Buccaneers vs. Jets: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 18-17 Loss to New York
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a frustrating and heartbreaking game to the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon by a final score of 18-17. But more importantly, there are some takeaways for the fans as they learn more about the 2013 iteration of the Buccaneers.
Coming into the season, the revamped defense was supposed to shore up the massive amount of points allowed last season, allowing the high-flying offense the chance to win more often.
The offseason and preseason painted a different picture.
The Tampa Bay offense was never in sync during the exhibition games, and the defense allowed offenses plenty of opportunities to pass the ball in big chunks. There was a hope that the regular season would flip a switch for the Bucs, but it appears it did not.
But what did we learn from watching the first game of the 2013 season for the Buccaneers? Here are 10 takeaways from Sunday's game.
Josh Freeman Still Struggles at Handling the Pass Rush
The Buccaneers wanted to see progress from their young quarterback this season, which is why he has yet to be re-signed and was not named captain this season. But Josh Freeman still showed signs that he hasn't improved at all, mainly when it comes to handling the pass rush.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Freeman led the league in interceptions thrown under pressure last season and was among the worst at completing passes while facing a defense's pass rush.
That carried over into 2013, as Freeman would sail a pass over the middle while under pressure, and it was intercepted by the Jets. New York would score its only touchdown of the day as a result of that interception, so it's clear that Freeman's mistake was costly for Tampa Bay.
Freeman was sacked three times, but also faced pressure on almost every pass attempt on Sunday. Combined with a few dropped passes, that led to a completion percentage under 50 percent for the Kansas State product, which is far from encouraging for a debut in his pivotal 2013 campaign.
Freeman Does Not Struggle Under the Pressure of a Close Game
Freeman might struggle against the pass rush, but he's able to handle the mental pressure of a comeback situation at the end of a game.
Freeman led the Buccaneers down the field in the waning moments of Sunday's game to take what would be a temporary lead, including a huge play over the middle to Vincent Jackson to set up a go-ahead field goal.
The Buccaneers have been bailed out in the past by their polarizing quarterback, with Pro Football Reference crediting Freeman with 10 career game-winning drives.
Freeman struggled at times to stay in sync with his teammates, but when he had the opportunity to throw late in the game when it mattered, he was on target more often than not.
Overall, Freeman had a somewhat neutral game. But his ability to perform in the fourth quarter is certainly encouraging.
The Tampa Bay Offensive Line Isn't Good Enough to Set Up Doug Martin
The Buccaneers have invested heavily at the guard position on offense, with Pro Bowl players Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks in town to pave the way for Doug Martin and the Tampa Bay running attack.
But with Nicks staying in Tampa due to an infection, the Buccaneers tried to get by with former first-round pick Gabe Carimi at guard. He and the rest of the line failed to set the table for Doug Martin all day long, and it left the Buccaneer offense hamstrung.
Doug Martin had literally no room to run on all but two of his carries, as the young runner from Boise State was swarmed by an impressive front seven from New York. The line did not get a push at all and lost the battle in the trenches over and over.
The Buccaneers were without fullback Erik Lorig, as well, and that played a key role. As Mike Ridley of Football Outsiders pointed out during the offseason, the Buccaneers were much better with two running backs on the field in 2012, and that second running back was almost always Lorig.
The former defensive end from Stanford has developed into a great lead blocker, and his presence was missed in New York on Sunday afternoon.
Vincent Jackson Is Extremely Difficult to Defend
The New York Jets may have lost All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, but they still have a very, very good corner in Antonio Cromartie.
That didn't matter against Vincent Jackson.
The Tampa Bay captain and veteran wide receiver had seven receptions for 154 yards on Sunday, and most of it came against his former teammate Cromartie.
The Buccaneers moved Jackson all over the field, and the Jets had no answer no matter where he lined up. Jackson is too big and strong to be defended one-on-one by most defensive backs, and the Jets did not help on Jackson at all on Sunday.
