NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 6, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
SBNation Tampa Bay takes a look at things we think we learned after the Saints game.
The Bucs suffered their second consecutive setback with a 27-16 loss to division rival New Orleans. For the Bucs, it answered quite a few of our questions about the team while generating a bunch more.
For perhaps the first time since 2009, coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen are feeling heat this week for their team's performance.
Let's talk about what we learned from the Bucs' trip to the bayou.
1. At least for a week, Josh Freeman was back.
Maybe it's the Saints that bring the best out of Josh Freeman, or maybe the team's work in the bye week made an impact. For one of the few times this season, Freeman read the entire field, distributed the ball to all of his weapons and didn't force any passes into double or triple coverage.
He wasn't perfect, as he overthrew two wide open receivers that could have gone for scores (or at the very least deep in Saints territory) but he was efficient and did his best to keep the chains moving.
Freeman finished 27 of 37 for 281 yards and a touchdown.
2. Third Down Coversions remain a problem.
Against the Saints, you have to limit the opportunities Drew Brees and the offense have to hurt your defense. Part of that is the ability to extend drives on third down. Tampa Bay was horrible in that department, finishing 2-for-12 on the money down. By comparison, Brees' - who admittedly is the master of third downs - led the Saints to 5-of-10 conversions.
Many of those drives extended into scoring opportunities for New Orleans while the Bucs saw too many of their drives stall.
Some how, Freeman must find a way to extend those drives.
3. Penalties are just killing this team
I honestly didn't have a problem with LeGarrette Blount throwing a punch at a Saints guy. Its a divisional game, heat of the moment and let's face it, he wasn't the only one getting chippy. It's the time he did it that really was the egregious error. The Bucs are driving, trying to make a dent in New Orleans' big lead and that personal foul just killed the drive, forcing Tampa Bay to settle for a field goal.
It's been like that all season for the offense. False starts, holding, offensive pass interference calls, illegal formation - these are just mental errors that are inexcusable at this point in the season.
The Buccaneers were just as young last season and were one of the least penalized teams in the league.
The lack of focus that is being exhibited on both sides of the ball is inexcusable and ultimately falls on the coaching staff to get the players' attention.
The old saying is you can't fire 53 players but you can definitely fire a coaching staff.
If Morris can't get his team to concentrate in key moments then he may feel the seat get a little warmer.
4. Is it time to pronounce Gerald McCoy a bust?
There's been many a high draft pick who never amounted to much because they couldn't get out of the training room. The Buccaneers' 2010 4th overall draft pick Gerald McCoy is getting really close to being that guy.
For the second straight season, McCoy ripped up his bicep (on the opposite arm), ending his season with yet another underwhelming performance.
To the layman, McCoy's impact in the Bucs' defense has been minimal. Coach Morris is fond of saying how McCoy makes everyone on the defensive line better by his presence and maybe that's true, but the production simply isn't there. You don't see the sacks or tackles for loss. You don't really see that many quarterback hurries. Where is the impact?
Granted, McCoy takes the double teams off of Adrian Clayborn but Clayborn seems to be facing that whether McCoy's in the lineup or not.
The fact of the matter is to date, McCoy has not produced on the football field and worse - he can't stay on the field because he's constantly in the training room.
Its becoming more and more evident he's not the player the Bucs hoped to build their defense around.
Is Brian Price that guy? Unless they give him the opportunity at UT, we'll never know. Asked if Price would be an answer there, coach Morris has quickly replied, "He's a Nose tackle."
Some believe that the reason the Bucs haven't played Price at UT is because they have a feeling he would take McCoy's job and it would look bad for the organization that the 4th overall draft pick is being outplayed and sent to the bench by a 2nd rounder.
If we're in the business of winning - that simply shouldn't matter.
5. Speaking of Raheem - is he a terrible defensive coordinator?
One of our esteemed columnists Jamie DeVriend wrote a compelling beach bucket feature on Raheem's proficiency as a defensive coordinator. Folks, it hasn't been pretty. Raheem's defense was near the bottom of the league in 2009 - although most of that was due to the crappy coaching of his predecessor, Jim Bates (whom he canned late in the season and took over for the last month of the season). They rose to 17th last season but still were among the league's worst in sacks and run defense.
This season, they're back to the bottom ranking 29th in total defense, 26th against the run but even worse - 28th against the pass - an area the Bucs defense used to be pretty solid against.
