Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers dig big hole with inability to stop Dallas Cowboys on third down

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (9) consistently finds open receivers on third down to move the chains in a 28-point first half.


Cowboys QB Tony Romo (9) consistently finds open receivers on third down to move the chains in a 28-point first half.

TAMPA — On Dallas' first third down Saturday night, quarterback Tony Romo had so much time to throw that a full 7 seconds elapsed before he found receiver Miles Austin for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

It would be emblematic of a long night for the Bucs defense, which struggled to get off the field on third down.

"Third down killed us," strong safety Sean Jones said after the Bucs' 31-15 loss. "Romo scrambled around for a while and hit some guys who kind of (got) uncovered. We need to get more pressure on him so he can't do that, so those guys can't uncover and make plays. He did a good job of running around, buying himself time and finding open holes in the zone."

The Cowboys' first three touchdowns all came on third-down plays, and the fourth came immediately after Dallas converted on third and 2 from the Bucs 5-yard line. By halftime, Dallas was 6-for-7 on third downs, piling up more yards in those clutch situations (65) than the Bucs mustered in the entire half (55).

They weren't easy situations the Cowboys were converting, either. The first four third downs required at least 8 yards to move the chains, and Romo consistently found open targets in a secondary that lost cornerback Aqib Talib early to a left hamstring injury.

On Dallas' second touchdown, receiver Dez Bryant was so open in the back of the end zone that he bobbled the catch twice before pulling it in. All six of Dallas' third-down conversions in the first half came on Romo passes.

"Romo's a great improviser; he was out there improvising and making plays for this team," Bucs rookie linebacker Mason Foster said. "When he's moving around and making good passes, it's hard to stop. … You've got to make your plays, win your one-on-ones."

Entering the game, such a third-down situation would have seemed a fair battle between Dallas' offense, which was converting 39 percent of its third downs, and Tampa Bay's defense, which was holding opponents to 39 percent on third downs. Instead, Dallas' ability to sustain long drives was the difference, as the Cowboys' first five scoring drives were all at least seven plays and all at least 56 yards, tiring the Bucs defense.

Dallas' ability to move the ball on third down early was matched by the Bucs' comparable inability. Tampa Bay went 1-for-5 in the first half, missing on third-and-1 and third-and-2 opportunities.

Tampa Bay's offense started clicking in the third quarter, as the Bucs went 4-for-4 on third downs on the way to their first offensive touchdown; they missed on their remaining three opportunities to finish 5-for-12.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers dig big hole with inability to stop Dallas Cowboys on third down 12/18/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2011 12:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Souza not in lineup vs. Rangers



  2. Remember that famous Fred McGriff TV commercial? He's back, in a parody


    If you've ever seen Fred McGriff's TV commerical for Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills video it will always be fresh in your mind, with the deadpan delivery and famously ill-fitting cap.

  3. Fennelly: Is Charlie Strong the anti-Freeze?


    The Hugh Sleaze era at Ole Mess is over.

    Hugh Freeze resigned as head football coach Thursday to avoid being fired by Mississippi school officials. For those of you who had NCAA violations and investigations in the pool, you were wrong. Nor was it the defamation lawsuit filed against the school by former Rebels …

    FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2016, file photo, Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze pauses during a timeout in the team's NCAA college football game against Florida State in Orlando, Fla. Freeze has resigned after five seasons, bringing a stunning end to a once-promising tenure. The school confirmed Freeze's resignation in a release Thursday night. Assistant Matt Luke has been named the interim coach. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) NY176
  4. Rowdies part of a record-setting season for USL attendance


    ST. PETERSBURG — Although Rowdies fans haven't had many recent opportunities to show out at Al Lang, the United Soccer League turnstiles keep turning at a record rate.

    A Rowdies fan waves flags ahead of the first half of the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and Orlando City B at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, March 25, 2017.
  5. 'Deadliest Catch' captain talks reality TV, Snoop Dogg and Tampa Bay


    Keith Colburn is best known as captain of the Wizard on the Discovery Network series Deadliest Catch. Colburn and crew go to battle in the Bering Sea working one of the deadliest jobs in America. A seasoned veteran, Keith has filmed 11 seasons of the show and is still going strong with his relief captain …

    Captain Keith Colburn is seen in this undated photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel. Courtesy of the Discovery Channel