Bucs RB Blount working to become every-down back

LeGarrette Blount was as surprised as anyone that he spent most
of the second half of Tampa Bay’s season-opening loss on the bench
instead of trying to help the Buccaneers wear down Detroit’s
defense.

A 1,000-yard rusher a year ago as an undrafted rookie free
agent, Blount was limited to 15 yards on just five attempts during
Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Lions. He carried one time for 2 yards
after halftime, even though the Bucs only trailed by a touchdown
until the middle of the third quarter.

In hindsight Monday, coach Raheem Morris second-guessed his
decision to use the team’s two-minute offense for the entire
second-half, saying he probably should have stuck with a game plan
that called for Blount to be the primary ball carrier.

The 247-pound running backrushed for 110 yards in a loss to
Detroit late last season. He’s still learning the club’s pass
protection schemes, though, so he’s rarely on the field when the
Bucs are in hurry-up mode or obvious passing situations.

”You have to respect the coach’s call. You’ve got to do what
they tell you,” Blount said. ”They felt the need to run the
two-minute offense the entire second-half. We didn’t run the ball
much the first half. It’s up to them.”

An improved Detroit defense held the Bucs to 56 yards rushing,
and the Lions offense did its part to shut down Blount, too, by
dominating time of possession until the fourth quarter.

Up two touchdowns after putting together five scoring drives of
at least 70 yards, Detroit spent much of the fourth quarter running
the ball exclusively to try to exhaust the clock.

The Bucs led 10-6 early, thanks to Aqib Talib’s interception
return for a touchdown and a long kickoff return that set up a
field goal on Tampa Bay’s first possession.

But Josh Freeman couldn’t get the offense into the end zone
until less than two minutes remained, raising the question of
whether team might have been better off sticking with its regular
offense and using Blount more.

The Bucs finished with 313 yards total offense, however 185 of
that came in the fourth quarter after Detroit basically shut its
offense down.

”That’s not how we want to win games,” Morris conceded about
the no-huddle attack. ”We want to win games with Blount
bludgeoning you for 130 yards and being efficient (in the passing
game). When we go to the two-minute offense, you take Blount out of
the game.

”Maybe as a coach I went too early to the two-minute offense.
But I wanted to get something generated, give Free some confidence
and get all those guys going,” the coach added. ”It worked to the
standpoint that we were able to get back in the game, but maybe I
went into it a little bit early. … That’s on me.”

The Bucs defense shared some of the responsibility for the
offense’s slow start.

Detroit outgained the Bucs 147 yards to 4 in the opening
quarter, running 24 plays to Tampa Bay’s six. The Lions had the
ball for 22 minutes of the opening half, which was one of the
reasons Morris felt it was necessary to do something to change the
tempo of the game, even though the score was still relatively
close.

Earnest Graham, who gained 13 yards on six attempts, becomes the
primary ball carrier in the two-minute. He also had a team-leading
eight pass receptions for 58 yards.

”We had like 23 plays in the first half. … When you’re not on
the field, it’s really tough to sit for eight or nine minutes –
that’s clock time, that’s not real time; real time it’s like a
half-hour, 40 minutes and you’re not even on the field,” Freeman
said. ”It’s tough to really establish something.”

Matthew Stafford’s second TD pass to Calvin Johnson put the
Lions up 27-13 midway through the fourth quarter. The Bucs offense
dominated time of possession from that point on, but had difficulty
finishing drives.

”We were moving the ball, moving the chains. I felt our comfort
level was higher, all-around as an offense in the two-minute mode
with the no huddle and keeping the defense off balance,” Freeman
said.

”It doesn’t really bode well for LeGarrette, but at the same
time when he was locked in, he was ready to go whenever we needed
him,” the Bucs quarterback added. ”The game just didn’t go as we
planned. That’s what it came down to.”

Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Blount
continues to work hard in practice, trying to become more involved
in the passing game and two-minute offense.

Blount feels he’s progressing.

”I feel like I am. Then again, they’re not comfortable enough
with me running it,” the second-year pro said, adding that no one
told him specifically what he needs to improve on to become an
every-down back.

”They just told me to keep working at it, that they don’t
completely trust me in the passing game 100 percent, So they go
with a guy like Earnest who knows the entire offense. … I’m
disappointed in the loss, but we have 15 more weeks. There are a
lot of things we need to improve on and that we can correct.”