Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense Shuts Itself Down with Predictability

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense Shuts Itself Down with Predictability
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Total surprise! It's Doug Martin up the middle!

Had a suspicion about this, but thought that my eyes had deceived me—figured it really wasn't that way in the third quarter of the Buccaneers loss to Dallas.

Had to go back and check this out again. Had to make sure this wasn't some old guy's imagination.

Had to check out the Buccaneers in the third quarter of the game.  Had to go back and see how much offensive imagination was involved in the play calling.

The Bucs got their first crack to start the third. On first down, they ran Doug Martin up the middle for two yards, and that series led to a three-and-out.

The Bucs got their second possession with 10:26 to play in the third, trailing 10-7.

What do you know, Martin up the middle for three on first down. There's actually going to be a drive here, albeit a short one. On the next first down, it's Martin off right guard for five, next first down, Martin up the middle for a yard. Next first down, what do you know, Blount's in there and he goes off right guard for four.

That short drive lasted five minutes, 30 seconds.  No score, Dallas got the ball back.

The Bucs got a huge break with just over two minutes left in the third on a Dallas fumble. They were in business at the Dallas 31-yard line. You'll remember Freeman's desperation pass under pressure that resulted in an intentional grounding call and the beginning of the end of any scoring hopes, sending the game into the fourth quarter with the Bucs trailing 10-7.

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Do you see any first down tendencies in that quarter?

Maybe we can all become NFL defensive coordinators. The Bucs are running Doug Martin into the line on first down! 

Holy razzle-dazzle, Batman!

Fourth quarter: here's where games are won or lost.

Dallas finished its late third quarter possession early in the fourth with a field goal that put the Cowboys up 13-7. Bucs have the ball for their first possession of the final period with 11:10 to play.

Can't you hear Greg Schiano now? "We've got to control possession!"

First down, three guesses what they do—first two don't count.

Why it's none other than Martin up the middle for three. Damn! How did you know?

Really, you would never trust Freeman to throw a pass from his own 12, never, not if you're Schiano.

The Bucs get another series with 7:28 left.

First play? Three guesses.

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Oh no! How did you know? Martin off right tackle for four!

This is fun, isn't it?

Of course, it led to the three-and-out, the Cowboys tacking on another field goal, and at 16-7, as Troy Aikman put it during the broadcast, "this game is out of reach."

Bucs get a final gasp at 2:43.

Great, here comes the two minute drill! They HAVE to throw!

1st-and-we-better-get-going—and the play is, drum roll, please...

DOUG MARTIN UP THE MIDDLE FOR A YARD!

At that point, you could hear Buccaneer Nation screaming at its collective television sets.

But there was great news in all of this.

The Bucs did move down the field when Freeman was finally set free to throw, and the Bucs got a field goal and covered the spread.

A loss, but they covered the spread!

There's a lesson here and the point we want to make is on the total lack of play-calling innovation in the second half of this football game.

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Go back into the first half and it's pretty much the same.

Martin up the middle, Martin off tackle, Martin, Martin, too much Martin.

Would someone please get the little shifty speedster out there in space where he can maneuver?

Give him a pitch, or a toss, or a sweep. Anything but a run up the middle.

Maybe last Sunday was just a bad dream.

Maybe we're not imagining that this Buccaneer offense is dead last in the NFL.

Maybe there will be dynamic play calling on Sunday against the Redskins.

Maybe Josh Freeman will make some plays with his feet, you know, scramble for 12 yards and a first down on second down.

Maybe they'll run a toss-pitch to Martin to give him some wiggle room.

Who knows?

What we do know is something needs to improve in a hurry.  

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