The Bucs have a lot of young players on offense, including RB Cadillac Williams
Success finds no attraction to teams that wallow in yesterday's misfortunes. Instead, she partners with those that demonstrate resolve, those that confront their challenges and overcome them. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers know this, and Monday they set out to address their first challenge of the young NFL season – improving their in-game communications.
The ineffectiveness of such interactions, said Head Coach Jon Gruden, cost the Bucs offense dearly Sunday against the Ravens, contributing to a paltry 147 yards of total offense and three turnovers in a 27-0 loss at Raymond James Stadium.
"I never felt throughout the course of the game that our communication, our decision-making, our tempo, is what we are looking for," Gruden said after spending the better part of a sleepless Sunday night reviewing game film of his team's loss.
"The tempo – it's the communication, I think, that is somewhat concerning, and certainly Baltimore has a lot to do with that," he said. "They provide a ton of looks. They've been together, they're a veteran defensive team, and they're outstanding, physical football players. Let's not take anything away from them. But our recognition, our responses, weren't quick enough, weren't consistent enough against a team like this."
That lack of recognition came back to hurt the Bucs in several situations Sunday, Gruden said, particularly in terms of pass protection for quarterback Chris Simms, who was often forced to find his secondary and tertiary reads but given little time to do so.
"We got a lot of zone coverage," Gruden said. "There are going to be times against zone coverage's that are so soft – the corners are playing so deep, the safety was abnormally deep – that you're going to have to find your second and third outlet and not grieve about it. But you're going to have to have time to let a pattern develop where that can happen."
Simms didn't, and the Bucs offense missed several chances to strike against a Ravens defense that doesn't offer many such opportunities.
"There were times that we did, like I say, recognize the blitz and have people accounted for," Gruden said. "But the protection didn't happen. [The Ravens] are outstanding physical people, and we've got to do a better job. That's all I've got to say – we've got to do a better job. We did have four or five shots in the game to make big plays. The film doesn't lie and we didn't make them."
Perhaps such a lapse was inevitable, given the relative youth and inexperience present on the Buccaneers' offensive unit. Although he finished strong last year, Simms is only in his first full year as the team's starting quarterback. Cadillac Williams is for the first time having to face defenses that have a year's worth of his game film. Tight end Alex Smith is entering only his second year, and the Bucs offensive line featured two new guards filling in for starters Davin Joseph and Dan Bueinning, both of whom are injured.
To Gruden, such rationalizing is nothing more than a litany of excuses, and he stressed that every player and every coach, including himself, is accountable.
"Yes, we have guys playing for their first time at right guard and left guard and there are some inexperience issues," Gruden acknowledged. "It's Chris Simms' first start on opening day – but it's not his first start. There are some things we've got to do better and we've got to be accountable for that. I'll take my share of the blame, gladly, but I'll also say we've got to do a much better job being decisive, being quick with our decisions and explosive in our movements.
"We all share in that. Some of it I take responsibility for and Bill Muir takes responsibility for. The battery, the center and the quarterback, they obviously, at the end of the day have got to try to make sure everybody's on the same page. Do we need to use an audible to get out of this protection because it is overloaded?"
Those are the types of communication issues that the young Bucs offense will be addressing over the coming week as the team prepares for the Atlanta Falcons, fresh off their win over a heavily favored Carolina Panthers team. The loud and hostile domed environment the Falcons call home won't make in-game communications any easier, but Gruden believes the offense can and will rebound thanks to its strong work ethic.
"Well, obviously, we keep practicing," Gruden said. "We played one game and it was not a good day. It was not a good day in my life. But I'm also proud to say that we did practice hard and we did blitz almost every single snap. We're going to continue to work at that. It's something we've been good at. It's something we take a lot of pride in.
"We're hoping we can put the wheels back on here this afternoon, be honest in our critiques of each other and get ready for our next football game."