Phantom of the Offensive Line Strikes Again: Buccaneers vs. Bengals Review

The Cincinnati Bengals, former team to Michael Johnson, visited Tampa, Florida last week. While they were in town, they soaked up some sun and appreciated the very different climate compared to Ohio this time of year. In their spare time, they played a scrimmage game against Tampa’s NFL franchise. Despite a professional defense showing up to face them and the Bengals giving only the necessary half-a-rats-ass, Tampa penalized their way to failure. The Buccaneers lost. Again. Before I get to the hope for the future nonsense and the minuscule bright spots, I want to talk about the offensive line.

The offensive line accounted for an astounding 10 of the Buccaneers 13 penalties in this game. The obvious issue would be that the line isn’t doing their jobs. The already struggling group was thrown another obstacle by center Evan Dietrich-Smith being out. I didn’t think they could get worse, but Garrett Gilkey keeps proving me wrong. Perhaps the most astounding statistic about this comes from the analysis of one Jim Johnson. Johnson does an impeccable analysis of the team each week, including specific rundown of formations used throughout the game.

Through the entire season prior to the Bengals game, the Buccaneers had run three total plays with six or more offensive lineman in the formation. All three of those took place in the second battle with the Atlanta Falcons. In this single game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buccaneers ran TWENTY-TWO. That’s right, 22 of the plays ran against the Bengals were formations with six or more offensive linemen. I have to put “or more” in there, because three were actually run with seven offensive linemen. Exactly 40% of the Buccaneers plays were run with six or more offensive linemen, and the Bucs produced a net of 60 yards from those plays.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers committed 13 penalties throughout the game for 94 yards. Ten of those came from the offensive line, amounting to 75 of those yards. The entire Buccaneers rushing attack, led this week by Doug Martin who scored the team’s only touchdown, amounted to a quaint 75 yards, which might as well have not existed thanks to the offensive line’s penalties. So, what’s left? Despite these problems, Josh McCown worked hard to try and spread the ball around en route to only 190 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception.

Mike Evans and Charles Sims led the team with 49 receiving yards a piece. Vincent Jackson caught two of his four targets for another 24 yards. Louis Murphy vanished into thin air with one reception for seven yards despite being targeted more than Vincent Jackson. Targets also went to Cameron Brate, Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, and Robert Herron. Herron was the only of those four to fail to catch a single one of his targets. I’d say that the Buccaneers’ offensive was disappointing, but even a performance this anemic isn’t that surprising.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a game called football. Believe it or not, they played it fairly well. With the resident tackling machine Lavonte David still out with an injury, Danny Lansanah rose to the occasion to lead the team with 14 tackles, 13 of which were solo efforts. Dashon Goldson was the team’s second place in tackles with seven, followed closely by Alterraun Verner’s five tackles for the day.

The Bucs defense managed to hold Cincinnati’s duo of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill to a combined 89 rushing yards. Andy Dalton was picked off three times and only managed a single passing touchdown. The Bengals’ other touchdown came on the ground by quarterback Andy Dalton. On top of that, special teams had one of their best games to date. Michael Koenen looked like a real punter and average 41.5 yards per punt. Of Koenen’s six punts, the Bengals totaled all of negative one yard on return attempts.

Despite all of those positives throughout the team, a horrendous offensive performance combined with the perennial last minute screw-up sealed the deal for Tampa Bay’s 10th loss of the season. The 12-men on the field penalty to finish things up was the nail in the coffin of a game that the Buccaneers defense and special teams deserved to win. However, that offensive didn’t even deserve to play. Most of my blame sits on the offensive line, specifically Gilkey, but it takes more than one man to play that badly. The Bucs could draft the next Peyton Manning and DeMarco Murray, but nothing will work behind that offensive line.