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Bucs botch attempt at fake field goal

Perhaps the strangest play from the Bucs came late in the first half, when coach Greg Schiano opted to try a fake field goal, with disappointing results. On fourth down at the Saints 25, the Bucs lined up with the "swinging gate" formation — long snapper Andrew Economos and P Michael Koenen in the middle, with K Rian Lindell shifting to the left slot as a receiver and four linemen lined up to the right, with four players behind them. Koenen rolled right but couldn't find anyone open and attempted a pass only as he was being dropped for a loss. "In retrospect, I probably would like to have it back," said Schiano, who could have cut the Saints' lead to 11, with the ball to open the second half. "I thought that we would have an opportunity to stun them. … Obviously, it didn't work. In retrospect, bad call. If it works, it's genius and you go down by a score." Koenen said the play's first read was to be a throw to TE Tim Wright, who was well covered. Asked if he had the option of aborting the fake and bringing in the line for a regular field-goal attempt, Koenen said, "In this situation, we were in it." Wright said the team had executed the fake well in practice, and though New Orleans didn't have a timeout, it happened to be in position defensively to cover the downfield options and thwart the play.

"When you practice it, it's the perfect world. In a game, you never know what can happen," Wright said. "That was one of those plays where they just fell right into place."

Big numbers, good and bad

. Bucs K Rian Lindell connected on a 54-yard field goal in the third quarter, matching the second-longest kick of his NFL career (out of 306 career field goals). Lindell had a 56-yard kick with the Bills in 2009, but that was the only kick longer than Sunday's. He missed out on another potential kick from 43 yards when the Bucs opted for a fake field goal late in the second quarter.

. In a telling footnote to a disappointing season, the Bucs were flagged for 78 yards in penalties Sunday, enough to set the franchise record for penalty yards in a season. The eight flags Sunday gave them 1,132 penalty yards for the season, surpassing the 1,104 yards in 2003. Tampa Bay entered the weekend third in the NFL in both penalties and penalty yards. The Bucs had just two flags for 10 yards in the first half but had 30 yards of penalties on the opening drive of the second. Tampa Bay's defense was nearly flag-free, with only an encroachment call against DT Gerald McCoy.

The Saints have a reputation for a prolific offense, especially at home, but that didn't keep the Bucs' defensive leaders from feeling the disappointment of Sunday's loss, which saw the most yards they have allowed all season and the most points surrendered in coach Greg Schiano's two years. "We just played terrible on defense," DT Gerald McCoy said. "Gave up too many big plays, people not doing their assignment, trying to make something happen instead of doing what we were supposed to do. We messed up a lot of stuff." The Saints' final four touchdowns all came on third-down plays, and the Bucs gave up four TD drives of 80 yards or longer. "It's tough, especially the way we lost, it's even harder for us, for me, for my side of the ball," McCoy said. "We just didn't play well." S Dashon Goldson said there were breakdowns and communication problems in the secondary, something he was surprised to deal with in the final week of a season. As much as the Bucs respected Saints QB Drew Brees, they didn't expect to give up 321 passing yards and four touchdowns in the first half as they did Sunday. "We hurt ourselves and just shot ourselves in the foot," CB Darrelle Revis said. "We had some bad communication back there in the secondary and the result was them scoring touchdowns on us. … Drew Brees, he's a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Pro Bowl guy, you just can't do that. … He will pick you apart when you make mistakes like that."

The Bucs wouldn't be able to keep up with the Saints' prolific offense, but Tampa Bay answered New Orleans' first touchdown with a big play of its own on a flea-flicker touchdown on its opening drive. On first down at the New Orleans 48, having uncharacteristically thrown the ball on their first three plays, the Bucs handed the ball off to RB Bobby Rainey, who stopped and pitched the ball back to QB Mike Glennon, who found WR Tiquan Underwood wide open deep for a 48-yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie. "Mike just gave me a chance — great play call by Coach (Mike) Sullivan, our offensive coordinator, and we nailed it," Underwood said. "We knew they were very aggressive, and we've been running the ball pretty well. We knew they would be conscious of coming up for the run game, so it was a nice wrinkle." Saints S Malcolm Jenkins bit hard on the run play, allowing Underwood to get behind the New Orleans secondary and catch the pass at the goal line for his fourth touchdown of the season. If anything, he said he was so open he got nervous about dropping the easy ball. "As a receiver, those are the tough ones to catch, but Mike threw a great pass and that was that," he said. The Bucs scored two touchdowns in their first four possessions then totaled three points on their remaining seven.


