INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 29: T.Y Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts catches a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
In a tale of two halves, the final minutes proved to be the difference in the 25-12 loss at the hands of the Colts on Sunday. While the Tampa Bay defense had another dominant outing against the run, the front four wasn’t able to apply pressure when it counted most, and Matt Hasselbeck torched the secondary during a game-icing, seven minute drive in the fourth quarter. One more splash play (at least one that the refs don’t call back) and we’re likely looking at each player and grading each position group a lot differently. Check out how each each defensive unit graded out according to Pewter Report and share your thoughts.
Once again the Buccaneers front four was strong against the run, holding the Colts backfield to just 30 yards rushing while playing sound gap football through four quarters. However, unlike the close games they were able to win at the end – Atlanta and Dallas – the pass rush disappeared late in the game this time and allowed Matt Hasselbeck to carve up the secondary in critical situations.
While Henry Melton was able to apply pressure at times during the Colts game-sealing, seven minute drive, Howard Jones was called for an illegal hands penalty and Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith struggled to get past defenders.
Although McCoy recorded a sack in the game’s first series, he was ineffective through most of the afternoon, as Colts guard Hugh Thorton and backup tackle Denzelle Good, who often double-teamed McCoy, fared well against the Bucs’ star three-technique.
Meanwhile, Smith was able to get in Hasselbeck’s face on occasion and force a few bad throws, but tackle Joe Reitz also defended his outside edge and inside moves well enough to keep Hasselbeck upright. Take away a questionable call, however, and Smith is probably the hero of the game with a fourth quarter fumble recovery that would’ve set Tampa Bay up inside the 30-yard line.
William Gholston had the best day of anyone on the D-line. The 6-foot-6 defensive lineman made his presence felt from the start, batting down the opening pass of the game before bringing down Frank Gore a few plays later. Gholston would continue to play sound against the run, finishing with four tackles and a couple blown up pitches that won’t show up in the stat column.
For the defense as a whole, it was the tale of two halves. For the four-man front, it was the tale of two phases of the game. Everyone chipped in against the run to make Indy one dimensional, but they weren’t able to capitalize, and often left the veteran Hasselbeck too much time to find the gaps in zone coverage.
In most cases, the linebackers go as the defensive line goes. Sunday’s loss was no different.
Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Danny Lansanah all hit their gaps and tackled well against the run, each contributing with at least four solo stops to make Gore’s day a forgettable one. But a few passes to tight ends over the middle takes a little away from an otherwise solid performance from the corps.
Alexander led the team with 10 tackles, flying through the gap on a few plays to prevent a damaging run by Gore. The rookie continues to grow at the Mike position, looking more comfortable and instinctive with each passing week. Though, he did leave a few tackles on the field.
David, for his part, also made a couple key stops, finishing with seven tackles while also blitzing successfully on a few plays (see first drive of third quarter). After a slow start to the season, David has looked as good as he ever has the past three weeks.
Overall, this was Tampa Bay’s best unit on defense Sunday.
There was the really good – recognition and speed against the run and screen – and the really bad – quick slants, out-routes and go-routes that gashed the zone defense in the second half. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the bad outweighed the good on Sunday, and made for too many mistakes in the game’s most crucial moments.
After rising up the depth chart and putting together three impressive games at cornerback, Jude Adjei-Barimah was exposed a bit in Indianapolis.
During the seven-minute scoring drive in the fourth quarter that all but sealed the Colts victory, Matt Hasselbeck targeted the undrafted rookie four times and hit his receiver on every attempt. From a crossing pattern on third-and-10 to Donte Moncrief, to back-to-back comeback routes for first downs, to the final out-route TD pass to T.Y. Hilton, the Bucs’ biggest success story turned into their biggest liability on Sunday.
Moving to the other side, Sterling Moore, who finished with three solo tackles, showed great recognition to make a few open field stops (as did Adjei-Barimah), but was beat on two critical throws on the Colts eventual go-ahead scoring drive in the third quarter. Moore was caught playing too soft on a go-route, though the TD pass needed safety help from Bradley MoDougald who was late to arrive.
McDougald finished the game with six tackles, looking fast in pursuit as usual. Of his six stops, a couple were for a loss and one came on a key third down where he tackled tight end Coby Fleener short of the marker and forced a field goal late in the third quarter to keep the Bucs in the game. However, the third-year safety was out of place at times in coverage (see third quarter TD) and was called for pass interference early in the game on a third down play.
As for Chris Conte, the former Bear had an unusually quiet day on defense (one tackle), though he might have made the play of the game if not for questionable officiating. During the Colts final TD drive, Conte appeared to have forced a fumble at the goal line which would’ve kept it a one-possession game and given the offense the ball back. But Gore was ruled down and the rest is history.
The secondary played fast, but ultimately took a step back in coverage on Sunday, as Hasselbeck completed 26 of 42 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns – his best game of the season.
What could’ve been a splash play to save the game – Chris Conte’s leap over the line in an attempt to block a FG – turned into arguably the most devastating error of the afternoon. Instead of blocking Adam Vinatieri’s fourth kick, Conte missed and ran into the holder. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, as the ref flagged him leaping and granted the Colts as automatic first down – a drive they capped off with a TD.
While Vinatieri was 4 for 4 on FG attempts, the Bucs couldn’t match Indy’s success in the kicking game. Connor Barth missed his first career PAT and proceeded to miss a 54-yarder in the third quarter. After the miss, Logan Mankins was called for unnecessary roughness and, in a span of 30 seconds, Tampa Bay went from a possible TD (Evans drop), to a missed FG, to setting the Colts offense up inside Bucs’ territory with all the momentum.
