TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions makes a touchdown catch over Aqib Talib #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the season opener at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
SB Nation Tampa Bay tells you the ten things we think we learned about the Buccaneers in their 27-20 defeat to the Lions.
While the week one result wasn't what Buccaneer fans hoped for, we think we learned a lot about the team.
Let's get started.
1. Credit Where Credit is Due.
I took a lot of heat from Lions fans this week for selling their team short. Truth be told, I wasn't a believer. I thought Detroit was one of those teams on the cusp of being a a contender but were getting their national love a bit prematurely.
Let me just say after seeing the Lions live on Sunday - they're legit. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, they'll be a tough out in the NFC North. The NFC North had a clean sweep of the NFC South this week with Green Bay taking out New Orleans, the Lions beating the Bucs and Chicago destroying Atlanta.
So Lions fans, I can admit when I'm wrong. You guys have a heck of a football team. Good luck the rest of the year.
2. Did Raheem Gameplan for This One?
In the Bucs' last poor performance - a pre-season matchup with New England - Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris quickly excused his team's bad play by saying they didn't really gameplan for the Patriots.
They certainly looked like they didn't gameplan for the Lions on Sunday, either. Look, Coach Rah has forgotten more football than I'd ever know but after months to look at film - why oh why would you place so much zone defense in the first half of the game?
The Bucs were so scared of the Lions receivers, their corners were lining up ten yards down the field. It made for easy throws for the very accurate Matthew Stafford, who carved up the Bucs' zone schemes, completing 18 of 25 passes for 269 yards and two scores.
The Bucs finally began playing a little more man and bump-n-run coverage on the Lions in the second half saw a lot more success, limiting the Lions to 36 passing yards and 7 points in the second half.
Unfortunately, by then the damage had been done.
3. This game was lost in the first quarter.
If you look at the scoreboard, the Bucs led 10-6 in the first quarter. Look a little deeper and you can understand what happened to the Bucs' defense in the first half. In a sweltering humid heat, the Lions opened the game driving 76 yards on 12 plays, eating up 6:02 off the clock and finishing up with a 23 yard field goal.
Sammie Stroughter returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards before getting tackle near the 20. The Bucs quickly go three and out and settle for a field goal, staying on the field for 1:46
Next Lions drive, a tipped pass ends up in the hands of Bucs' corner Aquib Talib who races 28 yards for the score.
Lions football again - this time they drive 69 yards in 11 plays, ate up another 4:55 off the clock and again settle for three points.
The Bucs offense? Three and out and on the field for 1:07.
If you're keeping score, the Bucs' defense was on the field for 12:07 of the 15:00 minutes of the first quarter.
It didn't get much better in the second, as the Bucs offense would quickly stall on their next two drives, allowing the Lions to take advantage of the Bucs' wilting defense for two scores.
For the game, the Lions held a 36:25 to 23:35 advantage in time of possession.
4. Hey Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen - that guy over there? #27? He's pretty good. Give him the ball.
Inexplicably, the Buccaneers didn't give the football to their star running back LeGarrette Blount. Blount had just 5 carries for 15 yards. While the Bucs offense struggled to get some consistency Blount, who terrorized the Lions for 110 yards and a touchdown in their last meeting, rarely saw the field.
The game was never really out of hand until midway through the third quarter - the Bucs' abandonment of the running game was simply baffling.
There was no word of an injury or issue with Blount - but you have to wonder with the offense struggling to find an identity why number 27 would be sitting on the bench.
5. What's Up with Josh?
After getting tackled on a scramble in the third quarter, Josh Freeman had to be taken to the locker room. Radio reports indicated Josh was cramping up and needed an I.V. but Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network reported that Freeman suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder. Let me be clear - no one else is reporting this and Siciliano was said it in passing while doing the Bucs-Lions highlights on Red Zone channel.
Freeman did return to the game and led the Bucs on a scoring drive and was in the game for that wild, lateral filled finish.
St. Petersburg Times beat writer Stephen Holder says via twitter, "For the record, Freeman had ... a cramp."
6. No Sacks for the Defense.
While the Buccaneers were putting some decent pressure on the quarterback, they again were shutout in the sack department. That's just not going to get the job done, folks. The Bucs front four needs to be disruptive and make a quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket.
In their defense, Detroit ran nearly exclusively in shotgun and Matthew Stafford was not wasting any time getting rid of the football. Of course, considering how far off the line of scrimmage the Bucs were playing their corners - they really didn't give their defensive line a chance to do anything.
7. Run defense was decent but not great.
The total of 126 yards rushing surrendered was a bit misleading as for the most part, the Bucs did a solid job against the run on Sunday. Detroit averaged 3.6 yards a carry on the ground. The Bucs did allow a few runs of 5 or more yards a few times in the second half as the Lions time of possession mounted, the withering defense simply could not hold up.
8. Mike Williams is still a special football player.
With the Bucs trying to rally and facing 4th and 3 at the Detroit 5, Freeman fired up a pass high to the back of the endzone, Big Mike skied and made the catch then tapped his toes on both feet to ensure a good catch - an amazing touchdown grab reminicent of his first touchdown last year.
9. A Moving Tribute to Both 9-11 and Lee Roy Selmon.
There were few dry eyes at Raymond James Stadium as we reflected on the life of the great Lee Roy Selmon and those who lost their lives in the tragic events of 9-11. A large, field length American flag was unfurled as TAPS played, then a stirring rendetion of the National Anthem was sung.
As the final notes of the hymn were belted out, two jet fighters screamed overhead at an unbelievable speed and the crowd went from sobs and tears to an exploding roar.
10. Nothing changes in the NFC South.
Every team in the NFC South began the day tied and at the end of Week One, they remained tied. Surprisingly, every team in the division lost their season opener. The Saints had already been taken out on Thursday night by the Super Bowl Champion Packers, while the Falcons were destroyed by the Chicago Bears. The Carolina Panthers gave everything the Arizona Cardinals could handle but in the fell short.
There's plenty of work to be done, for sure, but the Bucs can take some solace in that all of their goals still remain in front of them.