Bucs offense hitting wall in second half

Bucs running back Doug Martin is brought down by Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans in the third quarter Sunday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Bucs running back Doug Martin is brought down by Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans in the third quarter Sunday.

TAMPA — The Bucs have struggled to score in general this season, ranking next-to-last in the NFL, but Tampa Bay has had another level of trouble in the second half, with six total offensive points in 27 possessions.

The Bucs' total yardage is nearly identical between the halves — 727 yards before halftime, 723 after — but they have spent little time in striking distance in the second half. Of 162 total offensive plays, eight have come in the red zone (inside the opposing 20) and none have gained yardage.

Tampa Bay has more second-half scoring from its defense — seven points on Mason Foster's 85-yard interception return against New Orleans — than its offense. Asked about the significant dropoff in scoring after halftime, when coaches on both sides can make schematic adjustments, coach Greg Schiano cited fumbles and interceptions across midfield.

"Up until (Sunday), we hadn't scored a lot of points, period," Schiano said. "In the second half, costly turnovers on the plus side of the field. In the (Arizona) game, we put the ball on the ground at midfield, right after the fake punt. This week (against Philadelphia), we're driving the ball the length of the field, we're on the plus side and we throw the interception. Those are the tough plays. You can't turn the ball over. When you get in scoring position, you've got to score. When you get on the plus side of the field, really, you get that chance."

That only answers some of the problems. The Bucs have had four turnovers across midfield, but were no closer than the opposing 38-yard line, barely scoring position. Until Sunday, with a 90-yard drive that netted a Rian Lindell field goal, the Bucs hadn't taken a second-half snap in the red zone before the two-minute warning. (And the Bucs punted after their fake punt from the 47-yard line against Arizona.)

The Bucs have led in the second half of four of their five losses, but they've been outscored 48-13 after halftime, with no third-quarter points. At an NFL-low 2.6 points per second half, they're down sharply from Schiano's first season, when their 13.2 second-half average was sixth-best.

Injury update: Schiano said Monday that he expects starting WR Mike Williams, who missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, to return healthy for this week's game at Atlanta.

It's unknown if they'll have G Carl Nicks, who had a recurrence of a MRSA staph infection in his injured left foot last week and was inactive Sunday. He might require surgery; Schiano said he doesn't know how long the former Pro Bowl pick will be sidelined.

"He's (getting) further evaluation as we speak," Schiano said. "We're just going to make sure we use every resource available to do what's ultimately best for Carl and try to get this thing licked."

Schiano also didn't know the timeline for RB/KR Jeff Demps, who left with a groin injury but said after the game that he would be okay.

Also, backup DE Da'Quan Bowers wore a walking boot on his right foot as he walked through the locker room Monday. Bowers played only 16 plays against the Eagles with no tackles, as Adrian Clayborn and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim got most of the work at end. Rookie Steven Means, who logged 12 snaps Sunday and had two tackles, would see more action if Bowers cannot play.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3346.

Bucs offense hitting wall in second half 10/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 14, 2013 9:51pm]

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