Cardinals vs. Buccaneers: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 13-10 Loss to Arizona
It was Mike Glennon's first start replacing Josh Freeman as the quarterback of the Buccaneers, but the change at quarterback wasn't enough to change the losing trend in Tampa Bay.
So what did we learn from Glennon's season debut, which ended in another heartbreaking loss for the Bucs? Here are the takeaways I gleaned from this matchup.
Jeff Demps Is a Weapon on Offense, but a Liability on Kick Returns
Jeff Demps made his debut for the Buccaneers on Sunday, and he got multiple opportunities to touch the football and show his electric speed.
For instance, Demps touched the ball twice on offense, with a carry for a first down on an end-around and a catch for nice yardage on a swing pass.
He's got incredible acceleration and speed, and he showed it in open space on offense. He's going to be a valuable member of the offense with his quickness, but it was his decision-making on kickoff returns where he let his team down.
Anxious to show his new team what he could do, Demps brought the ball out of the end zone on two deep kickoffs, and one of them turned out to contribute to a disastrous sequence for his team. The offense started off deep in its own territory, and it turned into a punt in good field position for the Cardinals.
That field position turned into a game-winning field goal. A pivotal moment in what could have been a big win for the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers Made Key Mental Mistakes
The Buccaneers made mental mistakes that cost them the game on Sunday against the Cardinals.
I've already pointed out Jeff Demps' errors, but he certainly wasn't alone. On the game-winning drive for the Cardinals, Dashon Goldson was called for yet another personal foul for an illegal hit, which moved the ball well inside the red zone for Arizona.
This came just minutes after a Johnthan Banks pass interference penalty gave the Cardinals a big chunk of yards, which led to a field position advantage which pinned the Buccaneers deep and allowed for an easy score after a Mike Glennon interception.
There was also another pre-snap penalty from Mike Williams, who has committed multiple infractions from the wide receiver position that just shouldn't happen. These mistakes continue to plague the Buccaneers and cost them football games.
Mike Glennon Did What He Needed to Do in the First Half
Rookie Mike Glennon got off to a solid start to his NFL career, with accurate throws and good decisions en route to a 10-0 halftime lead.
He looked poised in the pocket, looking across the field and finding open receivers. He did check the ball down quite often, but that's something the Buccaneers seem to prefer on offense.
The Cardinals blitzed Glennon throughout the game, and he handled it well in the first half, failing to make any huge mistakes against pressure. His only memorable mistake from the first two quarters was a poor throw on a roll-out, which was fortunately dropped despite being thrown right to an Arizona defender.
Mike Glennon Looked Like a Rookie in the Second Half
Mike Glennon showed his true colors as a rookie in the second half, and his teammates just couldn't hold him up to secure a victory.
The Cardinals scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, and the only touchdown came as a direct result of a Mike Glennon interception. Glennon tried to test Patrick Peterson over the middle and just barely missed his pass attempt to Vincent Jackson. Peterson grabbed the ball, and it really cost the Buccaneers.
Arizona would score on the next play, and that would tie the game that was led by Tampa Bay for over three quarters.
Then Glennon would misfire under pressure on the penultimate drive of the game and turn the ball over to Peterson again on an errant throw to Jackson. That turnover would end the Buccaneers' hopes for victory.
The Buccaneers Have an Incredible Defense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense did everything it needed to do to win. They're a fantastic group of players who are playing as well as any defense in the NFL.
The Cardinals were 1-10 on third downs on Sunday and failed to gain 300 yards of total offense. The only Arizona touchdown came as a result of a very short field after a turnover, and both of their field goals came on short drives that started near midfield.
The leading stars for the Buccaneers defense on Sunday were Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis. McCoy was active from his defensive tackle position all day, forcing Carson Palmer into bad situations at quarterback. He was being held and mauled by the Arizona interior line and still made a huge impact on the game.
And for Revis, his continued presence at corner kept the Cardinal offense one-dimensional for two full quarters, as his coverage of Larry Fitzgerald prevented even a single pass being thrown the way of the talented Arizona receiver for two quarters.
He would also gett his first interception as a member of the Buccaneers when he beat Fitzgerald out of his break and hauled in a Carson Palmer pass. He's a dominant player, and he's changed the Tampa Bay defense for the better.
The Defense Can't Do It Alone
The Tampa Bay defense has only allowed five touchdowns through four weeks, and the players have done all they can do to set their offense up for success.
But they cannot win games on their own.
The offense for the Buccaneers has squandered opportunities to put the game away in three of the four games this season, despite the defense doing everything it could to win the football game.
Gone are the days of the Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks Tampa 2 defense that dominated teams and had an offense they could trust to seal the deal.
Instead, the defense for the 2013 Buccaneers is put into impossible situations by an inefficient offense, and it's overshadowing some fantastic play by the defenders in Tampa Bay.
Mike Glennon Wasn't an Improvement over Josh Freeman
When Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers lost to the New England Patriots, I wrote an article for Bleacher Report stating that he should be benched so that the Buccaneers can see what they have in Mike Glennon.
But the mindset in the Tampa Bay front office was that Glennon gave the team the best chance to win by managing the game and allowing the talent around him to succeed. As Jim Corbett of USA Today learned from head coach Greg Schiano at a press conference, the decision was "performance-based" and gave the team a better chance to win.
That was proven false against the Cardinals, as Glennon was blitzed heavily all game and couldn't handle high-pressure moments late in the game. And with the Cardinals also blitzing the run, the Bucs had no option but to throw the ball, and that put the rookie in a tough spot for his first career start.
There Will Be More Drama at One Buc Place This Week
According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, Josh Freeman has requested a trade from Tampa Bay and will also ask for his release should that trade request not be granted.
So in a bye week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there will be no shortage of drama surrounding a want-out player in a contract year on a team that's discouraged after falling to 0-4.
There have already been reports of Darrelle Revis being unhappy, as written by Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com.
And there's a general thought that the coaching staff, led by Greg Schiano, doesn't command the respect of the players. This was most obvious last season, when a player told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that the coaches should be sent back to college.
A week to stew over an 0-4 start despite immense talent on the roster may lead to even more drama in Tampa Bay, and we've certainly not heard the last of the Josh Freeman situation.