In six of eight games this season, the Bucs defense has surrendered over 390 yards.
Can a coach fire himself?
6. Was LeGarrett Blount lied to?
During the week, LeGarrett certainly gave the impression that he was going to see significant time on the field, even in third down situations. However, come Sunday Blount found himself on the bench and Kregg Lumpkin in the lineup on 3rd downs. Blount never saw the field in the fourth quarter. Part of that was due to being in the Chateau De Bow Wow of Coach Morris for reliving his college days when the Bucs are trying to dent the Saints' advantage.
While more of it was because Blount still is not part of the 3rd down/3 wide set package.
We're now one and half seasons into Blount's NFL career and this coaching staff still doesn't have the trust in him as a third down back.
Any running play to Kregg Lumpkin is a waste. You're just surrendering a down to the opposition. I also don't see how Lumpkin is a markedly better blocker than Blount at this point.
Blount in space certainly seems to have a good benefit on offense and he's shown some soft hands.
So where is LeGarrette Blount on third down? At this point, it's truly inexcusable that the Buccaneers have to take one of their best players off the field.
Perhaps Blount's comments were a ploy to get the Saints to prepare for Blount being in on third down instead of Lumpkin. If they weren't, then there's a significant communication breach between Blount's offensive coaches and the player.
7. Sending a search party for Regus Benn.
Every time he touches the ball he's like lightning in a bottle. He seems to have some of the best hands on the team. Yet once again, Regus Benn's opportunities were few and far between. His largest contribution to the game was an offensive pass interference call.
Perhaps Benn is struggling to get open or maybe his Josh's 3rd or 4th read and that limits his chances, but you have to wonder why the 2010 2nd round draft pick isn't a focal point in the offense?
Mike Williams is certainly not the player he was last season, forcing practice squad players like Preston Parker and Dezmon Briscoe into more active roles. Would either be on the roster of any other team in the league?
Yet Benn's opportunities still lag behind...targeted just two times (he caught both for 22 yards).
You would think the Buccaneers would want to give the high draft pick every opportunity to be successful. They certainly have bent over backward to give Gerald McCoy the chance to improve.
Yet Benn isn't listed as one of the team's top three options. Even when Mike Williams briefly went out after taking a hit from Tracey Porter it was Briscoe, not Benn who took his place.
So if we're putting the bust label on Gerald McCoy, then one has to wonder if Benn is also a bust. The larger question is whether its his fault or his coaching staff and QB for not getting him involved.
8. The run defense is abysmal (again).
Tampa Bay once again finds itself at the bottom of the NFL in run defense. Drew Brees truly didn't need to do much as the Buccaneers couldn't stop the three headed monster of Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas - a running game that was without top back Mark Ingram and hadn't really scared anyone.
Its the fourth time in eight games the Bucs have surrendered over 176 yards rushing.
What was truly disturbing was seeing the ease of the Saints offensive line pushing the Bucs' defense line around like men vs. boys.
That's not coaching, folks. That's physicality. That's want to. That's being soft.
You could point to McCoy's injury as being damaging to the Bucs but McCoy's presence hasn't made too much of a difference in the running game. With just 11 tackles (only two for losses), he's been present for some of the Bucs' worse rushing performances.
McCoy wasn't available for the previous battle with the Saints when the Bucs held New Orleans to just 70 yds on the ground.
9. Raheem's prediction has proved to be true.
During training camp, coach Raheem Morris said that he wasn't worried about how the rookies were effected by the lockout but how his second year players would be effected.
With most positions in the NFL, players make their biggest jump from the end of their first season to the second season. Without the benefit of OTAs, many of the young impact rookies who made impacts last season had their growth stunted.
Even Josh Freeman, whose in his third season (but his second full season as a starter) has struggled with his development this season.
The biggest detriment for the Bucs is that coaches had a lot of time on their hands to view a smorgasbord of video to recognize tendencies and develop plans to take away what you do well.
Had a normal off-season taken place, Coach Rah and his staff could have self scouted and tried to figure out where teams were going to attack them and prepare their players to counter it.
10. Next two games could be tough.
The Bucs could very well be 4-6 as they hid into the stretch run. Houston has a dynamic offense and a terrific defense, plus they have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Arian Foster.
They'll be a tough out for Tampa Bay.