TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano says rookie quarterback Mike Glennon is a lot like a young driver learning what it's like to take a car out on the road for the first time.
Glennon recognizes the street signs and knows all the rules in the handbook, but he is still learning how to deal with cars pulling out in front of him and pedestrians crossing against the lights.
“I liken it to changing lanes,'' Schiano said. “If you've been doing it a while, you probably just peek and go. When you're young, you're actually looking over your shoulder and stuff. But he's really caught on quickly.''
Further proof of that came Sunday during the Bucs' 33-14 loss to the 49ers, when Glennon engineered Tampa Bay's only two scoring drives while navigating through some of the game's most difficult driving conditions.
The first was a two-minute drill at the end of the first half in which Glennon drove 80 yards in seven no-huddle plays to put the Bucs on the board with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson.
The second was another hurry-up, no-huddle sequence in which Glennon drove 92 yards in 10 plays and capped the drive by throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tim Wright on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Those two scores cut San Francisco's lead to 20-14 and pulled the Bucs back into a game which the 49ers took control of down the stretch. But Glennon's driving skills were one of the real positives Schiano took from the loss.
“That two-minute drive before the half was a critical score for us, and then cutting it to 20-14 and being in (a) position (to determine our own fate), That was big,'' Schiano said. “And one of the things I really liked was the way Mike stood in there against the pressure. There are times when you have to use your escapability, but there are others when you just need to hang in there in the pocket and trust the protection.
“One of the hardest things for any quarterback to do sometimes is to trust something that maybe didn't deserve it because the play before you got whacked, but you have to and I thought he did a good job of that.''
During the two hurry-up scoring drives, Glennon completed all but two of his 15 passes for 145 yards and the two touchdowns. He also connected with four different receivers on each of the drives.
Together, the two possessions represented a bit of bounce back for Glennon, who completed only 23 of 46 passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions his previous two games.
“Going against that kind of a team, you have to be on top of your game,'' Glennon said. “And once we kind of figured out that we needed to go with the hurry-up offense we saw some success with it.''
The success left many wondering why the Bucs didn't go to the hurry-up approach earlier in the game. Schiano said the game plan didn't call for that, although he did go to the hurry-up sooner than some may have realized.
“We have three different tempos where we go no-huddle, and we jumped into one of them on the third series,'' Schiano said. “You can't go into it much quicker than that unless you want to do it the whole game.
“But I didn't want to do that the whole game. Against a team like that I really thought we would be able to run it better and get into a time of possession (battle), but that didn't happen.''
The Bucs lost the time of possession battle by a near two-to-one margin, with the 49ers holding the ball for 39:50 to the Bucs' 20:10. Tampa Bay's inability to run the ball — 39 yards on 12 carries — was a big part of that.
But the Bucs did find some success running their hurry-up, no-huddle approach, partly because it forced the 49ers to simplify their defense.
“One of the things the no-huddle did was it kind of vanilla-ed them up a little bit,'' Schiano said. “That helped because they kind of went into base stuff because they weren't expecting that.
“Now, I'm sure that St. Louis will have a more extensive no-huddle defense package ready for us because they'll probably watch the tape and they'll be expecting it.''
That might force the Bucs to make use of another offensive scheme they haven't used extensively, but Schiano said neither he nor his offensive coaches are afraid of asking Glennon to do that.
Glennon knows what's in the Bucs' playbook and how to recognize what rival defenses are doing. And, despite not having a wealth of experience driving against those rival defenses, he's proving he can do it without mishap.
“The only way we moved the ball (against San Francisco) was when we went to the two-minute and no-huddle offense and Mike controlled the whole operation,'' Schiano said. “We didn't perform in some areas but Mike gave us a spark.''