The game against the Falcons seemed to be one of futility. In general, the Bucs just seemed to be a little off, whether it was on offense (QB, RB to the hole, etc...), defense (over pursuit, missed tackles, breaking down in containment, a little slow to the ball, etc...), and on special teams (missed field goal, missed blocks on returns, etc...). The end result wasn't very pretty. So here I'll breakdown the individual units in gut wrenching fashion.
Well, unlike last week, the offense actually moved the ball at times, but either stalled or turned the ball over. Many have blamed Simms; many have blamed Gruden. So who's at fault? Both. Simms has his stake in this mess by continuing to have some problems with slow reads and passes thrown without confidence. The result was dropped balls, batted passes, interceptions, or just missing receivers outright. Some of this even happened when he had deeper drops and plenty of pass protection. So where does Gruden's portion of the blame come in? Well, it's simple really, and I'm basically going to repeat myself from my last post. If you QB is struggling with certain throws, you remove them from your offense and concentrate on what he does best. Gruden failed to do this until the last drive of the first half, meaning 6 quarters of play before he stopped with the plethora of 3 step drops.
But that's not all, Gruden also failed to stick to the running game. Everytime the Bucs used the run to setup the passing game, the Bucs had success moving the ball. Everytime Gruden had his QB come out firing the ball around, success was much harder to find. Quite frankly, this situation is something of a joke. Gruden needs to stop putting the square peg in the round hole. Simms can run the passing offense with the intermediate and long routes as key components. The short routes are off until defenses start playing the run more and start trying to rush the passer hader, instead of just stopping and jumping to deflect the passes. Gruden must concentrate on making defenses defend everything, only then can we expect to see some success with the shorter routes. What sucks, is that the running game was there. It wasn't tearing things up, but you could sense that Caddy was close to breaking that one last tackle to turn a 3 or 4 yard run into 20. And the line protected very well in the passing game, and got some modest push in the running game, where most of the tackles were from LB's not DL's. The offense stunk, and there's no getting around it.
Ok, 306 yards rushing. Excuse me? 306? On the ground? Good grief. The defense looked slow. They also looked to be very poorly disciplined at times. Especially the DL, where Rice consistently rushed way too wide or Spires cut too close inside, allowing lanes for Vick to easily escape. And when he did, the LB's weren't in position to clean his clock. I still remember the home game in '02 when Vick saw an opening in the middle of the line and ran for it, only to get greeted by Mr. Brooks after a couple of yards. Where was that in this game? Is this defense too old? Too lacking of talent? Poorly coached? I don't know. I do know that blitzes up the middle were creating havoc for the Falcons, but Monte rarely used them. The bright side is that, despite all the yards on the ground, and a negligible amount through the air, the Falcons couldn't punch it in. This was the most obvious example of bend but don't break I have ever seen. Maybe that accounts for something because the Bucs were in this game until the end. Maybe there's hope? I don't know.
There was the return for a TD by Brooks that was taken away by a horrible call. There was the first Falcon TD that basically came after a first and goal given to them on a horrid pass interference call. I really don't know what to think of this defense right now. They shutdown the Ravens for most of the first game. They initially were shutting down everything the Falcons had except Vick running on broken plays. Then they appeared to roll over and nearly die for much of the game. Let's hope they fix whatever is going on. If they don't this season ain't going to be pretty unless the offense suddenly turns on and becomes Indy like.
Special Teams: C
They don't get the C for their return, nor their FG attempts. That for sure. Had they had those areas going for them, the Bucs would have had a better shot at winning this game. No. The grade comes from the coverage teams, the punting, and the outstanding blocks on two field goal attempts by the Falcons. Those 2 blocks helped keep hope alive. Really, that's pretty much all I can say about this part of the team. They did OK, but left 6 points on the field.
Quite frankly, I was amazed at what I saw on Sunday. I couldn't believe some of the things that I watched, and the coaching, in my estimation, really let the team down. Now, I'll be the first to say that Gruden is one of the best coaches in this league. But is one main problem is his stubbornness. He needs to remember that Simms has only started 14 games and that this is a complex version of the West Coast offense. Simms is learning, and, at times, looks really good. At other times he can look really bad. I expect the light switch to turn on by mid-season this year, but hoped that Gruden would use the run more often to help take some pressure off of Simms. It doesn't help when you're constantly yelling at Simms, either. Granted that Gruden is right in his criticisms, but Simms confidence was shaken until they started dropping back 5 steps more often. Simms seemed to start to get his confidence back. Now Gruden needs to work to build up Simms' confidence while trying to get Simms to understand where his receivers are on every play. It's a growing process, and Gruden needs to stop fighting it and just work it. It took him a quarter and a half before he did that, but he still bottled up the running game when we were still close.
On the other side of the ball, Monte simply didn't have an answer for the plays the Falcons were running and it made the defense look slow while they over pursued or missed tackles. This was probably one of the poorest games, adjustments wise, that I've seen from Monte. I don't think it's a long trend, though. Monte needs to make sure the defense comes out firing on all cylinders this Sunday, or the Bucs are going to be in a hole that might be too tough to climb out of.