Before Buccaneers fans get too excited by this result, it’s important to note the Chiefs are an exceedingly poor team at the moment, most noticeably struggling on defense. As we’ll discuss in more detail later, Josh Freeman played pretty poorly and yet his team still managed to put up 31 points of offense, and the way the Chiefs capitulated to LaGarrette Blount on Tampa’s final drive was nothing short of woeful.
All that said, there were a few strong displays for the Buccaneers that shouldn’t be too tarnished by the “Brady Quinn” factor. So let’s look at some of those, plus how Freeman can throw for 328 yards, three touchdowns and still grade in the red, and why Kansas City may have a genuine shot at the quarterback of their choice next year.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
I’m led to believe most of the people cheering as Matt Cassel was helped off the field last week are now filled with remorse, not because they cheered an injury you understand (they’re unrepentant about that), but because they now realize the grass is not always greener. Brady Quinn’s (-2.9) display was significantly worse than anything Cassel served up this year, and was particularly poor considering he had such good protection. Only a couple of hits and five hurries could be pinned on his colleagues and he was pressured on only 10 of 30 drop-backs.
Under pressure he managed only four completions for 27 yards and an interception, but it was his work against the blitz that set a new benchmark for futility as he managed a QB rating of zero. Sure you can’t pin the interception returned for the TD on him, but you can hold him accountable for the five times he managed to throw the ball behind his receivers going across the middle and the dropped interception by Ronde Barber with 10:34 left in the fourth.
It all began reasonably well for Stanford Routt (-3.1), as he held his own for four weeks. It started to go south against Baltimore in the last game with a couple of penalties and some pretty tepid run defense. This week it was his pass coverage that was held up to a fairly harsh spotlight. He allowed four of six passes to be completed into his coverage for 154 yards and a touchdown. Sure, he was a bit unlucky on the 62-yarder to Tiquan Underwood, but let’s not forget he was beaten badly by Vincent Jackson with 4:59 gone in the second only for the ex-Charger to fail to locate a reasonably well thrown pass in the air.
To add insult, some of the angles he took in trying to chase down ball carriers were poor, which meant that overall this will not be a day he looks back on with any pride.
Snapping the Cycle
So who among all the players the Chiefs have on their roster is actually playing up to their talent level? Let’s give kudos to a person with a ready-made excuse for sub-optimal play, but isn’t using it.
Ryan Lilja (+2.2) had to move from left guard to center in Week 3 and hasn’t just coped, he’s excelled. Here he was perfect in pass protection, never gave up a penalty and did some solid work blocking for the run. He did have a few problems with Gary Gibson, but generally more than survived. Watch the way he took Roy Miller, who was lined up outside his left shoulder, and drove him all the way out of the ‘A’ gap with 11:27 left in the second to create space for a Nick Eachus 7-yard gain.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
A quick look at the box score, and a QB rating of 124.7, might suggest Josh Freeman (-1.5) played very well. It’s just another example of how base numbers lie. As I explained in my Week 1 review, he can play exceptionally well, much better than here, and have far worse numbers.
He did make some plays (not the least of which was the beauty he put between Derrick Johnson and Kendrick Lewis for Jackson’s first score) but they were balanced out by some awful throws. A couple of overthrows were not good, but the interception was dreadful — he just didn’t see Justin Houston get underneath the slant route. However, if one play stood out for me it was with 3:19 left in the second, with all day to throw and Underwood wide open, he grounded the ball a good two yards in front of the shocked wide receiver.
Playing to the Rep
For some years Donald Penn (+4.5) has been a guy whose ability has garnered more plaudits than his actual production has deserved. He’s clearly a talented player, but inconsistency has kept him out of the PFF genuinely elite category. This was a performance far more in keeping with his ability and certainly his best game this year. Going up against two top-flight rushers in Tamba Hali and Houston he kept a clean sheet and got significant movement with his run blocking to boot. It’s not often you see a 3-4 defensive end getting driven five full yards off the line of scrimmage, but that’s exactly what he does to Ropati Pitoitua with 4:34 left in the first.
Wrighting a Wrong
We were very critical when Tampa Bay threw a fortune at Eric Wright (+2.1) in free agency and felt it was one of the most ridiculous overpayments of the past few years. Now, we’re hardly going as far as to say we now believe he’s good value but he’s hardly been the disaster we felt he might be either. Before this game he’d given up a reasonable 236 yards and no touchdowns while also making a pick. It’s not $7.5M a year type production, but neither is it bad.
In this game, he had the dubious distinction of going head-to-head with Dwayne Bowe, who’s quietly been having a pretty good year in among the Chiefs carnage. The upshot was a significant win by Wright in that Bowe was targeted in his coverage six times and he allowed only three receptions for 21 yards, while knocking down two passes. It should also be noted that two of those receptions came in garbage time. We haven’t written the retraction yet, but a few more games like this may have us thinking about it.
– So what do you do with the 3-4 outside linebacker who’s most productive pass rusher at his position? Well, if you’re the Chiefs and have Justin Houston, in this game, you rush him nine times and drop him into coverage 20.
– Michael Koenan was perfect on kick-offs, seven touchbacks from seven attempts.
– This is not your Buccaneers of last season for sure. Just two missed tackles in this game — that’s less than Tanard Jackson averaged a game (2.4) on his own in 2011.
This could have gone either of two ways, but in the end the “Brady Quinn factor” swung it away from Eric Wright and into the waiting arms of Donald Penn.
Follow Neil on Twitter @PFF_Neil