The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Morris says Buccaneers will practice in pads to improve "physicality"
TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris took issue with his team's effort during a lopsided loss to Houston and says he'll use more physical practices to try to pull the Buccaneers out of a midseason tailspin.
Poor tackling contributed to a subpar performance against the Texans, and Morris said it's time the NFL's youngest team gets back to basics with more practices than usual in pads.
The coach said Monday that the Bucs will practice twice in pads this week in preparation to face Green Bay this weekend. The league's new collective bargaining agreement limits teams to just 14 workouts in pads during the regular season, including a maximum of three over the last six games.
The Bucs (4-5) have lost three straight and four of five overall following a 3-1 start.
"This week, and for the rest of the season, I can't be concerned about preservation so much and get our physicality better. That's what we need to do," Morris said, reflecting on Sunday's 37-9 loss to the Texans, who rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns and also scored on pass receptions of 80 and 78 yards.
"The answer is putting on some pads. ... I have to get as many as I can, based on the rules, to get these guys going. We've got to make plays in pads, both on offence and defence and special teams."
Defensively, the Bucs yielded scoring drives of 80, 80 and 90 yards in falling behind Houston 16-3. Missed tackles played a role on Jacoby Jones' 80-yard scoring reception on the first play from scrimmage, as well as a short catch that Arian Foster turned into a 78-yard TD.
The Texans finished with 420 yards total offence and were successful running the ball that Matt Schaub only attempted three passes after halftime.
"On defence we had an issue with effort on ... the two big plays. That's something that's very uncommon," Morris said. "Some of it was because of injury or whatever the case may be, but you can't make excuses. You've got to go out there and play as hard as you possibly can at all times."
Offensively, the Bucs failed to fail to score a touchdown in the first quarter for the ninth straight game. Josh Freeman was sacked four times, threw three interceptions and didn't get the Bucs into the end zone until throwing a 9-yard TD pass to Preston Parker early in the fourth quarter.
Once again, falling behind early eliminated any chance Tampa Bay could get its running game going. LeGarrette Blount was limited to 34 yards on 10 attempts. with just three of those carries coming in the second half.
Freeman has thrown for nine touchdowns vs. 13 interceptions in nine games, compared to 25 TDs and just six interceptions all of last season.
The third-year quarterback said he doesn't think he's regressed in his second season as a full-time starter.
"Nothing's wrong with me. I feel like I'm a better quarterback this year than I was last year," Freeman said. "As crazy as that may sound, looking at the numbers, I feel like I continue to get better in preparation and execution. I feel like I'm throwing the ball as well as I ever have, it's just things aren't going my way."
Morris said Sunday that he took responsibility for the embarrassing performance. He reiterated Monday that it's his responsibility as the head coach to make sure the team is prepared and plays "fast, hard and consistent."
"You can harp on the quarterback ... but we've got to help him out a little bit, too. We've got to go out there and play together," Morris said.
"I don't want to make excuses," the coach added. "Pointing fingers at people do nothing. Pointing fingers at coaches do nothing. Pointing fingers at the media does nothing."
Morris made two roster moves Monday, placing backup defensive end George Johnson and re-signing tackle John McCargo. Johnson suffered a knee injury against the Texans. McCargo signed with Tampa Bay last week, then was released the following day after Albert Haynesworth was claimed off waivers.
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