. XX

Takeoff for Leonard

. The Bucs gave a bigger role to third-down RB Brian Leonard early in Sunday's game, and he responded with his trademark "Leonard Leap," hurdling a Saints defender on a 24-yard gain in the 42-17 loss. Leonard, generally limited to a third-down role behind starter Bobby Rainey, played the entire second series of the game, with two rushes and two catches on the drive, including a conversion on third and short. Leonard had his first leap with the Bucs — he was a fan favorite under Greg Schiano at Rutgers for his penchant for leaping over defenders. Leonard had 20 carries in the Bucs' first win against Miami, but Sunday's game was his best since, with 35 rushing yards and three catches.

Picking seventh

. After finishing a 4-12 season with a 42-17 loss to the Saints, the Bucs will have the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft. The Bucs were one of five teams to finish 4-12 — along with Jacksonville, Atlanta, Oakland and Cleveland — but the Bucs will pick last out of that group because of strength of schedule. Tampa Bay's opponents this season collectively won 57.3 percent of their games, slightly more than the other four teams.

Sunday's outcomes also lined up the final two opponents for the Bucs' 2014 schedule. After finishing fourth in the NFC South (losing a tiebreaker with the Falcons), the Bucs will face two other last-place teams, with a home game against the Rams (who beat the Bucs last week) and a road game at Washington.

Tampa Bay has its six division games against Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans in 2014, along with five home games: Green Bay, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati and St. Louis. Its remaining road games will be at Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington.

Bucs' 2014 opponents

Home Away

Falcons Falcons

Panthers Panthers

Saints Saints

Packers Bears

Vikings Lions

Bengals Browns

Ravens Steelers

Rams Redskins

2014 draft order

If teams finish with the same record, the one with the worse opponents' winning percentage drafts first (remaining order to be determined by playoff results):

1. Texans 11. Titans

2. Rams * 12. Giants

3. Jaguars 13. Rams

4. Browns 14. Bears

5. Raiders 15. Steelers

6. Falcons 16. Ravens/Cowboys #

7. Bucs 17. Ravens/Cowboys #

8. Vikings 18. Jets

9. Bills 19. Dolphins

10. Lions 20. Cardinals

* Via Redskins

# Same opponents' win percentage; will be determined by coin flip

. It barely registered with most fans and didn't result in so much as a single tackle, but Bucs LB Danny Lansanah made a long-awaited return to the NFL in Sunday's loss, playing in his first game in more than five years. Lansanah, 28, was on the field for the opening kickoff return and also played on the kickoff coverage team, as well as playing the final possession on defense at linebacker. The former UConn linebacker played in five games as a rookie with the Packers in 2008 but hadn't been active for a game since, with stints with the Hartford and Las Vegas teams in the UFL before making the Jets' opening-day roster this fall. He was inactive in his only game with the Jets, as he was for his first two games with the Bucs before injuries pressed him into duty Sunday. "It was great to get back out there — it was mind-boggling," said Lansanah, who was working as a youth counselor in his Pennsylvania hometown when the Jets called him this summer. "We came up short, but I tried my hardest, gave my all like I always do. … You work for so long, to finally get back out there in an NFL game, it felt good." Such a layoff between NFL appearances is rare, and Lansanah's focus now is working in the offseason to try to make a case for the Bucs' roster next fall, though he might not have the benefit of injuries depleting the competition around him. "This is a great place to be, great coaches, great players, somewhere I'd like to be," he said. "I'll go into the offseason, work hard and come back ready."

Bucs botch attempt at fake field goal 12/29/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 29, 2013 11:12pm]
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