Buccaneers can't capitalize on early opportunity

Buccaneers can't capitalize on early opportunity
September 22, 2013, 6:15 pm
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FOXBORO -- As members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense sat in front of their lockers following Sunday's 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, at least one player's voice was heard.

"Not if we're on the field after every three plays," that player said.

It was soft-spoken enough to not know who said it. But loud enough to understand his message.

He was blaming Tampa Bay's offense.

And why not? The Buccaneers had plenty of chances early to put points on the board. But two trips to the red zone in their first two drives of the game resulted in only three points.

"It was really, today, not making some of the plays that we really needed to," said Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman after the game. "When you're playing against a team like New England, you've got to make some of those plays and find a way to get on the board.

"We just know that when we get down there, you've got to be there to make plays," added Freeman. "You've got to find a way to go to the guy that's going to be open with the ball, and that guy's got to make the catch."

On Tampa's first possession, they missed a 38-yard field goal, wide right. On their second possession, tight end Tim Wright had a perfect pass fall right through his hands in the back-left corner of the end zone on 3rd-and-7 from New England's 12-yard line. It resulted in a 30-yard field goal that put the Bucs up 3-0 after one quarter.

"We certainly had our opportunities," said Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. "I think we had something like 14 plays in their territory in the beginning of the game and came away with three points.

"We did some things at times, offensively, but then we weren't' able to finish drives. You're not going to win in this league that way."

In fairness to Tampa's offense, after those first two possessions, they tried everything they could to make sure their defense wasn't right back on the field.

The Buccaneers finished the game 0-for-4 on fourth-down conversions, and two of those came in crucial second-quarter possessions.

Tampa began the second quarter with the ball and a 3-0 lead after forcing the Patriots to punt at the end of the first. The Bucs drove down to the New England 34-yard line, where they went for it on 4th-and-5.

The play was a pass to the left to Mike Williams, but Williams was tripped up by Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and both players fell. No flag was thrown, and it resulted in a turnover on downs.

In Tampa's next possession, after a Patriots touchdown put them behind 7-3, Schiano had his offense go for it on fourth down again. This time it was 4th-and-1 from the New England 38, and running back Doug Martin was stuffed for no gain, just one play after Freeman aired it out down the left sideline on 3rd-and-1, and Vincent Jackson couldn't hold onto a ball that Aqib Talib also had his hand on.

"We just have to finish," said Martin afterwards. "We have to execute. Everybody has to do their job and follow through. If all 11 guys do that, then it shouldn't be a problem.

"It's just little things. It's little details and just executing. We are right there."

From there, the Patriots immediately scored another touchdown to take a 14-3 lead. And once Jackson left the game with an injury at the beginning of the second half, the Buccaneers -- who admitted afterwards that their game plan revolved around Jackson -- realized the difference of the game came in all of their missed opportunities in the first half.

The Buccaneers Have opportunities to score. They just can't. That ugly trend continued on Sunday at Gillette. And they're left once again searching for answers.

"We haven't been scoring," said Freeman. "You go back, and you turn on the tape, and you wonder why. It's just the little things. Guys just focusing in, me included, and finding a way to make the plays that allowed us to be an explosive offense last year."

"It's all part of winning, the plays you have to control or you have to make," said Schiano. "Because some of them you don't, some of them, you're opponent has control. When you have a situation that you're in control, and you don't make it, you're living on borrowed time.

"I thought we hung in there early, and it was a good football game," added the Buccaneers coach. "And then as time went on, we didn't make plays, and we didn't convert. It wasn't an explosion, it was a gradual tipping of the scales. When you stop making plays, it just goes like that."