against the Seahawks. You can see them getting more comfortable with the scheme with the additional playing time and both guys made some pretty good plays. My only question is where in the world is Michael Bennett? I know he was injured for a time but if the guy is healthy I really liked his potential rushing from the defensive end position.
6. You have to wonder what kind of year Tanard Jackson would be having had he not been suspended the first four games. He got his 4th interception of the year on Sunday and he has been a ball hawk all year. He has also been pretty physical in the running game (when he isn't missing tackles) and he looks to be one of the great young safties again in the NFL. I think the future is bright for that guy.
7. Some guys on our team are so steady that they don't get recognized as much as they should. Ronde Barber is one of those guys and he had a hell of a game on Sunday. He didn't make the pretty splash plays like some others did, but he was great in pass coverage and in run support. I really think he has been the glue that has held our defense together at times this year, and I just wanted to take the time out to acknowledge that.
8. Over the last week or so the local sports media has settled on a narrative that losing left guard Aaron Spears because of his mystery absence this year was the major factor in our offensive line "under achieving". I reject that narrative for several reasons. First of all while I like Sears and he has played well as a starter, its not like he was a world beater playing at a Pro Bowl level. Also even though Jeremy Zuttah has had some issues in pass protection in certain games, the guy hasn't been a bum. He has played well most of the year and might have had his best game on Sunday. For three I will point out again that for most of this season our tight ends have been the big failure in the running game, not our offensive line. Now you won't find me defending Jeremy Trueblood's boneheaded penalties but as far as his play he hasn't been any worse, or better for that matter than he has been in previous seasons. He is who he is, and so if people were expecting better, they must not have been paying attention. I also feel the need to point out that our left tackle, Donald Penn, has been playing at a definite Pro Bowl year all year, and right guard Davin Joseph has at least played at his same level this year has he did last year when he actually did make it in as a Pro Bowler. Maybe the one position that has had some problems was the center position, and that was only because Jeff Faine was hurt early in the season. For whatever reason managment decided to bring in a swinging gate to replace him in Sean Mahan and the results were pretty disasterous. But aside from those handful of games early in the season, our center position hasn't been a liability. People looking at the stats of our quarterbacks getting sacked have to realize how much teams have been blitzing us on 3rd downs, how much our young quarterbacks have just held on to the ball too long and how the play calling has put the offensive line at a disadvantage because of how rarely we keep a tight end to block or use a running back to help chip on edge rushers. Aside from Trueblood, our offensive line hasn't been the problem this year. Take it however you want to.
9. On Sunday a milestone was reached in a dissappointing year of football in Tampa Bay. Kellen Winslow Jr passed Jackie Harris on the single season reception list for tight ends for the Bucs. That Winslow could pull that off in a season where he had to play with 3 different quarterbacks and where we only generated 2 wins so far speaks well of both his abilities and his efforts. For as many moves as the Bucs front office will be pilloried for, and rightly so, from this year, bringing in Winslow has to be something that people acknowledge was a great deal. And I know some folks will have short memories, but I vividly recall that not a lot of people were sold on the move at least initially. Me personally I am sitting here thinking, if that guy can put up those kinds of numbers in such a chaotic season, what kind of damage might he do next year if and when we get this train back on the right track? Such thoughts definitely bring a smile to my face as a former Buccanneer and now an avid Bucs fan.
10. Sunday saw the return of one of our "attitude" plays in the running game on offense. After a year that saw our offense try to shift to a zone blocking scheme that never really fit our offensive linemen, we went back to the old trusty fullback isolation play or "Iso" for short. Anybody that has played here over the last decade or more knows was an "Iso" play is. Its when you allow a couple of double teams up front and you send your fullback straight up into the line to block a linebacker and you have your running back come down hill and make a cut and get all he can get. There isn't a lot of lateral movement and there aren't any disguises. Its a right up the gut, here we come now stop us kind of play. We were hitting the Seahawks for 4 or 5 yards almost every time we ran that play and I hope we dial it up even more this week at the Saints. Its one of those plays that is generally going to get you positive yards when you have a big physical offensive line and a big physical fullback. Earnest Graham has been doing an excellent job at fullback since taking over in the early part of the year, but I have to say that Chris Pressly brings a little bit more physicality in the run game and he was dominating on those plays. I for one think its time we saw a backfield with Pressly at fullback and Graham at tailback, especially down near the goalline. I think this will help us punch the ball in the endzone with a great deal of regularity, much like when we had Lorenzo Neal and Mike Alstott in the backfield back in the day. But I digress. Here is a diagram of the "Iso" play we ran on Sunday:
Well that's all for this week. Hopefully I will have a bunch of other good things to talk about next week after we shock the world and beat the Saints in New Orleans!