The 2011 season was Raheem Morris's third year as head coach. The team had not made the playoffs since 2007. The team attempted to build upon their success from 2010, when despite having a 10–6 record, they failed to make the playoffs. By week 12, however, they had already lost their seventh game of the season, preventing them from matching their 2010 record. The Bucs were eliminated from playoff contention in week 14, and finished the season with a 4–12 record. Raheem Morris was fired on January 2, 2012, one day after the season finale.
The Buccaneers' defense was among the worst in the league in 2011. Tampa Bay allowed the most points in the league (494), the most yards per play (tied at 6.3), most yards per pass attempt (tied at 7.6), the most rushing yards (2,497) and the most rushing touchdowns (26). They also allowed the second most yards per attempt (5.0), the second most rushing first downs (135), the third most total yards (6,311) and fourth most total first downs (356) of all teams in 2011.
After finishing the 2010 season 10–6 and narrowly missing the playoffs, the Buccaneers had the 20th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. A provision in the now expired collective bargaining agreement ensured that the draft still take place, despite the current lockout and lack of a new CBA.
^The Buccaneers traded one of its two fifth-round selections (#135 overall, previously acquired from the Denver Broncos in exchange for two 2010 seventh round selections) to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the Chiefs' sixth-round selection (#187 overall) and DTAlex Magee.
The Buccaneers' preseason schedule was announced on April 12, 2011. For the third consecutive year, training camp was held at the team's facilities at One Buc Place. During training camp, Tampa Bay became the first NFL club to discontinue the use of paper copies of playbooks, and instead distributed all players their playbook and videos in electronic format via an iPad 2.
After a 10–6 campaign in 2010, Tampa Bay had high hopes for 2011. With the youngest head coach, and the youngest roster, in terms of average age, in the league, and with anxious optimism, head coach Raheem Morris nicknamed the team "youngry."
A close loss to Detroit on opening day was followed by a three-game winning streak and a fairly strong 4–2 start with wins against division opponents Atlanta and New Orleans. Tampa Bay was in a tie for first place in the NFC South in mid-October. However, self-inflicted troubles started affecting the season, leading to a ten-game losing streak to finish the season. Turnovers, penalties, and poor defense began taking its toll. Quarterback Josh Freeman's threw 22 interceptions (second-worst in the league), more than triple his total from 2010. The once dominating Tampa Bay defense ranked 30th in the league in total yards.
Detroit scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, and led Tampa Bay 27–13 late in the game. Josh Freeman suffered through some cramping issues, but rallied the Buccaneers to score a touchdown with under four minutes remaining. The subsequent onside kick failed, but the Buccaneers were able to get the ball back in the final two minutes. Freeman drove Tampa Bay to the Lions 42-yard line in the closings seconds, but they were unable to score.
Minnesota led Tampa Bay 17–0 at halftime, but the Buccaneers rallied for the 24–20 victory on the road. In the final four minutes, Josh Freeman drove the Buccaneers 61 yards in 9 plays, capped off by a game-winning 4-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount with 35 seconds remaining.
Tampa Bay led Atlanta 16–13 with 1:49 remaining. The Buccaneers faced 4th down & 1 at the Atlanta 44-yard line. The Falcons had no timeouts remaining, and were looking to get the ball back for one last drive. Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers lined up for the fourth down play, and the Falcons flinched on the hard count. The Falcons were penalized 5 yards for Offsides, the Buccaneers received a first down, and were able to run the clock out the secure the victory.
Tampa Bay snapped a 5-game losing streak to their division rivals, and coach Raheem Morris won his first game against Atlanta.
The Colts led early after an Adam Vinatieri field goal. Tampa Bay then sacked Painter and recovered the fumble. Connor Barth's field goal attempt, however, bounced off the upright, and the score remained 3–0. Late in the first quarter, Freeman connected to Arrelious Benn, who ran 62 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, the touchdown was nullified since Benn has stepped out-of-bounds before the catch (illegal touching).
In the second quarter, the Buccaneers pinned the Colts at their own 2-yard line. Painter threw to Pierre Garçon, who ran for an 87-yard touchdown, and 10–0 lead. Tampa Bay answered with a touchdown, and trimmed the score to 10–7. In the final seconds of the first half, Freeman drove the Buccaneers to the Colts 19-yard line, but was sacked with 20 seconds to go and counting. The field goal unit hurried on to the field, and the field goal was initially good. Tampa Bay, however, was penalized for 12 men on the field, and the score was nullified.
Tied 17–17 in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay received a punt with just under 7 minutes remaining. LeGarrette Blount blasted for a 35-yard touchdown run, and a 24–17 Tampa Bay lead. In the final three minutes, Tampa Bay ran out the clock, including a "4th & Inches" quarterback sneak by Freeman, to seal the victory.
Josh Freeman threw two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), as Tampa Bay was routed 48–3 at San Francisco. Tampa Bay was held to only 86 yards rushing, had three turnovers, and suffered 9 penalties for a total of 96 yards.