Jackson is a game-changing player for the Bucs, because he's willing and able to play all over the formation. They would do well to target Jackson more often, especially on short, quick throws.
Josh Freeman isn't at his best when he takes forever to throw the football. He's best getting rid of the ball quickly, and having a large, quick target like Jackson provides the team with that option.
The Safeties Are Going to Hit, and Hit Hard
The Buccaneers will be receiving a few memos from the league this week, as their defensive backs were flagged multiple times for personal fouls after huge hits to allegedly defenseless receivers.
Newly acquired Dashon Goldson and second-year man Mark Barron both delivered massive hits to New York receivers, and that will send a message across the league.
The Buccaneers will punish receivers over the middle of the field.
Barron and Goldson both played well, contributing against the run and pass, delivering big hits and covering ground. They will be a fearsome tandem to deal with for years to come in the NFC South.
Darrelle Revis Is Still "Revis Island"
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are paying Darrelle Revis $1 million per game to be the same shutdown corner he's been in the past with the New York Jets.
If his debut against his old team was any indication, the Bucs will get what they're paying for out of Revis.
As I pointed out in my game grades for the Tampa Bay defense, Revis has not lost a step, proving multiple times that he can sit on the hip of receivers and deflect passes like he always has.
The Jets tested Revis early, and he allowed only one catch, while breaking up two passes. They would then stay away from the veteran corner, opting to throw to tight ends and running backs more often as the game wore on.
Revis didn't play every snap, so he's still working his way back to health. But one thing is for sure, this is the Darrelle Revis everyone remembers from his days in New York.
The Defensive Line Is Great Against the Run, Not the Pass
Adrian Clayborn proved Sunday that he is fully healthy and capable of being an impact player for the Bucs on defense. Gerald McCoy also showed well, dominating in the middle of the defense and getting up the field to disrupt the New York offense.
The Jets combined to rush for 90 yards on 3.1 yards per carry, but a majority of the rushing yards came on Geno Smith scrambles.
Running backs in white and green only gained 44 yards on 22 carries on Sunday, as the Buccaneers flew all over the field to shut down Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory.
But as a unit, the Tampa Bay front four just couldn't get to Geno Smith.
The Buccaneers brought blitzes after Geno Smith all day long, and that led to five sacks. However, four of those sacks were from linebackers.
The Jets were able to come back against the Buccaneers, thanks to Smith's ability to stand in the pocket and find tight ends and running back on short-to-intermediate passes.
The Buccaneers have to get pressure from their defensive line, or their linebackers will be unable to stop these passes all season long. A defense cannot survive by blitzing the quarterback on every passing play.
Penalties and Mental Errors Were the Downfall for the Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had their opportunities to leave the Jets behind and secure a victory on Sunday.
But mental errors, penalties and miscommunications held them back.
On the first offensive drive of the game, the Buccaneers had serious communication issues that led to multiple delay of game penalties, and the offense seemed to come unglued.
The next drive ended on worse terms, as Jeremy Zuttah snapped the ball to an unsuspecting Josh Freeman in the end zone, and it wound up as a safety.
The Buccaneers would add multiple personal foul penalties to their stat sheet on Sunday, tallying a total of 13 infractions. But there were a few that stand out as game-changing penalties.
On a 3rd-and-long in the second quarter, Smith dumped the ball off over the middle to Jeremy Kerley, who was brought down well short of a first down. But Mark Barron was called for a personal foul for helmet-to-helmet contact, and it extended what would be the only New York touchdown drive of the game.
It gets worse. I'll let this GIF tell it all, courtesy of Bleacher Report's Ken Dorset.
Lavonte David was called for a personal foul by pushing Smith as his foot hovered out of bounds, and it saved the Jets a chance at a much more realistic field goal. Without the 15-yard bonus, it would have been a 63-yard attempt, which is more than the Jets could have expected from their kicker.
The Buccaneers lost this game in their own brains on Sunday. They failed in their execution of responsibilities at times, but it was their mental errors that let them down on the scoreboard and eventually in the loss column.