Alan Dell

Commentary | Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be more concerned with meltdown than kneel-down

The world will soon turn and talk about Greg Schiano's kneel down hit will no longer be more important than what Barack Obama or Mitt Romney say.

It's proper justice because Tampa Bay's meltdown to the Giants was more alarming than whether the new Buccaneers coach acted bush league in trying to jar the ball loose from Eli Manning.

And are you wondering if Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is kicking himself for allowing Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman three kneel-downs in the Panthers 16-10 opening day loss?

Schiano is learning on the job and has a bit of coyness, which might help when he catches up to the Tom Coughlins of the world.

But don't you think every Buccaneer is saying to himself please coach no more references to "we did it this way at Rutgers."

The good news is that 20 of the NFL's 32 teams are 1-1, which is the highest second week total in league history. The Bucs are 1-1 in their division, own a victory over Carolina and the Saints are 0-2.

The rest gets ugly, though the Bucs could attribute that to Manning, the NFL's current miracle worker supreme with 23 fourth quarter comebacks on his resume.

It's hard to judge statistics after two games, but you can't ignore them.

Tampa Bay is last in the NFL in passing yards allowed (801) and leads the league in allowing 15 passes of 20 plus yards.

Most of that can be attributed to what happened in the fourth quarter when Manning made it look like a game of two hand touch using receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz as props. In the last 7:41, he completed 7 of 9 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns.

Schiano says things won't change much defensively, which has to be sweet to music to Cowboys quarterback Tony

Romo, who takes on the Bucs Sunday in Dallas.

"There are little things we need to tweak, but we're not going to have a wholesale change," Schiano insists. "It's the same defense that had a great defensive day just a week ago (against Carolina). We are who we are. You can choose to up the percentages; however coach Sheridan decides to do it during the game. But our identity of our defense is what we are. You don't change that."

Speaking in his decode-proof language, Schiano says his Bucs are more non-blitz than blitz and they never blitz without at least a deep middle safety.

"We are a mix, that's who we are," he said.

Manning, Nicks or Cruz would respectfully disagree.

Though Schiano says he played a lot of zone coverage, Hicks and Cruz stretched the defense out so much that they put the Bucs in man to man situations.

Schiano breaks down his schedule into 16 seasons and now we are into the Cowboys season.

If the Giants season seemed as if cornerback Aqib Talib and some of the other defensive backs were suffering from frost bite and couldn't cover their men, Dallas could turn into an extended winter.

The biggest worry for Schiano is his front four that disappeared against the Giants, didn't record a sack or tackle for loss and had only five tackles combined.

Schiano's insistence on staying in blitz packages is a concern.

But give the coach credit, he moved away from his run first mantra and threw deep, which was the right thing to do against a banged up Giants secondary that ranked 29th in pass defense last year.

The rookie head coach boasted his defense worked against Carolina, but this is the NFL and if you can't adjust on the fly you will eventually have to adjust to the unemployment line.

"Getting single coverage doesn't come often for us and I was able to take advantage of it," Nicks said. "Cruz did a great job doing what he does on the opposite side and we were just feeding off each other."

Manning said the Cruz 80-yard touchdown pass that tied the game was talked about before it happened. That it was pulled off against veteran Ronde Barber was disturbing.

"He (Cruz) saw the safety (Barber) coming down to guard him and ran right by him. It was a great decision by him," Manning said.

Barber reiterated the company line that players have to execute whatever the coaches' call, but questions will start surfacing if the results are similar.

"It was a blitz and we were single-high. I wasn't expecting it to be a go, not on third and two with pressure coming," Barber said. "What do you want me to say? He (Bill Sheridan) called the defense, we played the defense. They get paid, too. They made more plays than we did."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.