Somewhere between the ball-denying defense against Ravens Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco — that wasn't confetti raining down on him Thursday night — and pathetic play of the special teams, Bucs coach Greg Schiano had reason to be pleased and perturbed by his team's performance in the first preseason game. By the time a torrential downpour arrived at the end of the first half, the mood was completely dampened for the Bucs in a 44-16 loss before an announced crowd of 47,599 at Raymond James Stadium.
Seventeen of the Ravens' 24 first-half points came courtesy of three special teams mistakes: a fumbled punt, 58-yard kickoff return and blocked punt in the end zone.
But Schiano's primary focus was the secondary, rebuilt after yielding nearly 400 passing yards per game and 30 touchdown passes overall last season.
"It was 3-0 at the end of the first quarter," Schiano said. "Certainly, it got sloppy there after that. We've got a long way to go as a football team. The good news is we have three games left to get better. Nor am I ready to go ballistic. The score is what it is. There will be some good things on that tape."
Flacco failed to produce any points against the Bucs' first-team defense and finished 7-of-9 for 57 yards and an interception by cornerback Danny Gorrer, who also had a pass breakup.
For a defense that finished last against the pass in the NFL and was playing without star cornerback Darrelle Revis, it was a promising start. Linebacker Lavonte David produced a sack, and rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks knocked down passes and upended ball carriers.
"I thought Johnthan showed up a few times," Schiano said. "That's a guy who this stage wasn't too big for. That's promising. I think there were a couple other players that showed up at the corner position."
Offensively, there wasn't much to savor for the Bucs. Starting quarterback Josh Freeman produced only the first of three field goals by Derek Dimke, who suddenly has elbowed his way past Lawrence Tynes.
Freeman played two series. The first was a three-and-out capped by a sack. The second, ignited by a 22-yard pass to Kevin Ogletree, led to Dimke's 29-yard field goal. Freeman finished 4-of-7 for 34 yards and the sack.
"We had the first three-and-out, but guys continued to do their job," Freeman said.
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had some good moments — his first pass was a 61-yard completion to tight end Tom Crabtree — but finished 11-of-23 for 169 yards, a sack and an interception that was the result of a wrong route.
"My initial read wasn't really open, and then I started thinking, 'Oh God, I'm going to take a safety on my first play," said Glennon on the play that started at the Bucs 6. "All of a sudden, Crabtree flashed on me. It was a unique way to start my first game."
At least he fared better than Adam Weber, whose first two passes were intercepted.
But the breakdown on special teams, coached by first-year Bucs assistant Dave Wannstedt, gave the game away.
It began when receiver Chris Owusu, in a driving storm, fumbled a punt recovered by LaQuan Williams at the Tampa Bay 20. Bernard Pierce ran right and scored on the next play.
Later came a 58-yard kickoff return by Bobby Rainey. Dimke made a touchdown-saving tackle near midfield but was called for a horse collar. That led to a Justin Tucker 43-yard field goal.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Anthony Allen — a graduate of Tampa's Jesuit High — gave the Ravens a 17-13 lead with 34 seconds remaining in the first half. But before the Bucs could get to the locker room, former Florida Gator Chas Henry's punt was blocked in the end zone by Brynden Trawick and recovered by Williams for a touchdown.
"(Owusu's fumble) was a technique error, which may not be easily correctable," Schiano said. "Sometimes, that's why guys aren't punt returners. We'll see. The punt block was a basic rush, and a guy beat another guy. And a kickoff return, someone who hasn't done a lot of special teams didn't get where he needed to, and it cut off the rest of the guys."