The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still looking for a way to start games the way they finish them, particularly on offense. The answer, though, does not lie in actually starting games the way they finish them.
The Bucs racked up 185 of their 313 total yards and scored their only offensive touchdown Sunday during a fourth quarter in which they worked exclusively out of the two-minute offense.
Starting future games in hurry-up mode is not the way to fix a problem that set the tone for a 27-20 opening-day loss to the Lions, Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.
"That's not how we want to win games,'' said Morris, whose offense gained just 4 yards in the first quarter Sunday and has scored seven first-quarter points or less in 55 consecutive games.
"We want to win games with (running back LeGarrette) Blount bludgeoning you for 130 yards and us having a couple of play-action bombs and being efficient with 'Free' (quarterback Josh Freeman).
"When we go to that two-minute offense, we kind of take Blount out of the game, and that's something we don't want to do. We have a weapon in Blount, and we want to run the ball with him.''
Blount will be happy to hear that. Because he is not yet strong enough as a pass catcher or pass protector to be a part of it, Blount was limited Sunday by Morris' decision to crank up the two-minute offense in the third quarter.
And while he said he agreed with Morris' decision, Blount was disappointed by the fact he touched the ball just five times, including once in the second half.
"I feel like I'm a playmaker on this team, also, so I feel like I should be on the field more,'' Blount said. "I feel like I could go out there and catch a few passes and help us out in the passing game.
"But they don't completely trust me in the passing game right now, so they go with a guy like Earnest (Graham), who knows the entire offense. It's the coaches call and you have to do whatever they tell you.''
By Monday, Morris was second-guessing that call. Though it eventually produced the desired results and put the Bucs into a position to possibly win the game, Morris thinks he may have gone to the hurry-up too soon.
"Maybe, as a coach, I went too fast,'' Morris said of calling for the two-minute attack. "But I wanted to get something going, get something generated; I wanted to get 'Free' some confidence and get all those guys going.
"So, you can blame me for that. Coach went to the two-minute offense too early, but I was trying to give our team a chance to get it going and we got it going. But I should have given us another chance at our game plan.''
Blount was actually a big part of that plan. So were receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. And therein may lie one of the fundamental factors resulting in the Bucs slow starts.
Blount, Williams and Benn are all second-year players. After months of analysis, offensive coordinator Greg Olson believes their inexperience is creating an anxiety among them and derailing the offense.
"We've changed up the way we practice," Olson said. "We've changed up the way we look at our (opening series) and how we practice our openers early in the week, (all in an effort) to lessen the anxiety when they start a game.
"We try to give those players a lot of different looks leading up to that game so they're ready to react to whatever they see. And we'll continue to look at that, because there's no reason for this team to blink.
"I've told them, 'You guys are a good football team. You were a 10-6 football team last year. You won a lot of big football games last year. So, there's no reason for anybody on this team to blink and feel like, 'Oh, no.' We'll be fine. Settle down, take a deep breath and play football.' ''