As far as what impressed on special teams, the Bucs kick coverage was outstanding. Josh Keyes led the way with two tackles, both of which started the Colts’ drive inside their own 20-yard line.
Jacob Schum had a good day, too, averaging 40 yards on three punts while getting the Bucs out of a couple jams in the second half deep in their own territory.
What will be remembered, however, is two missed kicks and two 15-yard penalties that epitomized a day where everything seemed to go in the Colts’ favor.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I agree that Special Teams was poor…very poor in all facets. I think you’re being a bit harsh on the secondary – I know this is always a chicken and egg argument but – our pass rush against some backups and a 40 year old QB was disgraceful…how long can we expect the secondary to hold coverage…and in that regard, I also can’t blame the DLine too much as they were regularly 4 against 5 or 6 blockers…not sure why we decided to abandon the sort of blitzing that was so helpful the last couple of weeks…maybe I give Lovie the C here and the players a little higher marks than you…
Very good analysis
Unfortunately there is no cure for what ails this defense other than a good draft.
It’s the same story every week as far as the defensive line and secondary.
Unfortunately it’s not the fault of the current regime.
Rah, Schiano and Dominick spent 6 or 7 high round draft picks on the DL and only one remains.
To put icing on the cake of stupidity, they let the best DL who was a FA sign walk over a measly $3 million.
Can’t disagree with these grades.
D-Line a “D” DE had zero pass rush on Hasselbeck who is a 40 yr old statue, zero. 4 tackles from our DE and he gets praise, Gholdston wouldn’t start for 31 other teams well maybe Jax and the Saints but that’s it. Jones sucks and Smith is our best DE and he is mediocre with his one move which is a speed rush around the corner, these guys make me miss Stylz White and Greg Spires
After I started laughing from your reply…. I realized you just dont know much about football….. your comments add nothing here on this board really… These comments are felonious and opinion but not fact. You just denigrated 3 fine football players…. Jones has been a great big asset since he came from the STEELERS, GHOLSTON is most often double teamed, and Smith is far from mediocrity…. do you realize if coverage was one second better we very well would have had a 10 sack day? Maybe Evans should catch the ones that bounce off his Numbers? Maybe we should end drive ending penalities? We are 11th in the league in run defense and we have held very good teams to half of what they average…. we are very close here in Tampa…. but with “WIZARDS” like you that just criticize sitting in the stands it hardly pays dividends…. so shut your Pie Hole with the A L L NEGATIVE banter.
Sorry the truth hurts my friend, but we have zero at DE and you think Jones is good? The you don’t know what the hell your talking about, Gholdston has one sack and Smith has like 5, 3 of which came against Saints, we had Revis two yrs ago what did our DE’s do then? any guesses?. here’s a question for you can you name the last time we had a DE who had double digit sacks? Google Simeon Rice
Sometimes it seems that so much goes unnoticed or at least not mentioned. What I saw on nearly every one of Hasselbeck’s 40 plus pass attempts was their O-line, RB’s and TE’s in mass protect double-teaming each of our four D-linemenenenee
The corners deserve an F!!! They gave up way to many completions. No press coverage…wide open receivers for Hasselbeck. Maybe it’s just me but seems every game the other team has wide open receivers underneath constantly.
I think Jon Grudens assessment was cup is half full for sure. Carl you paint a way too pretty picture too though IMO. I’m somewhere in between. They have improved and we found couple guys cheap that can produce but it ain’t close IMO bro. You can blame corners all you want but how many coverage sacks in NFL do you see? Not a lot. No corner can hold up if the pass rush doesn’t get there. Colts had great short pass game to control clock and take place of a non existent run game. It worked perfectly. Also the corners not pressing when it’s a short passing game all day is stupid. I blame Lovie and Frazier more than the rookie corner. The next draft biggest focus will be on pass rush and DE specifically followed by CB. That’s not because our current D line is so great or so close. Even McCoy (hurt or not) very inconsistent. If Lovie’s total dismantling of a decent O line hadn’t blow up last year we could have drafted at least one DE this last draft. Yes some guys were aging. Yes some were overpaid l, but you can’t blow out that many guys in one year. That was dumb mistake IMO. Zuttah and Penn had miles left and still are starting. No effort was made to restructure contracts etc that I know of. Just get rid of them all. Anyways will be defensive draft next year. Not a bunch of bums at all on D line now, but there is nobody that really scares anyone or that teams have to really plan for except McCoy. No elite DE. Need one or two bad and some more depth.
Meant cup half empty and it was over critical of current DE’s.
Ok, you want a cup half full opinion on our DE’s? Ok, well Gholdston plays hard and had 4 tackles in last weeks game, lol very exciting to say the least
Gholston had his jersey practically ripped off multiple times, yet not one holding call. Jones’ hands to the face was missing the important part of the hand getting to the face. Pamphile’s alleged hold was just good blocking. Verner didn’t hold anybody to prevent our fumble recovery. Bradshaw did fumble the other time, despite the ref have his own little booth to correct the call. Mankin’s personal foul was a joke. Am I missing any? This game practically broke me. Shame on the NFL for the disgraceful officiating that is a story every week. Oh, I did forget one. Evans OPI as Davis was holding him the whole way down the sideline. Good teams don’t need these excuses but damn they really screwed us.
JJ Watt gets double teamed and held and gets 16-20 sacks a year, but teams focus more on Gholdston perhaps? I don’t understand the love from our fan base for a guy who does absolutely nothing, maybe its the culture we are use to in Tampa, love mediocrity. Get your Gholdston Jerseys on sale now!!!!
I agree about the officiating. It was atrocious.
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