Brandon McDonald and Tampa Bay came up short in week two versus New York
Two days have passed.
The quick start, the turnovers, the comeback, the other comeback, the dagger. All of it amounting to a 41-34 heart-pounding defeat, that if nothing else caught the eye of the the NFL.
At this point, nothing seems more appropriate than a recap, of the good, the bad and the ugly of the Buccaneers' Week 2 match-up.
While Week 1 showed that Tampa Bay had seemingly found the running game that they had desperately been needing since the days of Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott, Week 2 showed something more.
The maturity of Josh Freeman—now in his fourth professional season—and the acquisitions of Vincent Jackson among others has allowed the Bucs to have all the makings of a formidable passing attack.
Surely they were overshadowed by Eli Manning's 510-yard performance. Even so, the Buccaneers showed the ability to stretch the field in ways, some could say, they haven't since the days of Mark Carrier.
Vincent Jackson is a true No. 1 receiver, but unlike the team's past go-to guys (Michael Clayton, Keyshawn Johnson, Bert Emanuel, Alvin Harper to name a few), he can both make the tough catches over the middle and go after the deep ball.
His second-quarter touchdown showed something that should have Bucs fans thrilled for what can happen as this unit gains even more cohesiveness.
Let us not forget however, Mike Williams.
As mentioned in previous articles, Williams needed someone to take the pressure off of him. Jackson is that someone. His game-tying fourth-quarter touchdown proved that the Buccaneers have at least two players who can win one-on-one match-ups down the field.
There were several times in this game where Freeman showed no hesitation putting the ball up for these two to make a play. The way the NFL's rules are set up these days, having the ability to do this can only improve a team's chances at winning.
The two-minute offense also showed promise for Dallas Clark becoming a reliable target in important situations. He caught three consecutive darts from Freeman which were delivered with laser-like precision.
The emergence of these three, and perhaps Jordan Shipley, (whom the team brought back today), who has shown he can be a productive slot receiver when surrounded by legitimate wide outs in the NFL. Or Arrelious Benn, who returned from injury in Week 2, should give the Bucs a solid passing attack.
If Jackson, Williams, and Clark can continue to improve, it will not only take pressure off of Freeman and the offensive line, but also Doug Martin and the running game.
The one area where improvement needs to happen immediately for the passing game to move to the next level is the screen game. This was terrible on Sunday.
In most cases, the formations and situations telegraphed the plays, having them stopped before they started. Or perhaps it was just the Giants defensive line. Either way, improvement is essential.
Freeman can be elite with the right offense and the right tools around him, and from what the passing game showed Sunday, this is happening in front of our eyes.
In 2011, the Buccaneers had the worst defense in the NFL.
In the fourth quarter of the Week 2 contest, the Buccaneers had the worst defense in the NFL.
No matter how good or how "clutch" Manning is, the Buccaneers had him against a wall at halftime. After getting a mixture of solid pressure and bonehead decisions, Tampa had forced Manning into three first half interceptions.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Domenik Hixon, and David Diehl were all out of the game. Aqib Talib had been able to provide almost flawless coverage on nearly every pass thrown in Hakeem Nicks' direction. Victor Cruz didn't get to do the salsa, due to Eric Wright proving why Tampa coveted him in the offseason.
Then everything went down the proverbial toilet.
After the offense opened the half with a field goal drive which extended the lead to 14, the defense forced New York into a four-play drive which led to a punt.
On the first play of the defense's next drive, Wright went down with an injury and the defensive walls began to crumble. The Giants went 63 yards and added three points with a Lawrence Tynes field goal.
After a Freeman interception just two plays later, the Bucs defense was able to hold New York to a fourth Tynes field goal despite good field position, holding the lead at eight.
After that, the unit surrendered 225 yards and three touchdowns on the next three drives.
Taking all of 11 plays. 11.
As said before, the Bucs once again became the worst defense in the NFL, if even for just a quarter.
In one quarter, Ronde Barber showed exactly why he moved to safety and Brandon McDonald showed that he is not an NFL cornerback. In addition, the defensive line showed exactly how easily they can disappear, and that they have no depth. And Aqib Talib showed that a hobbled Nicks had more left on one good leg than he did on two.
The display put on by the defense can only be explained by fatigue and a lack of depth. But isn't this something we all saw coming? Couldn't they have found someone to fill in as a backup defensive lineman? Wasn't Myron Lewis a third-round pick with tons of potential? Where is the depth?
The troubles of the past also began to rear their ugly head as a little known "big back" Andre Brown ran roughshod over the tired and smallish Buccaneers defense.
The most telling statistic of just how bad this game was for the defense: 51 drop-backs for Manning, two quarterback hits, zero sacks.
Archie Manning could have thrown for 510 yards against that kind of pressure.
If you were expecting something about a kneel...Look elsewhere.
After all, Jerry Jones says the kneel is "not a good play," so how can you argue. Plus, crazier things have happened to the Giants than a fumbled snap.
The real ugly here was the referees. It has not gotten as much publicity as other games on more publicized stages, but these guys are really affecting games. Besides several questionable penalties going in both directions and a lot of inconsistency in those calls, one play stands out.
As the Buccaneers tried to mount their final comeback, Freeman "completed" a 29-yard pass down the left sideline to the Giants 16-yard line with seconds left. That play was then reviewed by the officials and subsequently overturned.
It appeared that Williams was able to tap both feet in bounds and then rolled out of bounds and lost the ball. No matter what, there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the field of a completion.
Properly trained referees almost surely would have let the play stand.
Whatever the case may be, the Buccaneers still had several opportunities to win this game and simply did not capitalize.