TAMPA – Dashon Goldson was distraught after Sunday’s 23-13 setback at St. Louis and Bucs coach Greg Schiano feels his pain.
Tampa Bay’s hard-hitting safety earned two Pro Bowl berths in San Francisco, building a reputation as a physical force over the middle. But Goldson is struggling to adjust to the new NFL, where player safety is paramount and hits to the head draw an automatic flag.
Signed as a free agent in March, Goldson was suspended one game by the league for an illegal hit against Atlanta WR Roddy White. On Sunday, Goldson was flagged for unnecessary roughness against Rams rookie WR Steadman Bailey after a 12-yard completion early in the fourth quarter.
“That’s a tough one, that play right there,’’ Schiano said Monday. “You could say ‘take a nosedive,’ but that’s not what he (Goldson) is going to do. That’s a tough one – high speed, guys moving, changing levels. I think it’s clear that he’s really worked to change his aiming point on his contact. It’s clear to me, and I study him every day.’’
Goldson appeared to lead with his helmet and made contact with Bailey’s helmet on the play, which advanced the ball from the Bucs 12 to the 6-yard line, leading to a field goal and a 20-13 lead.
“That’s ‘bang-bang,’ ’’ said Schiano. “He had no way of avoiding that, other than selling down on a guy and possibly missing him or hurting himself. On that play, it’s unfortunate that it happened, but as soon as it happened, it wasn’t like I’m standing there screaming ‘No way.’ The way it’s being called, that is going to get called 100 out of 100 times. It’s unfortunate, but it happened.’’
Bucs Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy registered his ninth sack of the season against St. Louis, along with six stops, but he’s upset with himself for an early offsides penalty that helped the Rams en route to an 80-yard drive that forged a 7-7 tie.
With St. Louis facing third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 43, McCoy was called for encroachment, giving the Rams a more favorable situation to convert. A 7-yard completion on the next snap sustained the 13-play march, capped by Zac Stacy’s 1-yard scoring plunge.
“It’s third-and-8 and I jump offsides,’’ McCoy said. “As a leader, I’m supposed to be one of the best, supposed to be a captain. I can’t do that. It happened last week, too, and now that’s a tag they’ve (opponents) got on me. I’ll put that whole drive on my back.’’
The Bucs entered Sunday’s game trailing all teams in third-down conversion percentage – and their 4-for-14 effort kept them at the bottom of the NFL charts.
After succeeding on four of their first five third-down opportunities, the Bucs went 0-for-9 the rest of the way and finished with a season-low 170 total yards. Five of those nine consecutive failures came with Tampa Bay facing third-and-4, or shorter.
“We’ve got one more game left to grind this out,’’ said Bucs LT Donald Penn. “We’ve got to do a lot better on third down.’’
Schiano said LBs Dekoda Watson (groin), Lavonte David (elbow) and rookie Ka’Lial Glaud (knee) suffered injuries in St. Louis. ... One of the major obstacles Sunday was Tampa Bay’s poor field position. On nine of their 11 possessions, the Bucs started at their own 20-yard line, or worse. ... The Bucs have been stout defensively in the red zone, yielding only 25 TDs on 53 possessions.