Bucs admit coaching mistakes led to second-half collapse
The Bucs have suddenly become the little girl with the curl. When they are good, they are very good.
“That football team that played that first half, we’re that team,’’ coach Lovie Smith said of his team that built a 24-0 lead against the Redskins Sunday.
But when they are bad, well, horrid doesn’t begin to tell the story.
“We’re also, unfortunately, that team that played in the second half,’’ he said.
The Bucs blew the second-biggest lead in club history to lose 31-30 to the Redskins, thanks to a second half that included botched coverages, failing to cover an onside kick and a horrendous play call on third-and-goal that prevented a put away touchdown.
Players made their share of mistakes, but Smith admitted a lot of Sunday's loss is on the coaches.
Here’s but a few examples.
The Bucs were leading 24-7 when the Redskins prepared to kick off. But inexplicably, the Bucs were not lined up properly. Linebacker Danny Lansanah is standing just inside his own 40-yard line, about 5-6 yards further back than the rest of the front line on kickoff return. The Redskins clearly saw this alignment on tape and kicker Dustin Hopkins tapped the football right in Lansanah’s direction. Trenton Robinson recovered for Washington after the ball rolled 13 yards.
“We didn’t line up properly on that play, I’ll just kind of go on that,’’ Smith said. “We didn’t execute the way (we’re supposed to). It kind of starts with us first as coaches. We didn’t have the guys lined up in the right position on that play. Kind of as simple as that. It’s a great kick whenever you get it. Big play in the game.
“Again, we didn’t have the guys lined up right. I don’t know what else to tell you about it. There is a strategy behind it. You can look at it and say we weren’t lined up right on that play.’’
--The Bucs had a chance to make it a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter after a 49-yard run by Doug Martin. But two more carries by Martin failed to get the ball into the end zone.
That’s when the Bucs took Martin out and replaced him with running back Charles Sims, who had not had a carry in the second half. The Bucs decided to run Sims on a stretch play outside left tackle. Quarterback Jameis Winston shifts fullback Jorvorski Lane from the I-formation to an off-set left position. But the Redskins have the Bucs totally out-flanked in that direction, with two players unaccounted for.
The Bucs ran the play anyway and unblocked Redkins safety Dashon Goldson made the tackle of Sims for a 2-yard loss to the Washington 3.
“We would like to have back that sequence,’’ Smith said. “Ideally, no, you shouldn’t run the ball when you have (defenders there). The ball should go a different place for it.
“I’m just going to say we didn’t handle the situation. It wasn’t on Jameis or anything like that. It starts with us as coaches. We didn’t put the guys in the best position to be successful in that situation. That’s about all I can say on us. We didn’t put the guys in the best position there.’’
Finally, the Bucs gave up slant passes to Redskins tight end Jordan Reed all day. In fact, they ran it three times in a row in the third quarter, with Reed finally cutting inside safety D.J. Swearinger for a touchdown on the third try.
Then with the Redskins needing a touchdown and PAT to win, the Redskins had four receivers in a bunch formation to the left and Reed split right by himself isolated on safety Bradley McDougald.
But rather than play bump coverage, McDougald was several yards off the ball and playing an outside technique. Smith says in that situation, defenders are taught to take away the inside route and force a fade pass to the back of the end zone. But McDougald was on Reed’s outside shoulder, and when he ran the slant, it was wide open for the touchdown.
“Really, as we talk defensively, the slants, weren’t supposed to happen,’’ Smith said. “Bad on our part, starting with the coaches, then to the players.’’