Goal-line failure highlights Bucs' wasted opportunities
For as much as the game’s final play will be debated, the Bucs wasted one of their best opportunities when they inexplicably failed to score despite a first-and-goal fro the 1-yard line.
After RB LeGarrette Blount was stuffed for a net of zero yards on three consecutive attempts, the Bucs ended up with a 4-yard loss when QB Josh Freeman rolled to his right, had no open receivers and failed to get around the corner against LB Will Herring.
Two things were curious about the sequence, which was set up by a franchise-record 95-yard completion to Vincent Jackson: First, the decision to use Blount in that situation was questioned; and, secondly, the utter failure of the Bucs’ fourth-down call raised was a discussion unto itself.
Of the decision to run Blount – who has a history of failures in short-yardage and goal-line situations – coach Greg Schiano defended the call. He said the team considered Blount its best goal-line option, but Blount has come up short before, including in a game at Atlanta in 2010 in which Blount ran through the wrong hole and was stuffed in an attempt to win.
Meantime, members of the offensive line pointed at themselves.
“That makes or breaks the game right there,” LT Donald Penn said. “As an offensive line, you want it on you. We didn’t answer the call. That’s how I feel. When you get that close, you have to get in. And when you lose by seven, it makes it even worse.”
Of the fourth-down play, Freeman said the bootleg was an attempt to suck the defense in with the play action, then hit TE Luke Stocker streaking across the back of the end zone. If only the defense had fallen for it.
“The (defensive) end crashed down hard but still maintained good containment,” Freeman said. “I’d like to think I’d be fast enough to get outside of him, but apparently not. And then they did a good job covering on the back end.”
Stocker had two defenders plastered on him and was never open. Freeman kept rolling out until he ran out of field, and the Bucs came away with nothing.
And on the other end, the Saints compounded the matter by scoring on the ensuing drive.
“That was a huge sequence of events,” QB Drew Brees said. “A huge momentum shifter.”