Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Five plays that might keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs

TAMPA — If Sunday's game at New Orleans is indeed the last time the Bucs play this season, they will finish a hair shy of making the postseason.

That likely will leave the Bucs plenty of time during the offseason to daydream about the possibilities, particularly the ones associated with the handful of plays that arguably affected the season's outcome.

The issue is so unavoidable it's already on the Bucs' minds. Coach Raheem Morris used some of the team's most frustrating shortcomings to illustrate a point in his message to players Friday.

"I told them it's a game of inches," Morris said. "I'm going to go back (in the offseason) and show those guys some of the games that we're talking about. (You think), it's coming down to one game. Wait a minute. It comes down to one play. Every play is that important.

"We'll get a chance to look at that Roddy White third-and-20 (conversion). We'll get a chance to look back at the fourth and inches against Atlanta. We'll get a chance to go back and look at the (kickoff) return that Eric Weems got. We'll get a chance to look at the big-time catch that Calvin Johnson made on third down and 8. … It's a great lesson for a young team."

Here, then, are five plays that might keep the Bucs out of the playoffs:

Fourth-down letdown

The Bucs pulled out all the stops in trying to cool the red-hot Falcons on Nov. 7 in Atlanta. They attempted an onside kick and got an 89-yard kickoff-return touchdown from Micheal Spurlock, and Mike Williams scored on a 58-yard catch-and-run.

But trailing 27-21 with less than three minutes to play, the Bucs failed to get a few inches.

Facing fourth and inches at the Atlanta 2-yard line, running back LeGarrette Blount failed to hit a sizable hole opened on the right side by guard Davin Joseph, opting instead to bounce the run outside, where he was corralled by safety Thomas DeCoud and teammates for no gain.

The Bucs had a chance to move to 6-2 for the NFC's best record. Instead, they left with regrets.

Heap of trouble

The Bucs found themselves in a slugfest with the Ravens on Nov. 28, playing to a 3-3 tie until late in the first half. Then, with 3:04 remaining before halftime, Ravens tight end Todd Heap exploited a busted coverage, running unchecked down the left hash marks for a 65-yard touchdown reception. The breakdown, by all accounts, appeared to be attributed to safety Sabby Piscitelli, who was waived two days after the 17-10 loss.

Those seven points proved the difference, but the frustration was compounded minutes later by a questionable pass-interference call against rookie cornerback Myron Lewis. The foul gave the Ravens 24 yards and set up a touchdown with 32 seconds left in the half.

The Bucs shut out Baltimore in the second half but couldn't climb out of the hole.

This also was the game in which the Bucs lost Joseph and safety Cody Grimm to season-ending injuries.

Falcons punch back

Using, of all things, a touchdown pass from fullback Earnest Graham to tight end John Gilmore, the Bucs staked themselves a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead against the NFC's best team, the Falcons, and appeared well on the way to the season's biggest win Dec. 5.

Moments later, that suddenly seemed less certain.

On the ensuing kickoff, a series of poor tackling efforts, specifically from receiver Maurice Stovall, allowed Weems to wiggle his way loose for a 102-yard touchdown return. The play sparked what would become a successful rally for the Falcons in a 28-24 victory.

Third-down dagger

Of course, the Bucs had a chance later that same game to prevent the Falcons' come-from-behind win, but they allowed White to catch a 25-yard pass on third and 20 with about 71/2 minutes to go. White slipped between safety Corey Lynch and cornerback E.J. Biggers to grab a strike from quarterback Matt Ryan.

The play kept alive what proved to be the winning touchdown drive rather than resulting in what likely would have been a decision by Atlanta to punt. In keeping with the what-if theme, the Bucs lost standout cornerback Aqib Talib early in the game, leaving them without a defender who would've been assigned to White all day.

Winslow gets robbed

Perhaps the most deflating loss came Dec. 19 against Detroit.

And there might not have been a more shocking call against the Bucs this season than the one that came with 9:02 left. That's when quarterback Josh Freeman rolled out of the pocket, buying time, before hitting tight end Kellen Winslow in the back of the end zone for an apparent 2-yard touchdown.

The score would have given the Bucs a four-point lead after trailing 17-14, but the play was nullified because of an offensive pass-interference call against Winslow. The Bucs went on to lose 23-20 in overtime.

The added insult? The league office later notified the Bucs the call was incorrect.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Five plays that might keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs

12/31/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener

    College

    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    USF outfielder Chris Chatfield is congratulated by third-base coach Chris Cates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning, tying the score at 3.