WR Joey Galloway had a big day statistically in Atlanta - nine catches for 161 yards - but he was left far from satisfied
As evidenced by their 0-2 record, the 2006 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a work in progress in some areas of their game. On Sunday in Atlanta, there was definite progress made in the passing game, particularly in regards to getting the wide receivers more involved.
The bottom line, of course, is that the Bucs still scored just three points against the Falcons, in part because they matched their Week One total with three interceptions. That and the team's first loss in four meetings with the Falcons made it difficult to enjoy any particular statistic from the game, including Chris Simms' career-high 313 passing yards. But it's worth noting that most of that yardage was piled up by the team's three main wideouts after the majority of the passing game went through the backs and tight ends on opening day.
"We just gave him some alleys to throw the ball today," said wide receiver Michael Clayton. "If we do our job well, then when Chris has enough time to deliver the ball, he delivers a great ball. But we would do something so good and then shoot ourselves in the foot by the mistakes we made. We just didn't ever get anything going."
Perhaps the receivers' increased involvement was the product of better pass protection. The Bucs' offensive line successfully picked up several Atlanta blitzes, and Simms was sacked only once in 53 attempts for just two yards.
Perhaps it was a pointed emphasis on finding the purported playmakers in the passing game. Head Coach Jon Gruden stressed that idea this past week, saying the team's wide receivers, particularly Galloway, had to be involved in the offense.
Maybe it was a combination of both. Whatever the case, the Bucs passing attack had more bite and more downfield depth on Sunday. In all, 20 of Simms' 28 completions went to wide receivers. Last week, only three of his 17 completions found their way to a wide receiver – and that was all to Clayton, who had all three catches for 34 yards.
This week Joey Galloway led the way with a career-high nine catches for 161 yards, including a 55-yard bomb from Simms in the third quarter that put the Bucs inside the 10 with a chance to severely tighten the game. Even from the Bucs' opening possession, Galloway was involved, turning a short Simms pass into a 26-yard gain on a well-executed bubble screen.
"We just found some success on some plays today," Galloway said. "That's what we're going to have to do to be successful in this offense. We've got to make plays. We have to throw the ball. We have to run the ball. Right now, we're just not clicking on all cylinders."
Obviously, despite the big numbers on Sunday, Galloway is far from content. From two-a-days in Orlando this summer to practices during the week, whenever Galloway has been asked about his career year last season in which he caught more passes and gained more yards than at any point in his NFL career, the veteran receiver has always put it in the context of how it helped the Bucs win games. On Sunday, Galloway failed to notch the one stat that matters to him – a win.
"I don't know that our timing improved," Galloway said, addressing his emerging stats on Sunday. "I don't know that we were getting in sync. We were just able to make some plays this week that we weren't able to make last week. All in all, we didn't play well enough – whether it was me making plays or [Chris Simms] making plays. We didn't play well enough."
The main problem, Galloway said, was an inability to fully take advantage of their opportunities. Throughout the game, there were instances where the Bucs could have shifted the momentum in their favor, especially in the red zone, but they were unable to put the ball in the end zone despite three incursions inside the 10.
"Offensively, we got down in the red zone a few times and we didn't capitalize," Galloway said. "To win on the road, to beat a team like Atlanta, you've got to capitalize when you have your opportunities. We didn't do that today. We had breakdowns. We didn't execute the way we needed to execute, and when you do that you only get three points.
"At the end of a game when you only get three points you always feel like you left something out there. What I do know is that we didn't play well enough to score points. We had breakdowns, we made mistakes – we've got to play better, simple as that. We have got to play better. It doesn't matter what we left out there. What does matter is we've got to eliminate our mistakes, and we've got to play better. And then you score points."
As frustrating as these past two weeks have been for the Buccaneers' players and coaches, Galloway remains optimistic. He's got 11 years under his belt, and he knows the postseason hunt is a marathon, not a race. Still, the urgency in Galloway's voice and comments is evident – it's time for the team to play better, much better.
"I've been through a lot of offensive struggles," Galloway said. "I think the key thing now is we're 0-2, and we've got a tough game next week. We get to go back home. Tomorrow we start getting ready, and we just have to be better than we were these past two games.
"We put a lot of work into this, and even though the outcome hasn't been what we wanted it to be, we've still worked extremely hard, and we'll continue to work hard, we'll continue to try and learn from our mistakes and we'll continue to try and play better."