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Bucs’ game plan omitted Doug Martin, Mike Evans in loss

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Not enough Doug Martin.

Not enough Mike Evans.

Not enough points or plays or third-down conversions.

Looking back, that was the key for the Tampa Bay Bucs against New Orleans. Not enough.

That was the thing about the Bucs’ 24-17 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. The Bucs simply couldn’t get enough offense going to make anyone happy.

There was running back Martin, who touched the ball only 11 times despite a 7.4 average.

There was wide receiver Evans, who was targeted only four times.

And so on. It all led to a loss that dropped the Bucs to 6-7 as they travel to face the Rams Thursday.

“We ran 51 plays in the game,” said offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. “This is a story of third downs. We converted 36 percent. I think they converted somewhere in the 70s. They ran 78 plays, we ran 52, I think the number was – 52. Now let’s do the math backwards. 52, we had a five-play two minute drive at the end of the first half, we went down and got a field goal. Good job by the guys executing. We got the ball back with 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, down two scores. We went on a nine-play touchdown drive.

“You know how many times we ran it in that drive? Anybody? One. I didn’t hear anybody complaining. We went right down and scored and got it back to a one-score game. We got the ball back one more time, [with] five minutes to go in the game. Doug had a beautiful run, two great blocks on the perimeter. We had a 24-yard run then we threw three passes in a row. One incomplete, one overthrown, one dropped – game over. You got 51 plays in the game, I think with runs and passes Doug had – targets or touches – 14. I think (Charles Sims) had 13, then it goes down to Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) six, Mike  four.

“I always like to say, anyone who talks about touches, do the math working backwards. How many plays do you have? Divide up how many times you want every guy to touch it and then try to make that equation work out. I would love for Doug to touch it 25 times in every game, but the one thing I’m always talking about, when you are the play-caller, you always have to deal with time and score, time and score, time and score. That dictates a lot. I think Doug has done a fantastic job this year with his touches. The numbers back that up, but it is what it is for this game. I wish he got 25, but he didn’t.”

It could be argued, of course, that the Bucs might have converted more third downs if Martin or Evans had gotten the ball more. Or if the Bucs’ defense had gotten off the field a few more times.

With three games to go, Evans is within 11 catches of last year’s totals, and he’s 111 yards from 1,000. But his touchdowns have fallen from 12 to three, and he’s had more drops.

“One thing I would just say is Mike came on to the scene last year as a rookie, Vincent Jackson playing on the other side,” Koetter said. “I think people game-plan for Mike a lot more than maybe they did last year. Mike is drawing more double-teams than perhaps he did last year. Mike still has high 800s in yards. He’s still probably going to go over 1,000 yards, unless something bad happens. I would just say, more than anything, defenses are probably more aware of him and growing pains with a rookie quarterback, and we’re running the ball more. We’re running the ball more, last year they threw it a little more. We’re running the ball more and probably more successfully than they did last year.”

Evans makes no excuses. This year hasn’t been as satisfying.

“It hasn’t been as good,” Evans said. “It’s easier for me to get open and things like that, it’s just my fundamentals. I haven’t been as tight on my fundamentals as last year. But I’m looking to finish strong these last three games. Hopefully – anything can happen – we get these three wins, a couple people lose and we get in the playoffs.”

It wasn’t the best game for quarterback Jameis Winston, but Koetter thought he played better than most.

“When you take a look at the tape and watch it, Jameis played better than you might think he did,” Koetter said. “Jameis played okay in this game.

“He missed a couple balls high. I don’t know if anyone can really know – maybe if you were down on the field – it was a lot windier than maybe you would have thought. That was a tough wind and that showed up a little bit in the kicking game, you could see it as well. Jameis has not had a lot of trouble with wind. I thought one ball came out of his hand a little funny. There’s a couple balls he would like to have back, but in general Jameis did okay in this game.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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