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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Bucs' game plan was simply offensive

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:07 PM
ARLINGTON, Texas -

If you had no idea what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense was doing Sunday, you're not alone.

Neither did they.

"We've got to fix this offense and we've got to fix it fast," Bucs offensive lineman Carl Nicks said.

How awful was Sunday's plan? What was Sunday's plan? Was there a Sunday plan?

In a thoroughly unwatchable, but supremely winnable 16-10 loss to the Cowboys, this O had no clue, from the coaches down.

True, these Bucs have the old Rutgers kneel-down deal down pat. Three times, twice after Greg Schiano timeouts, the Knights of Knee tried to bore into Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

They should have been going for Schiano's knees or those of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. We had no idea what these two were attempting to do with this offense the entire afternoon. It was totally incoherent.

What in the world, or any world, were the Bucs doing handing off twice while down 16-7 with less than three minutes left in this game? I guess it's never too late to establish the run.

Josh Freeman, after one of his truly lousy NFL days, explained that second run by Doug Martin, on third down and nine yards from the Bucs' 21-yard line … something about Freeman's head set going in and out, not being able to hear, so he called a run play for Mister Two Yards.

"I heard personnel, then, 'Here we go Free,' and then pffffff …," Freeman said. "It was one of those things were I've got to have a play in mind and at that point I was trying to hear, trying to decipher, look up and there was hardly any time."

In fairness, who in that situation, clock ticking, down 9, wouldn't go with power sweep right on third and 9?

Move over, Heidi Game . Make way for the Pffffff Game .

A pass play maybe? A timeout perhaps?

"Moving forward, obviously, in the future, that'll be something we do," Freeman said.

The Bucs managed 166 yards of offense Sunday, but 70 of those yards came on their final drive for a field goal. This team had 96 net yards before that drive – 20 passing. Freeman owned six completions before that drive. He finished 10 of 28 for the worst completion percentage of his career.

Vincent Jackson did not catch a football until around two minutes left. The Bucs never knew what they wanted to do or how they wanted to do it. Doug Martin out, LeGarrette Blount in, Blount out, Martin back in … there was no way to figure any of this out.

And what good are toes on the line if you're all left feet?

Bucs foil Dallas' stupid onside kick attempt just before halftime – lose five yards on ensuing drive, penalties included, and punt. Schiano wins second consecutive challenge in third quarter, Bucs awarded fumble recovery at Dallas 31-yard line, lose 10 yards on ensuing drive, penalties included, punt. Bucs down 13-7 in fourth quarter, begin drive at own 9, lose eight yards on ensuing drive, penalties included, punt. Dallas makes it 16-7.

Time to run the ball!

What a freak show. The offense, and Freeman, had been solid enough in the opening win, and better in the loss at New York. But 5 took a step back after his big finish last week. Everyone on offense stepped with him, coaches on down. The Bucs didn't block well enough or run well enough or get open well enough or complete well enough and above all coach well enough. They Pffffffed and they Pffffffed and they blew their house down.

The Bucs defense, with a fine rally from last week, kept giving its offense chances. So did the Cowboys. The Bucs offense responded with 70 yards by halftime. It amassed 31 yards in the third quarter. Freeman had one second-half stretch where he went 23 minutes of clock time without a completed pass.

And we'll never fully know what Schiano or Sullivan or Freeman or all of them were doing with those late handoffs.

"A lot of times in games you do things, sometimes you wish you had 'em back," Schiano said. "That's one."

Sunday's game plan should be another. Something definitely got lost in translation. It translated into 1-2.

All together now:

Pfffffff

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