Joe Henderson Columns
Poor effort raises half an eyebrow
TAMPA - It would be foolish to base any judgment about the Buccaneers on the outcome of one exhibition game. I would have said the same thing if they had been the ones administering the beating Thursday night instead of receiving a thorough 31-14 squishing from the New England Patriots. That disclaimer just gets us started, though. It is not intended to give Raheem Morris and his staff a pass. Preseason or not, much of what went on — particularly in a really lousy first half — was just embarrassing. For the Bucs, it was a blunderfest of the lowest order, starting with 10 first-half penalties. TEN! That's when the big boys were playing.My goodness. And it doesn't mean rookie linebacker Mason Foster didn't have his "Welcome to the NFL" moments, or that Gerald McCoy shouldn't be looking for missing uniform and/or body parts after being juked into next week by Pats running back Danny Woodhead on a 29-yard romp. It doesn't mean that search parties shouldn't be dispatched at once to locate missing linebackers as a group 'cause they sure looked invisible. Just because it's preseason, you can't dismiss completely that LeGarrette Blount racked up 1 whole yard on four carries. Or that quarterback Josh Freeman either a) didn't have time to pass; or b) when he did, couldn't find anyone open. "(We) have to go out there and execute. Just got to go out there and do what we've been practicing for the whole week — go out there and execute our game plan and do what we have to do to put points on the board," Blount said. "Obviously we didn't do that, so that's what we have to work on." Note to LeGarrette: While what you say is true, it's a good thing former coach John McKay wasn't around for this one. He would have been in favor of execution. The highlight of the night came when Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn tried to block an onrushing Patriots lineman with, well, his butt. Penn got turned around on the play and wound up with his backside in front of his man. I'm not sure what that technique is called, but you use what you have, I guess. The rusher didn't get through. This is a team sport, though, so neither can we ignore that the defense was scorched for touchdowns on New England's first three possessions. It took the Patriots 20 plays to gain 154 yards and score three times. It took them just 8:45 to do all that. By that point, the evening was basically reduced to blah, blah, and furthermore, blah. I suppose some of this could be expected, since New England is really, really good (duh!) and the Bucs are really, really young. It figures that a young team might leave a game against a good, veteran team with some of those "coachable moments" teams like to talk about. Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, who were thoroughly disinterested in a 25-0 loss to the Bucs in the exhibition opener, New England gave a professional effort. That's what the Patriots do, of course. You'd like to think it would be more competitive if these teams met in the regular season, but I'm not so sure it would be. That's meant to be praise of the Patriots, not criticism of the Bucs. It is noteworthy, though, that the biggest ovation of the first half came when Rays manager Joe Maddon — attending the game as Morris' guest — was shown on the video board. There was some good news. Thanks to the local live TV blackout, the Bucs were spared a wider audience of potential ticket-buyers witnessing this. Actually, there is more good news. When the Bucs wake up this morning, they still won't have any regular-season losses. They also have two more practice games to fix what basically was an unholy mess. No, it doesn't count. If this had gone the other way, I would have been urging caution. I suppose that's still the best course. Let's not pretend this showing didn't at least raise an eyebrow, though. OK, half an eyebrow. After all, it's just preseason.