Yardbarker Horiz

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buccaneers Battle Themselves To Mediocrity

I really hate being 4-4 in the middle of the season.  It's like knowing what's in a present before you open it -- you're glad to have it, but there is no excitement in the moment.

Such is where all of the Buccaneers Nation stands today after a never-quite-out-of-reach game with the New Orleans Saints.  Having won in the Superdome the last two seasons, a 27-16 result feels pretty bad.  Worst of all, it's not so much that New Orleans was a significantly better team, it's more about how the Buccaneers can be their own worst enemy.  And two against one in the NFL is rarely a winning combination for the "one".

The Buccaneers had the ball first, but were not able to start the game with a first down.  New Orleans took the resulting punt and burned over four and a half minutes off the clock getting into field goal range. Saints kicker John Kasay then nailed the right upright to keep the game at 0-0.

Tampa Bay took over and ran at New Orleans with LeGarrette Blount. Blount carred the ball on five of the next six plays, taking the Buccaneers to 4th and 1 at the New Orleans 29 yard line.  Unfortunately, the Buccaneers did not convert on Bount's sixth run in the drive, and New Orleans took over on downs.

Five plays later New Orleans scored their first touchdown on a Drew Brees to Lance Moore touchdown pass to break out to an early 7-0 lead.

With 2:27 remaining in the first quarter, the Buccaneers offense imploded, with an Illegal Substitution penalty and two Offensive Pass Interference calls in the next 10 plays.  Tampa Bay ended up with fourth and four at the New Orleans 38 yard line -- outside of field goal range -- and punted the ball away.

Seven plays later, New Orleans scored their second touchdown on a pass from Brees to Sproles pushing their lead to 14-0.

Preston Parker returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards from four yards deep in the endzone, and Tampa Bay set up at their own 41 yard line.  Three plays later they faced a 4th and four, but a New Orleans penalty converted the first down and the Buccaneers stayed alive, only to get a false start penalty before the next play from scrimmage.  As a result, Tampa Bay found themselves again in 4th and 4 three plays later and were forced to punt.

Pinned deep, New Orleans only converted one first down and punted from deep in their own territory.  Tampa Bay took over with 2:37 to go in the half but only managed to get to the New Orleans 22 yard line, where the ever dependable Connor Barth kicked a field goal to get the Buccaneers on the board and closing the score to 14-3.

The Saints countered, using 1:38 of the final 1:39 of the half to drive from their own 20 to the Buccaneers four yard line, kicking a field goal to push the margin back to 14 points at 17-3.

The Buccaneers opened the second half on defense, but CB Ronde Barber picked off a Brees pass giving Tampa Bay the ball at the New Orleans 33 yard line.  Yet again, the Buccaneers were not able to overcome themselves as a personal foul by RB LeGarrette Blount killed the drive.  Barth kicked another field goal and the score narrowed to 17-6.

New Orleans then consumed the next 6 minutes of the third quarter, driving for a touchdown and stretching the lead to the biggest margin of the game at 24-6.

The Buccaneers returned the favor with a possession which ran out the 3rd quarter and went down to 11:08 remaining in the game.  However, Tampa Bay again had to settle for a field goal after reaching the New Orleans 7-yard line making the score 24-9.

With 5:35 remaining in the game, the Buccaneers finally reached the end zone (with an important Defensive Pass Interference call along the way) with a five yard Josh Freeman to Kellen Winslow pass making the score 24-16.

The Saints received the ball with about five and a half minutes remaining in the game and went on another clock consuming drive, with the final dagger being a John Kasay field goal with 1:17 remaining.  The Buccaneers were unable to reach scoring territory and the game ended at 27-16.

Next up:  Tampa Bay's first home game in more than a month as the 6-3 Houston Texans come to Raymond James Stadium.

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