It looks like I’m going to have to come up with a new name for this series, because right now the ship is listing and taking on water. The band isn’t playing “Nearer My God to Thee” just yet, but they’re warming up.
It baffles me how Freeman can look utterly lost for three quarters then somehow turn it on and play like the first round pick he was. He’s in his fourth year as a pro. Things should be clicking now. He should be getting it. And yet for long stretches he seems to be completely lost, missing open receivers, checking down to inexplicably short passes, not using his feet. Then, once things become urgent, he’s slinging the ball around like an All-Pro. I just don’t get it. I don’t know if it’s him or the plays being called, but it’s crippling the offense. Defenses aren’t the least bit scared by our passing game, so they stuff the box to stop our running backs, confident that Freeman won’t do anything to beat them.
The defense today was just the opposite: awful early, solid in the middle, then absolutely porous when it counted. They acted like the late field goal that gave the Bucs the lead ended the game. And they seemed constantly surprised every time Robert Griffith III ran the ball. The middle of the defense just parted for him; there was one instance where the Redskins’ fullback was lead blocking for Griffith and had no one to block. Have somebody shadow the guy! It worked ten years ago against Michael Vick. Granted, the Bucs had Derrick Brooks doing the shadowing, and there’s no one even close to that level on the team now, but anything would have been better than the revolving door they offered up.
So the Bucs go into the bye week at 1-3, that lone win feeling very far in the past (and looking more and more like an illusion given how the Panthers have been playing). They have back-to-back home games coming out of the break, which is a blessing and a curse. They won’t have to deal with travel for a while, but they’ll most likely be playing to a less than full house. I can’t see anyone being excited about paying to see this team play, even if they’d pulled out the last two games. The fact is, they’re just not a very exciting team. Sure, Tampa has supported a primarily defensive team in the past, but this unit isn’t those Monte Kiffin defenses, either in ability or personality. There’s no Brooks or Warren Sapp or John Lynch to latch on to. Just guys who play like world beaters one series, pushovers the next.
Last year, the Bucs were 4-2 before the wheels came off. This season, it’s looking like they’re coming off that much sooner. The Bucs have to come out of the bye week with a renewed purpose and intensity, showing at least some steps towards correcting their problems. If not, well, I don’t see enough lifeboats on this ship.