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Timidity exacerbates Bucs' offensive haplessness

Bucs coach Greg Schiano, expressing his thoughts to defensive end Adrian Clayborn, claims that he was playing the odds when he called for a field goal while down by 14 late in the game.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Bucs coach Greg Schiano, expressing his thoughts to defensive end Adrian Clayborn, claims that he was playing the odds when he called for a field goal while down by 14 late in the game.

ATLANTA

In the most crucial moment of the game, I know what you were thinking. Even as Rian Lindell lined up for a field goal with five minutes to play and his team down by 14, the strategy was clear.

Just five more of these field goals, you thought, and the Bucs have this game in the bag.

At the time, what else could the Bucs possibly have been thinking? For them, the other team's end zone is always so far away, like some mythical palace protected by a moat and a dragon. It has been denied to them for so long that avoiding it must seem like the proper choice. This is Team Toe, and in a league where the teams are separated by touchdowns, this one seems to live for the field goal.

So here the Bucs were, on the Atlanta 23 in the late stages of the game. A touchdown, and there was still hope. A touchdown, and maybe they could finally win their first game.

And so they kicked a field goal to cut the margin to 11.

Of course they did.

To be fair, the Bucs were in an awful fix at the time, even by the standards of this miserable season. It was fourth and goal from the Atlanta 23, and, yes, the odds of either scoring or drawing a penalty for a first down were astronomical. Still, don't teams — other teams, at least — score with one play left all the time?

On the other hand, the odds of making the field goal, then making another field goal, then scoring a touchdown, then making the two-point conversion, then winning in overtime seem infinitesimal. Too many good things have to happen.

When you get down to it, that's where these Bucs are at 0-6, measuring the difference between the astronomical and the infinitesimal. They are debating which move gives them a 2 percent chance of winning and which gives them only a 1.5 percent.

In either case, winning seems a long way away, doesn't it?

"We were in a four-down situation," coach Greg Schiano said. "We know we need to score, so we took it into a two-possession game. We knew we were entering an onside scenario, and once you do that, the odds are so low. Not that you can't do it, but the odds aren't high there."

Look, it's an awful choice to have. But here's why the Bucs should have taken a shot: One, it's easier to make one play than a lot of them. Two, even if you throw an incompletion, it remains a two-score game.

In either case, the Bucs killed their own chances long before that fourth-down decision. There was Donald Penn's hold, and Vincent Jackson's face mask penalty, and Davin Joseph's illegal use of hands (on a touchdown pass, no less). Put it this way: If the Bucs had gone for it on fourth down, I'm not sure they wouldn't have had another penalty anyway.

Either way, Tampa Bay lost 31-23 to an undermanned Falcons team. The best part of this Atlanta team is wonderful wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Neither played Sunday. Neither did running back Steven Jackson.

Still, the Falcons cracked 30. Matt Ryan had a nice day throwing to his fill-out-the-roster receivers, and the Bucs secondary struggled again.

And as for the Bucs offense?

Don't ask. I'm not sure which part of 0-14 it was when coach John McKay thought of executing his offense, but aren't we fairly close to that?

This team cannot score. It. Cannot. Score. You could put a GPS on every wide receiver and a homing device on every running back, and they still couldn't find the end zone. As it is, 23 was their high-water mark for the season.

Across the league, only Jacksonville is worse than the Bucs in both points and yardage. Remember, this was the offense that was supposed to carry Tampa Bay a long way toward the playoffs this year.

Remember the third quarter, when the Bucs were within a touchdown and had the ball? They made one first down when quarterback Mike Glennon was roughed, and another when Glennon ran for 13 yards on third and 12. But that drive died, the way most Bucs drives die.

Then there was the 18-play drive that went to the Falcons 5, which you can label Exhibit A for those who want to argue that the Bucs lack discipline. How does a team go from first and goal at the 5 to first and goal at the 30?

In other words, the Bucs kept blocking their own entrance back into the game, which is when Lindell kicked his field goal.

Give him credit for this: He nailed it.

Sadly, he was only three field goals short.

Timidity exacerbates Bucs' offensive haplessness 10/20/13 [Last modified: Sunday, October 20, 2013 9:43pm]

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