Bucs coach Raheem Morris laid it all on the line – both the offensive and defensive lines, to be exact – for Saturday’s 31-15 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
There were players getting beat in individual match ups, blown assignments and poor execution.
But for the third time this season, Morris also said his players lacked effort.
“Generally, we haven’t had the (they didn’t) play hard deal,’’ Morris said. “But last night I’ve got to say, it was a little something where we’ve got to play harder.
“The Houston game, we struggled a little bit. At San Fran we struggled a little bit. I guess we were tired, the short week and all that stuff. But last night, fast was not one of the categories. Hard, smart or consistent… I’ve got to be honest with you guys on that stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s been a continuing problem, but last night, I’d have to say it was.’’
The Bucs, who lost their eighth straight game in the same season for the first time in 24 years, trailed 28-0 at halftime, part of a 69-0 run dating back to last week’s game at Jacksonville.
Quarterback Josh Freeman ran 24 yards and lost a fumble on the next play, before the Bucs’ offense went three-and-out four straight times in the first half Saturday.
--On the the first two plays of the game, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood yielded pressure and Freeman was flushed from the pocket. After a running for a first down, he fumbled on the next play.
--Facing third-and-1 on the next series, guard Davin Joseph missed an assignment, and instead of blocking outside to the right, crashed down inside and allowed defensive end Marcus Spears to tackle LeGarrette Blount for a 1-yard loss.
“Without calling out individual performances, it was a disappointing night as far as protection goes, not as far as scheme, not as far as coaching, not as far as any of that stuff,’’ Morris said. “It’s more about (man against man), stand up and block your guy, and we did not do that.
"Hence the frustration. You’ve got to go out there and execute what you’re coached to do. If it was something we weren’t prepared for that we knew was coming, I’d be a little more understanding. But when it’s something that you’ve practiced, something you go out and work on, when you talk about it and discuss it, work with your coaching staff and you go out and correct it, you practice it, you expect it to get executed. And it didn’t happen yesterday. That’s just frustrating.’’
The Bucs defensive line didn’t play much better. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 23-of-30 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns while running for another score.
On two of those TDs, Romo broke containment and rolled to his right, extending the play before firing passes in the end zone to Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson. On both plays, the Bucs ran defensive line stunts with the left end looping inside the tackle.
“Some of those things, the ends not supposed to go inside,’’ Morris said. “Some of them, he has to go inside and we execute game plans and we execute things where the tackle is supposed to cover up for him. Obviously, last night, those things didn’t happen. That’s another part of the frustration, when you go out, you practice those things, you talk about it, I tell you guys and you go out and don’t get it executed, it’s a really frustrating moment.’’
The Bucs had only 55 yards in the first half on 17 plays, including a kneel down to end the second quarter. After the Bucs spread the field with three receivers in the second half, the offense started moving.
“I thought once we got into a groove, once we started moving, and doing some things schematically that took them out of rhythm,’’ center Jeff Faine said. "We spread it out a little more and started bringing in different packages where it was keeping what they want to do off the field. It’s something we do reasonably well, and that’s no-huddle, two-minute style offense. We kept them in the nickel a little bit with our personnel. We controlled what was out there. It was like, what are they going to bring next as opposed to we put out a certain (personnel) grouping, and there’s only so much they can do. That’s pretty much what we did the entire second half.’’
However, Morris says that’s not been the formula for the Bucs to win games.
“The thing we want to do and how we’ve won a bunch of games around here is hand the ball to LeGarrette Blount a bunch of times and when he gets to 20-plus carries…you win the football game,’’ Morris said. “Last night was a different situation. We were forced into the situation to make those guys dictate what we wanted to do and go out in a three wide set that eliminates what he can do and what he does special for us.’’
Morris' opening statement Sunday probably best summarized the game and his situation.
“Not a good game to watch on tape,’’ Morris said. “Hard to watch. Tough to deal with. Not competitive in the first half. Unacceptable. Got two weeks to go out and change that.''