Despite Loss, Bucs Continue to Find Bright Spots

What a series of unfortunate events that Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Ravens turned out to be for the Buccaneers. Cody Grimm’s broken fibula. Davin Joseph’s broken foot. Josh Freeman having his first largely inaccurate performance throwing the football this year. The secondary being dominated by an aging #2 receiver Derrick Mason , who looked like he did when he was making plays in his prime for the Titans. Todd Heap running free for the first big play allowed in recent memory. Another long touchdown by Ray Rice that was called back by a dubious penalty. A long and extremely questionable pass interference penalty that set up Baltimore’s first touchdown. Aqib Talib exchanging heated words with an official after the game. A dropped touchdown. Pass protection problems.

You get the point.

However, one bright spot did shine through the darkness of Sunday’s loss: the play of the defensive line. For the third straight week, the Buccaneer defense turned in a multiple sack performance, this time sacking QB Joe Flacco 4 times, a feat that is not easily accomplished against a talented Baltimore offensive line. In the middle of that sack party was the ever-improving Gerald McCoy, who finished with 3 tackles and 2 sacks. More importantly, he helped lead a Buccaneer defensive front hold the Baltimore offense to less than 100 yards rushing despite 23 rushes from Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

McCoy now has 3 sacks on the season, and it’s no coincidence that the Bucs’ sack total has increased from 6 before the Carolina game to 18 after Sunday. Against Carolina, McCoy started to really flash some of that quickness and explosiveness for which he was billed. He was a part of 2 sacks on QB Troy Smith the following week and absolutely dominated the inside gaps, which helped limit Frank Gore to 23 yards on 12 carries.

However, don’t think that Gerald is satisfied with individual improvement following the Baltimore loss.

“I’d give all that back for a ‘W’”, McCoy said. “That doesn’t mean anything to me, I’m a team guy. It’s not enough that we didn’t get the ‘W.’”

If the Bucs are to grab more of those W’s and stay in the playoff picture, the front 7 will need to keep up its gap responsibility as effectively as it has the past few games, as well as continue to limit big runs. The loss of S Cody Grimm, who was as sound and consistent a tackler as anyone on the team, is a huge blow to a defense that improved in run support by leaps and bounds the past several weeks. It might be a coincidence that the Ravens hit on multiple big plays after Grimm went down. More likely, it’s a product of his absence.

We’ll see just how quickly the loss of Grimm and Joseph will be felt, as the 9-2 Atlanta Falcons come to town this weekend. Michael Turner, who is coming off a 110-yard performance against a Packers defense that had only allowed one running back to reach 100+ yards rushing this season, will certainly be a huge challenge for the Buccaneer defense on Sunday. In the teams’ previous matchup this year, Turner ran for 107 yards in the Falcons 27-21 victory.

However, if Gerald McCoy and the Buccaneer defensive line continue to generate the push from recent weeks, the Falcons could find a “W” more difficult to achieve.