By Kyra Hallett
For the first time this season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense played a complete game, keeping the Dallas Cowboys in check. The Bucs’ offense played strong the first few minutes and the last few minutes of the game, but the time in between was a different story. The Cowboys took advantage of the Bucs’ predictability on offense, and the game was not as close as the 16-10 final score indicated.
Bucs’ Offense: C-
The Bucs only scored one touchdown and that came five minutes into the first quarter, giving the Bucs their only lead of the game. Nearly every Bucs drive followed the same sequence: run, pass, run, punt. Whenever things did go their way, a penalty would typically occur and the drive would die. At one point, eight consecutive drives ended in a punt.
Running back Doug Martin ran 19 times for 53 yards, 17 being his longest. He also caught two passes for 21 yards. Running back LeGarrette Blount rushed four times for 19 yards. Wide receiver Mike Williams caught two passes for 33 yards.
After Vincent Jackson’s impressive outing last week, this week the wide receiver caught only one pass, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter and was for 29 yards.
One positive: The Bucs were successful on two fourth-down conversions.
Josh Freeman: C
Quarterback Josh Freeman only threw 28 times with 10 completions for 110 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. He also rushed once for one yard. The touchdown pass was to Luke Stocker after a Bucs interception. Freeman’s interception was on a pass intended for running back D.J. Ware that bounced into the hands of Dallas linebacker Sean Lee’s hands. The Cowboys converted that turnover into a touchdown to tie the game at that point. Freeman did not look that sharp and did not throw that many times until the fourth quarter. Freeman threw to eight different receivers, with Martin and Williams receiving the most with two apiece. He started to finally get in a grove at the end of the game, but at that point it was too late.
Special Teams: B+
For the first time this season, the Bucs’ special teams drop below an A. Once again, kicker Connor Barth was perfect, making his only field goal attempt and his only extra point attempt. On one punt return, newly-acquired wide receiver Jordan Shipley dropped the ball. Dallas recovered, setting up a field goal for the Cowboys — in such a close game, that was a big play. Arrelious Benn returned one kickoff for 15 yards. Michael Koenen was the star of special teams Sunday, punting eight times for an average of 31 yard,s with his longest being 56 yards. Linebacker Dekoda Watson almost blocked a punt.
Bucs’ Defense: A
The Bucs’ defense did their job. This week, they did not look tired by the fourth quarter and knew how to beat the Cowboys’ offensive line. The Bucs’ D sacked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo four times, causing two fumbles. The offense did not take advantage of what the defense did for them.
The defense did what head coach Greg Schiano asked them to do — put pressure on the quarterback. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett each saced Romo twice. On the third play of the game, cornerback Aqib Talib intercepted Romo. Talib also had the most tackles with seven. Cornerback Eric Wright missed several interception opportunities.
On the third Romo sack, he fumbled and Wright recovered and ran it back for a touchdown., but the refs blew the play dead and ruled no fumble. Schiano successfully challenged the ruling, giving the Bucs the ball on the Dallas 31 yard line, but the Bucs could not convert it into points. If the refs had not blown the play dead, the game could have ended differently.
On the last Romo sack, defensive end Adrian Clayborn injured his right knee and was carted off the field. Reports say that he was seen wearing a leg brace and the injury could be a season-ending one. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim replaced him in the game although George Johnson is listed as Clayborn’s backup on the depth chart.
Schiano also set the defense up to go after the ball when the Cowboys went to kneel. The team was expecting it, but it did not work.
Next game, the Bucs are back home facing the Washington Redskins, who are also 1-2. The Bucs defense seem to have learned how to play 100 percent through all four quarters and how to put pressure on the quarterback. These two things are very important in facing the Redskins. Now the Bucs need to learn how to do more on offense.
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Kyra Hallett is a freelance writer and a Multimedia Sports Journalist. She has experience covering Tampa Bay sports in many outlets including Examiner.com. Her dream job would be to work with the athletes and their fans. You can view some of her work at KyraHallett.com or here at Examiner.com.