COMMENTARY | The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began the 2013 season with a crushing 18-17 defeat to the New York Jets on Sunday, September 8. Despite lacking consistent effort on both sides of the ball, a successful 2-minute drive put the Bucs in position to earn victory. Though fans hoped Rian Lindell's last-minute 37-yard field goal was sufficient to secure an all-important road win, defensive miscues and a horrid personal foul actually enabled New York to snatch victory from the clutches of defeat.
While the contest's final 30 seconds resulted in its ultimate outcome, it would be foolish to overlook the many opportunities to put away the contest, which were painfully wasted by Tampa Bay. Though bright spots included continued dominance by Vincent Jackson, apparent health of Darrelle Revis, and surprisingly robust pass rush, negatives must outweigh positives whenever failing to win an NFL game.
Here is a look at the most disappointing performers for the Bucs during the week 1 loss to the Jets:
Under greater pressure to improve than any other Buccaneer, the team's fifth-year quarterback began 2013 with a dud. Give Freeman credit for leading the club down-field in the game's final moments. While that could have become a game-winning drive, misfortune proved otherwise, and Freeman must get substantial blame for the failure.
Completing only 15 of 31 passing attempts, the Bucs' signal-caller showed no signs of improved accuracy, and a 2nd quarter interception led directly to a Jets' touchdown. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams accounted for 206 of 210 total passing yards and such predictability will become even more problematic against better opponents. Freeman looked rusty, if not disoriented, during an inept initial pair of drives, which continually went backwards until resulting in an embarrassing safety. Finally, the 25 year-old again demonstrated zero mobility, taking 3 sacks in a pocket that collapsed far too often. Freeman will lose his job this season, if not quickly elevating his performance.
David unfortunately must get "goat" status for the last-minute mistake that handed victory to New York on a silver platter. The Bucs' second-year linebacker otherwise looked stellar in captaining an improved linebacking unit. Typically on the field for every defensive play, David's high-energy ability helped him rack up 8 tackles, defend 2 passes, and reel in a second-quarter interception.
Sadly, those efforts were largely forgotten when the defender shoved an out-of-bounds Geno Smith to the ground, as the Jets' quarterback completed a scramble with just 2 seconds remaining in the game. A 15-yard personal foul penalty moved the ball from Tampa Bay's 45 yard line to the 30. Suddenly, a desperate 63 yard field goal attempt transformed into a reasonable 48 yarder. Nick Folk took advantage of the gift and drilled the winning kick as time expired. David appeared close to tears and a week's worth of heartache began for Bucs' fans.
Witnessing sophomore slumps in the past decade by former rushers Cadillac Williams and LeGarrette Blount, fans must hope Sunday's performance was not a sign of things to come. Tampa Bay triumphed in 5 of 8 games in 2012 when the rookie received at least 20 carries. Carrying the ball 24 times against the Jets, this formula proved flawed, and Martin's miserable 2.7 yards per carry was a large part of the failure. Despite finding the endzone for a second-quarter touchdown, the 24 year-old accrued only 65 rushing yards and was unable to control the clock.
Equally discouraging, the second-year player only caught 2 passes for a combined -1 yards, further depriving the struggling offense of a much-needed weapon. While not aided by the offensive line, he did not resemble the Pro Bowler of 2012. Though David's ill-timed penalty will be long remembered, it was Martin who did not pick up a 3rd and 3 with 50 seconds on the clock. If the Bucs converted the late first down, the Jets would not have been in position to steal the win.
Signed to a 2 year, $2.6 million contract, expectations are rightfully high for this former Dallas Cowboys wideout, but Ogletree continues to display little promise. After an unremarkable preseason, the 26 year-old survived roster cuts and his development remains a top priority of a needy offense. Serving as its third receiver, Ogletree did not catch even one of Freeman's 31 throws. Furthermore, on the team's final drive of the game, the former undrafted free agent let a near-perfect pass slip through his fingers along the sidelines.
Keeping Ogletree meant releasing the reliable Tiquan Underwood, who did not fail to grab at least one ball in all 14 games for which he dressed in 2012. Underwood was signed after week 2 last year and the fan favorite remains available in free agency. This could be Ogletree's final chance as the team's third option if he fails to step up.
Entire Offensive Line
While Freeman's inaccuracy and Doug Martin's lack of rushing success must get substantial blame for the failure to establish a ground attack, the Bucs' offensive line did the team no favors against New York. Not only did the unit accrue the lion-share of an unacceptable 13 penalties, but Tampa Bay's front five were consistently over-powered by the Jets' defensive line. Though 3 sacks indicate sub-par pass protection, most would agree a larger problem was struggles to run block. With neither a strong push, nor the creation of open holes, Martin generally ran into a crowd of bodies with each carry.
While newly-acquired Gabe Carimi looked haplessly out-of-position in replacing Carl Nicks at guard, Pro Bowl veterans Donald Penn and Davin Joseph are expected to post much better efforts. Struggles with the silent count, which led to an early Jets' safety, reveal that Jeremy Zuttah's transition to center is still bumpy as well. Expected to be a strength of the 2013 Buccaneers, offensive line emerged as a weakness during the season's first game. If this glaring deficiency is not quickly fixed, other problems will be minuscule in comparison.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network . A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- New York Jets
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Josh Freeman
- New York
- Doug Martin