Eric Page SpeaksDecember 15th, 2013
The Bucs had just given up a field goal for the 49ers to take a 23-14 lead with 4:27 left in today’s game. Not a perfect scenario for the Bucs but certainly enough time for a comeback.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Bucs decided to go with some trickery. The Bucs had practiced a reverse or a handoff of some type to fool the 49ers and allow for a big kick return.
Problem was, it turned out the Bucs looked like fools. Initial replays (NFL film not yet available on NFL.com as of this writing) showed that kick returner Eric Page attempted to hand off to Russell Sheppard but the ball — again, from the replay angle Joe initially saw — was not placed in Sheppard’s gut; that’s failing Football 101 for handing a ball off.
(After the play, Bucs commander Greg Schiano was seen on the sideline chewing out Page and on the ensuing kickoff, it was Skye Dawson, not Page, who was on the field. So draw your own conclusions.)
Instead of the handoff, the ball fell on the ground and Kendall Hunter scooped and scored from two yards out to give the 49ers a 30-14 lead, slamming the door on any comeback chance the Bucs may have had.
Joe caught up with Page after the game.
“We have been working on that play for a few weeks,” Page said. “Yeah, it was called before we went out. It just wasn’t executed right.
“I mean, I will have to take a good look at [the tape]. We executed it in practice. It just didn’t work the way we thought it would work. There was obviously a handoff issue. I think that was the biggest thing. I have watch it [on tape] again, I think it was just a handoff issue.”
Page wouldn’t elaborate further about the play, wanting to watch film to find out why the play broke down.
Still, it broke the Bucs’ backs today. Whether that was the right time to call a kick return play like that remains debatable.