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.”