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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Five important points after Bucs' loss to Saints



dallasclark2.jpgSo much happened in Sunday’s loss to the Saints that a few notable issues probably got lost in the shuffle. Now that some time has passed, let’s look at a few observations that I thought were important but not emphasized Sunday night.

Dallas Clark can help the Bucs

The Saints’ defense isn’t exactly the gold standard, but it was good to see Dallas Clark get involved and help move the chains. Clark entered the game with nine catches in five games, but he had five receptions on Sunday for 51 yards, including a clutch touchdown catch on third down with 4:16 to play. It was that score that even gave the Bucs the opportunity for their rally attempt, which fell just short.

The fact that Clark hasn’t been very involved in the offense isn’t a failure of coaching but, rather, a result of the production the team has been getting from Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But when the defense takes away other options – Williams had a bit of a quiet day – Clark remains a reliable option in the middle of the field and in the redzone.

The value of Aqib Talib

The Bucs were never going to stop Drew Brees completely. No one does. But for all the lasers he threw against Bucs defenders on Sunday, there were other completions that shouldn’t have happened if not for coverage mistakes and mismatches.

One guy who has played solidly at times this season but struggled Sunday was Brandon McDonald. Because Talib is suspended for four games for (according to him) Adderall use, the cornerbacks all got bumped up a notch on the depth chart. That left McDonald as the third cornerback behind Eric Wright and E.J. Biggers.

McDonald was matched up at times with the likes of Marques Coltson, and it often didn’t end well. The Saints seemed to target McDonald in some cases, though Biggers took his lumps, too.
The bottom line: The Bucs might have stopped a few more of Brees’ attempts if Talib had been on the field. In a game so close, that might have been the difference.

When you come to rely so heavily on a player with a long history of problems, this is what you open yourself up to.

Tiquan Underwood is your third receiver

The Bucs have never said anything to confirm the fact that Tiquan Underwood is the third receiver, but they don’t really have to.
Underwood, in just four games since being re-signed, has surpassed Arrelious Benn in both production and playing time. Benn hasn’t caught a pass in the past three games, and with Underwood’s role expanding, just getting on the field is going to be a challenge for the former second-round pick.

Underwood’s ability in the slot is valuable for the Bucs. He’s too fast and quick for a lot of nickel backs, and he’s able to make plays in the middle of the field, like the quick slant he scored on in the first quarter.

Right now, Underwood and Benn are going in opposite directions. Underwood looks like a guy trying to make up for lost time, which he is. He has bounced around for four seasons and was released at final cuts in September before getting a second chance a few weeks later.

Something tells me he’ll stick around awhile.

LeGarrette Blount is not a short-yardage back

Coach Greg Schiano said the coaching staff’s evaluation indicated that LeGarrette Blount was the best running-back option in goal-line situations.

This begs an important question: What?

Anyone who has casually watched the Bucs during the past two seasons is well aware Blount has a history of struggles in short-yardage situations. His lack of burst and frequent indecision at the line of scrimmage work against him in short yardage.

Yet, for some reason, the Bucs inexplicably opted to use Blount on three straight tries from inside the 2-yard line late in the third quarter. The inability to score in that situation will long be remembered as the team’s biggest failure on Sunday.

Why Doug Martin, who had a strong performance, wasn’t given a shot is a mystery. It was not a tough decision, yet the Bucs bungled it anyway. To be fair, it’s not clear what role the offensive line played. It can’t be totally exonerated here.

But Blount has a role. He can spell Martin and is perfect for closing out games. We saw that last week against the Chiefs. On Sunday, he reinforced that goal-line situations are among his weaknesses.

Vincent Jackson on a bad calf is better than most

Say what you want about Vincent Jackson being caught from behind on his 95-yard reception (which set up that aforementioned first-and-goal situation), but the guy was unable practice without limitations on Thursday and Friday because of a calf injury.

If you watched him run down the sideline, he looked to be laboring and likely wouldn’t have been caught by Malcolm Jenkins under any other scenario.

That said, wow!

Jackson was indefensible on Sunday. He was everything the Bucs hoped he’d be when the Glazers opened their coffers to sign him for $55 million. Even with two high safeties in many instances, Jackson was able to make catches in traffic with his size and considerable strength.

If you’ve really been paying attention, you might have noticed there have been times this season when Jackson hasn’t made some tough catches that you’d like to see an elite receiver corral. And there have been a handful of plays on which a better effort would have been nice.

But there was nothing to quibble with off Jackson’s Pro Bowl-worthy performance on Sunday.

(Photo by Skip O'Rourke, Times staff)

[Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2012 10:50am]


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