Ok so I'm a little under the weather today so obviously no Bull Rush post. So I have made an executive decision to just write everything I'm going to write about the Bucs vs Ravens game in one post almost in a stream of consciousness style and then put the individual D Line break down at the end. I expect it will be longish and I expect some folks may not like it. And I expect I don't care all that much at this point but I'll still do my best.
I think its best if I go by offense/defense and then the breakdowns so guess what, that's what I'm going to do.
-After the game I had an interesting back and forth with one of the Bucs fans who follow me and has been a loyal reader of my blog since last year. His contention was that Greg Olsen's offensive game plan was lacking and that it played a major part in the loss.
I didn't agree with him and in fact I thought it was one of Olsen's better game plans of the season. Understand that I'm not really an Olsen fan and I have called him out previously on this very same blog, so me giving him any props isn't what you would call normal. But watching the game live I thought he committed to running the ball and he called down hill runs which our O Line is much better at blocking. I also thought he dialed up some good play action passes that they just didn't end up converting. It was my belief right after the game that it was the execution that was lacking, not the game plan.
Turns out others evidently also were questioning Olsen's playcalling judging by local sports talk radio and questions lobbed at Coach Morris by the papers. Obviously this was something worth looking into more closely.
So I watch the game again and...
I haven't changed my mind AT ALL. In fact if anything I'm even more convinced now that the game plan was sound. But I also realize that if people watched the game on TV the announcers kept harping on the game plan and offering up the opinion that the Bucs should have gone to a no huddle or a "sugar huddle" (what ever the eff that means) to change the tempo of the game.
Well first let me address the no huddle deal. It's true the Bucs could have gone to a no huddle offense and I can respect people who have that opinion. But here are the facts about that. Fact number one is that the Falcons who were most effective at it DID IT AT HOME. Obviously its going to be easier to run a no huddle offense when you in a dome and your fans aren't screaming at the top of their lungs to disrupt your communication. Fact number two is that the Bucs started going no huddle with 7:43 left in the game. They had an opportunity for a touchdown with 6:19 remaining when Michael Spurlock dropped the touchdown. If they score with that much time left would anybody be saying they should have started the no huddle sooner? Fact number three is that the drive preceding the one that started with 7:43 left in the game started with 14:15 left in the game. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Bucs didn't think it would be wise to go no huddle for the whole fourth quarter. And fact number four is that the Ravens are a team that is built around defense. If you think that running a no huddle is some kind of magical cure to beating them or that they can't still dial up blitzes against a no huddle you are out of your mind. Going no huddle earlier may have helped but it also could have gotten Josh Freeman killed, especially if the offensive linemen had bad communication.
Now that we got that out of the way let me also talk about Freeman's performance. I know Coach Morris and Freeman himself said he was "off". But I don't know if fans or even some media knows what they meant by that. I would guess that some would take it to mean his accuracy was "off" and in a few circumstances it in fact was. But after watching the game three times what was really off about Freeman was his reads.
Understand that Freeman was getting pressured most of the day so he wasn't always able to go through all of his progressions downfield. But there were times when I felt like presnap he should have had a good idea of who would be open but either didn't hit them or scrambled at a time when the rush didn't really call for it. Of course its easy for me to say that from my couch and I know its different when you are in that pocket and a bunch of 300 pound guys are trying to rip your head off, but I can only go by what I see on the tape.
And this goes back to the argument about the game plan. People see Freeman take a shot down the field on 3rd and 2 and they figure "why in the hell is the Olsen calling that play?!". Not realizing that there were other routes being run, and many times other guys who were open for a first down but Freeman just chose to go for the deep ball.
Now I like Freeman a lot. I think the maturity he has shown this year has been amazing. I also believe he is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league already. But I want to go through some plays during the game, not to throw him under the bus at all, but to illustrate to people who may not know what other options there were available to him.
-10:10 in the first quarter, 3rd and 3. Freeman feels some pressure so he rolls right and throws deep to Mike Williams but it goes incomplete. Nothing wrong with taking a shot early in the game but he over threw Williams who was indeed open. At the same time Michael Spurlock is running a shallow crossing route from his left and he is open for a first down. Don't know if he would catch it but he is open. Whether it was the roll or the read Freeman chose not to throw it to him though.
-6:44, first quarter, 1st and 10. Freeman takes another shot downfield to Arrelious Benn but again over throws the receiver. At the same time Ryan Purvis was wide open in the flat as the Ravens did not adjust when he motioned out.
-2:58, first quarter, 1st and 10. Its a play action pass but damn near every offensive lineman gets beat and once again Freeman has to roll to his right. He ends up throwing the ball away which I have NO problem with. But at the same time John Gilmore slipped out into a route and he was open for a nice little dump off.
