Yardbarker Horiz

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Young Buccaneers Discover Higher Gear

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Green Bay Packers 35-26, falling to 4-6 on the season. The Buccaneers have now suffered a four game losing streak to teams with a combined record of 31-13. The biggest challenge of the four games was going to Lambeau Field to play the undefeated Green Bay Packers.

The Buccaneers have been their own worst enemy in many ways during this downward swing, and last weekend was no different.  Tampa Bay was called for nine penalties (losing 55 yards), lost a fumble, and had two costly interceptions.

But this game featured something new: a resilience, combined with a competitive spirit which was not tangible in the past two games.

Although the Buccaneers did not score in the first quarter, the defense showed early they were ready to compete.  Green Bay's first possession stalled deep on their own end of the field, and Tampa Bay let their first opportunity slip by when pressure up the middle forced the Packer's punter to abort his kick.  Although he fumbled twice on the way to the sidelines, he did get enough yards to pick up the first down.  Instead of the Buccaneers getting a short field (maybe more), Green Bay would take the new opportunity and drive the length of the field for a touchdown to take the early lead 7-0.

The second quarter opened with Green Bay driving to a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.  On the next possession, LeGarrette Blount ripped off what could be the best running play in the NFL this season for 54 yards and a touchdown, helped by a crushing block by G Davin Josepth who removed a would-be tackler from Blount's back.  The play narrowed the Green Bay lead down to 14-7.

Tampa Bay scored on their next offensive possession as well, with a 23-yard Connor Barth field goal to reduce the deficit to 14-10.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Buccaneers attempted an onside kick which failed on an illegal touch by the Buccaneers.  The play appeared to catch the Packers off guard, but the opportunity was lost when Tampa did not allow the ball to travel 10-yards before touching the ball.  Green Bay took advantage of the short field and scored a touchdown to push the lead to 21-10.

The Buccaneers took the following kickoff from their own 24-yard line to the Green Bay 43 and were in a position to possibly get their own field goal attempt before halftime.  But another opportunity was lost when Josh Freeman was intercepted on a second and 10 play, and the game went to halftime with the Buccaneers behind 21-10.

Tampa Bay was able to get a field goal attempt on their first possession of the second half, bringing the score to 21-13.  However, the story of the third quarter was the defense who, for the first time in Green Bay's previous 10 quarters, held Green Bay scoreless.  In fact, the Buccaneer front four on defense kept pressure on the Packers all day, including sacks by DT Brian Price and DE Adrian Clayborn.

Tampa Bay opened the fourth quarter by finishing a 91-yard drive from the third quarter with a touchdown.  A failed two-point conversion left a two point deficit 21-19.  The Buccaneers and Packers then traded blows with each scoring a touchdown, and with 2:43 remaining in the game, the Packers held just a two point lead at 28-26.  Tampa Bay then attempted to steal the game away with another onside kick attempt, but did not recover the ball.  Faced with another short field, the Packers took advantage and scored another touchdown to put the game out of reach at 26-35.

Tampa Bay had their opportunities: two onside kicks, the possession before halftime, holding the opponent scoreless in the 3rd quarter.  Green Bay is undefeated and has scored more points this season than any other team in the NFL.  The Buccaneers stood toe-to-toe with them but were unable to take advantage when the opportunity presented itself.

It's rough for fans, but when a young team gets a glimpse of how good they "could be", it's an important event.  I guarantee none of the Buccaneers walked away from the game feeling Green Bay was a better team, just that the Packers were better that day.

Clearly this team has talent.  Last Sunday, they almost put it all together, but not quite.  Instead, the youngest team in the league will have to grow for another week and then test themselves against the 5-5 Tennessee Titans.

It's desperation time.

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