“Same Old Story” by Garth Brooks
The Buccaneers visited Green Bay, Florida on Sunday and left with a numbingly disappointing outcome. The problem, especially this late in the season, with watching a team play this poorly is that it no longer becomes surprising. The hope slowly drains. You’re holding on out of a longtime obligation as a fan. The love is still there, but the passion is long gone. I’m not saying it’s time to divorce the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Jason Licht will have to be the best marriage counselor in the business to fix these issues. Green Bay swooped in out of nowhere and cheated on us with the fiery passion of a mid-20s mistress. The defense tried to fight back, but the offense just let it happen. Sorry (not sorry) Josh McCown, but it’s not rape if it’s willing.
This game came with plenty of “despite” and “even though,” but even those unfavorable circumstances weren’t enough of an excuse for the way the offense produced. Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Charles Sims were like the well behaved kids who got lost in the shuffle. Sims had issues on the ground by himself (God knows the offensive line wasn’t with him), but had success in the receiving game with his big brothers. The trio combined for 139 receiving yards, which amounted for 128% of Tampa Bay’s offensive yardage. Wait, that can’t be right, can it? Check the negative, carry the one… huh.
I’m absolutely dead serious with that percentage. Tampa Bay’s net offensive production only totaled 109 yards, but those three men alone had more than that. That’s not even including the silly 16 yards managed on the ground and Luke Stockers eight yards receiving. So, how did that happen? Well, let me direct your attention to that state of the art $4.75 million tackling dummy that was lining up behind blockbuster free agent signing Evan Dietrich-Smith (from the team that just squashed Tampa Bay). That dummy got sacked seven different times for a total loss of 54 yards. Those sacks lost over three times as many yards as Doug Martin gained on the ground.
Tampa Bay’s got their issues, oh boy do they, but it’s the defense that reminds you why you love them. It’s the defense that keeps sparking and showing you what had you hooked in the first place. They weren’t perfect, and there were obvious holes without mainstays Gerald McCoy and Major Wright. However, on the whole the defense stepped up in a big way. There was one sack, one forced fumble and recovery, and no interceptions. Green Bay finished the day with 431 yards of total offense, but was held to 20 points thanks to the Buccaneers defense forcing a Packers Red Zone efficiency of only 25%. Those goal line stands made the difference, and an offense that had produced could have won this game.
On the surface, holding the Packers to “only” 20 points seems a lot like a false positive, but you have to realize what the Packers have done this season. Prior to this game, the Green Bay Packers had averaged 31.8 points per game throughout the season. Six different times they’ve finished with 38 points or more, and two of were greater than 50. The Buccaneers held them to their third lowest point total all season. Only the Lions (7 points against) and Seahawks (16 points against) held them to less, and both of those teams defeated Green Bay.
There were clear bright spots such as Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Lavonte David, Bradley McDougald, Patrick Murray, and a few others (mainly on defense). In the end, this was a predictable outcome. The offensive line brought their complete and utter suckage to a new level with Casper the Disappointing Center back in the saddle, and Doug Martin and Josh McCown didn’t make a lick of difference either. The silver lining, aside from the defensive success, is that the Buccaneers still hold the #1 Pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The final week of the season doesn’t provide such staunch competition, but don’t be surprised if the offensive line picks up their checks goes M.I.A. before gametime.