-8:56, second quarter, 1st and 10. The left corner for the Ravens was giving the wide receivers a lot of cushion all day. On this play he was at least 7 or 8 yards off. Benn runs about a 7 yard stop route and is wide open. But instead Freeman throws a swing pass to Cadillac Williams which nets about 2 yards. Now this is a play where I believe good quarterbacks see that cushion and automatically hit the WR and let them work. Its definitely what the Ravens did to the Bucs when they played off coverage. But again maybe that wasn't the read.
-6:18, second quarter, 2nd and 7. This was an opportunity for a touchdown. Williams and Benn lined up on the same side with Benn in the slot. Benn ran a skinny post and Freeman tried to hit him in the seam but he couldn't come down with it. However Benn attracted the underneath coverage and the safety while Williams was running his own skinny post. Williams ended up inside the corner and WIDE open. I honestly don't know how he doesn't score there if the ball is thrown to him.
-2:15, second quarter, 2nd and 13. The Ravens blitz and Mo Stovall runs a hot route at about five yards and he's wide open because the corner has once again given a lot of cushion. Freeman however throws to the other side to Williams who is bracketed by underneath and over the top coverage. Thankfully he saw it and made sure it wasn't an interception by throwing it low and outside. But Stovall was good for at least 8-10 yards.
-10:51, third quarter, 3rd and 2. This was the one time all game when I thought Freeman ran when he didn't actually have to. The Ravens ran a pass rush game against the right side of the Bucs' offensive line but it appeared they had it picked up. But for whatever reason Freeman decided to roll to his right again and he tried to hit Caddy in the flat but couldn't. Now it may have been that the play was designed to go to Caddy to begin with because they had both WRs on the right side run crossing routes and then he snuck through the line to go to the right flats. Maybe it was their way of getting him open in space. I don't know.
What I do know is that Ray Lewis ended up picking up Caddy which I'm sure made Freeman nervous about throwing to him and at the same time Sammie Stroughter was open for a first down running the shallow crosser the other way.
-7:04, third quarter, 2nd and 6. Once again the left corner is in off coverage. This time its Williams that runs about a 5-6 yard stop and is wide open. But Freeman decides to try Stroughter in the slot on a skinny post. In fairness Stroughter was open but the pass was a bit off. Still Williams probably gets a first down and then some with his ability to run after the catch.
-2:30, third quarter, 3rd and 2. Bucs line up in a trips bunch formation and it appears that Stroughter is open at the sticks after they all scatter. But Freeman once again feels the pressure and rolls right and almost throws an interception trying to flip it to Caddy.
-12:16, fourth quarter, 3rd and 2. Freeman takes another shot downfield to Spurlock. And Spurlock is once again open on a go route but the ball is just a bit over thrown. At the same time Stroughter gets inside the safety who is lined up on him in the slot man to man and he is absolutely open for the first down.
Now this is the ultimate in Monday Morning Quarterbacking and I understand that. I don't mean to say that Freeman was wrong in all of these situations or even in any of them. The point is that while he may have taken shots down the field that doesn't mean Olsen wasn't calling plays where guys were open for the first down. You never want to take away a quarterback's aggressiveness as long as he isn't throwing into coverage. But the fact remains that just because a bomb was thrown it doesn't mean that was the only route being run.
I personally thought we ran the ball better than expected against the Ravens. We didn't get a ton of yards but LeGarrette Blount and Caddy made their presence felt several times. One thing that killed some drives was penalties though. For whatever reason Kellen Winslow jumped several times and when he wasn't getting penalties he was getting abused by the Ravens defense when he tried to block in the running game. He had a couple of nice catches including a touchdown but overall I thought he had a pretty bad game.
For the offensive line to be as patchwork as it is I thought they performed at a decent level. I thought Donald Penn was outstanding most of the day both run and pass blocking. I thought James Lee held his own at right tackle as did Jeremy Zuttah who was pressed into service at right guard. Ted Larsen did get over powered a bit by Haloti Ngata but hell who doesn't? The offensive line wasn't great but I thought they played winning football for the most part.
I don't really know what to say about the defense. On the one hand they held the Ravens to 17 points and they had an outstanding interception by Aqib Talib and they also came home with 4 sacks including 3 by the defensive line.
On the other hand they blitzed something like 25 times and many times those blitzes were ineffective. There was one situation where Stylez G. White went to drop and ran right into Ronde Barber who was trying to blitz. And of course there was the blitz and the end where somehow Tim Crowder ended up one on one in space with Ray Rice with the game on the line and the defense needing a stop which ended up with Rice getting a first down. Not only did the Bucs go back to using the 3-3-5 extensively, they even went to a 2-4-5 with only two defensive lineman in the game several times. Now I can't say it wasn't somewhat effective but it just drives me crazy seeing Gerald McCoy getting two sacks rushing from an undertackle position but then getting limited reps there because of all these other formations they are sticking him in. But it is what it is at this point.
