Everything seemed to be going right for the Buccaneers. The defense was causing turnovers. Mike Glennon was leading an efficient offense. The Saints crowd was completely out of the game. That's when Lovie Smith decided to go from being Mr. Conservative to Mr. Aggressive, and it didn't work.
The Bucs possessed two separate 11-point leads against the Saints on Sunday with scores of 24-13 and 31-20. After the Saints narrowed the latter gap to a score of 31-26, it was up to the Bucs offense to respond and win the game. Unfortunately, the opposite happened.
After a 3-yard gain by Doug Martin on a 1st & 10 from the Bucs 20-yard line, right tackle Demar Dotson was flagged for holding on the play. After the 10 yards was marched off and the Bucs were ready to redo 1st down, some miscommunication led to Glennon fumbling that snap down to the Bucs 1-yard line. The Bucs then played it safe with a run on 2nd and 29 from the shadow of their own endzone. It would be safe to assume that the ultra-conservative Lovie Smith would play it safe. Well, that's why we don't assume.
On 3rd and 29 from inside the Bucs own 1-yard line and the crowd making it impossible for the Bucs offensive players, especially the offensive line, to communicate, Lovie Smith and Marcus Arroyo decided to allow Mike Glennon to drop back into the pocket and throw from his own endzone. Glennon would be sacked, and the game would start to fully snowball in the Saints favor.
The safety would make the score 31-28 and allow the Saints to tie the game with a Shayne Graham field goal and ultimately win in overtime.
If the Bucs are going to throw from their own endzone late in the 4th quarter with just a 5-point lead on 3rd and 29, I'd hope it would have been a quick pass to Glennon's left, where Louis Murphy was being given a 15-yard cushion by the Saints defender. The safe play was to just run the ball up the middle to give your punter some room and put the game in the hands of your defense with a 5-point lead and not just a 3-point lead.
There was no way Glennon was going to throw a 30-yard pass for a 1st down on that play, so to have him stand in the endzone as a sitting duck was a horrendous coaching decision by a coach who's made a name for himself as being conservative.
I hate the phrase, "there was plenty of blame to go around," because there has never been a limit on blame in history. The Bucs pass defense, defensive tackling, offensive line, and even Glennon to an extent deserves some of the blame, but Lovie Smith's decision on that 3rd and 29 play will have me stewing for a while.
The Bucs drop to 1-4 on the season, but even worse is their 0-4 record against the NFC and their 0-3 record against divisional opponents. The latter two records matter most towards tiebreakers for the playoffs.
For the Bucs, those playoffs seem like a pipe dream now.
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