On another note Barrett Ruud is a guy whom I have defended from what I feel like are baseless knocks against him. But at the end of the game, again when the defense needed a stop, he inexplicably was not in his gap on a one back trap and the result was Rice cutting back where he should have been for a first down. He had a decent game otherwise but you can't be out of position like that when the game is on the line.
I have watched the play where the Ravens tight end Todd Heap catches the 65 yard touchdown and in my mind there is only one explanation. Everyone in the secondary appears to be playing cover 2. Everyone that is but Sabby Piscitelli. He rolled up in the box and then kind of stood flat footed at the snap while Heap ran right by him. I don't know how he ended up that out of position but with both corners rolled up and with Sean Jones on the opposite hash at cover 2 depth its hard to see how the call was anything but cover 2.
No matter what it was an embarrassing play on a day when the defense didn't play bad at all otherwise.
The pass interference on Myron Lewis was a horseshit call. But at the same time I think Coach Morris losing his cool about it might have had a negative effect. We have all heard by now about the verbal altercation between Talib and a ref after the game over the call. I can't help but wonder if Talib felt he was taking his cues from his head coach. Now I love Coach Morris' enthusiasm and see nothing wrong with it, but there are times when adversity hits and in my opinion the head coach has to stay calm so the rest of the team will follow suit. Just my two cents.
Again, it WAS a horseshit call though.
On a positive note the Bucs held the Ravens to less than 100 yards rushing. So there's that.
Now to the individual defensive line breakdowns.
Tim Crowder: I thought Crowder played well with a sack and 3 other tackles. He had to drop so many times he probably felt like a db by the time the game was over. One thing I did notice is that when the Bucs were going to blitz with their four defensive line rush package in with Crowder, White, McCoy and Michael Bennett in they put Crowder at end instead of defensive tackle. That's a tip off that other teams may end up being able to pick up on. Not a good thing.
Gerald McCoy: McCoy had the first multiple sack game of his young career and both rushes were outstanding. On the first sack he beat a double team by the offensive tackle and guard for the sack. On the second he bullrushed and then came off the block inside for the sack. I honestly don't think they could have blocked him one on one all day but again unfortunately he didn't get all that many opportunities to rush from a 3 technique. Still there is no denying that the young man is coming on strong and I think folks who were calling him a bust early on will end up with quite a bit of egg on their faces. Oh he also contributed another tackle by my count and held up well against several double teams.
Roy Miller: Gotta say that Roy is back on track now. He isn't getting pushed around near as much as he was earlier in the season and by my count the guy had 4 tackles and 3 assists on the day. That's damned impressive for a nosetackle/part time 3 technique. He even had a good rush through a double team. The only negative on him for the day was the offsides penalty but I'll take that as a trade off for all that production.
Stylez G. White: Stylez had 2 tackles 2 pressures and 2 hits on the quarterback by my count. I thought he played well but he probably could have made a couple of inside moves to get more pressure on Joe Flacco. Another reason why it was frustrating to watch all the blitzing and 3-3-5s and 2-4-5s was that the starting offensive tackle Michael Oher got hurt and I thought White could have really taken advantage of his backup if he had some more one on one pass rush opportunities. I'll let it go one day I suppose lol.
Mike Bennett: Bennett had a really good physical tackle coming off a tight ends block a couple of good rushes and a hit on the quarterback. One thing I wish I could say to Bennett is to lay off the finesse stuff. He is a guy who I believe should be throwing fastballs just about every play. I'd love if he would just stick to one of three moves. A speed rip around the corner, a bull rush to a rip, or a quick inside move. The last couple of games he has started doing all these stutter and go moves which look good but aren't really all that successful. He should be putting tremendous stress on every right tackle he faces because most of the time they aren't all that athletic. I guess I just see so much of what that kid could be that its hard watching him not doing it every Sunday. But I have a feeling that his time is coming soon.
Al Woods: I had Woods down for 2 tackles. I thought he played extremely well in spot duty and held up well at the point. Its funny because the Ravens were supposed to out physical the Bucs but I personally didn't see it at all.
Alex Magee: I had Magee with an assisted tackle on a really good hustle play. He didn't have a whole lot of production but it appeared that he did his job while he was in there.
Well that's all for now. I'm still a little sick so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing the rest of the week so hopefully this will tide you over. If not...oh well lol.
See you in the comments section!