Josh Freeman threw for 303 yards and two touchdown passes, as Tampa Bay rebounded from the previous week, and beat divisional rival New Orleans by a score of 26–20. Drew Brees threw three interceptions, and the Saints lost a fumble, and Tampa Bay scored 10 points off of turnovers.
Trailing 26–20 midway through the fourth quarter, Brees drove the Saints to the Tampa Bay 4-yard line. On 4th down & 2 with 3:24 remaining, Brees was intercepted in the endzone by Quincy Black. The Buccaneers ran out the clock, and preserved the win.
Tampa Bay hosted Chicago at Wembley Stadium in London, England, their second time participating in the NFL International Series. Josh Freeman threw four interceptions, and Tampa Bay lost one fumble for five total turnovers. Chicago stretched out to a 21–5 lead before the Buccaneers staged a rally in the fourth quarter. Freeman threw two touchdown passes and the deficit was trimmed to 24–18 in the final two minutes. Freeman drove the Buccaneers to the Chicago 39-yard line, but the comeback was thwarted when he was intercepted with 37 seconds left.
Running back LeGarrette Blount was inactive due to injury, and Earnest Graham left the game in the first quarter due to an ankle injury. Third-string running back Kregg Lumpkin was left to handle rushing duties, but managed only 15 yards.
New Orleans jumped out to a 24–6 lead, behind Drew Brees' 258 yards passing and 195 combined rushing yards. However, Tampa Bay tried to rally in the fourth quarter. Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow with 5:33 to go. The Saints, however, were able to run out the clock, and kicked a game-icing field goal to win 27–16.
Tampa Bay lost their fourth game out of the last five, falling to Houston by the score of 37–9. On the first play of the game, Matt Schaub completed a pass to Jacoby Jones, who proceeded to go for an 80-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, Arian Foster had a 78-yard touchdown reception from Schaub, and the Texans were in control of the game throughout. Josh Freeman threw three interceptions, two of which led to touchdowns for Houston.
Josh Freeman threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns, but Tampa Bay fell to Green Bay by a score of 35–26. With 4:25 remaining Tampa Bay scored a touchdown to trim the deficit to 28–26. An onside kick failed, and Green Bay took over. Green Bay iced the game with a touchdown with 2:55 to go.
Undefeated Green Bay improved to 10–0 on the season, and avoided the scare by the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay dropped to 4–6, losing to the Packers for the first time since 2003 and losing at Lambeau Field for the first time since 2001, the last year both teams were rivals in the former NFC Central division.
Tampa Bay and Tennessee combined for 9 turnovers on a rainy, sloppy afternoon. Chris Johnson ran for 190 yards, but Tampa Bay led 17–10 late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 23–17, Josh Freeman drove Tampa Bay to the Tennessee 25-yard line in the final minute. Facing a 4th down and 1, Freeman tried a QB sneak, but fumbled the snap due to the wet ball. He was tackled for a loss, the Buccaneers turned the ball over on downs, and the Titans held on to win.
Josh Freeman sat out due to injury, and Josh Johnson started at quarterback. Tampa Bay wore their throwback uniforms, and honored Jimmy Giles at halftime. Cam Newton ran for three touchdowns (setting an NFL single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback) as Carolina routed Tampa Bay 38–19.
Quarterback Josh Freeman returned to the lineup and Tampa Bay jumped out to a 14–0 lead in the first quarter. However, Jacksonville scored 41 unanswered points to win 41–14. Maurice Jones-Drew scored a franchise-best four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing).
Tampa Bay committed seven turnovers in the loss. In the second quarter, Preston Parker fumbled a punt return, which was recovered by Colin Cloherty for an 8-yard touchdown. With the score 14–7, Freeman was sacked at his own goal line, fumbled, and Nate Collins recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Four plays later, Freeman was intercepted, which led to another Jacksonville touchdown. The Jaguars scored 28 points in the second quarter in a span of only 7:32.
At 4–9, Tampa Bay clinched a losing season, and was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Tampa Bay hosted Dallas on Saturday Night. Dallas jumped out to a 28–0 halftime lead. Tony Romo threw for three touchdown passes, and ran for another. The Buccaneers tried to rally, but fell far short, losing 31–15.
Atlanta jumped out to a 42–0 lead by the second quarter. Ronde Barber played in his franchise record 225th game, despite suffering an injured hand, for which he sat out the second half. With the loss, Tampa Bay ended the season with ten consecutive losses, finished with a record of 4–12, last in the NFC South, and head coach Raheem Morris was fired the next day.
Dating back to 2010, Tampa Bay had ten consecutive regular season home games blacked out. The blackout streak ended in week 4, when the Buccaneers hosted the Colts on Monday Night Football. The game was carried live on ESPN and simulcast on WFTS.
The blackouts returned in week 6 with the game against New Orleans. Tampa Bay's week 7 game against Chicago in London was not subject to blackout, regardless of sellout status. The week 10 game against the Texans was blacked out, affecting WTSP and WKMG. The final blackout of the season occurred against Carolina in week 13. The final home game of the season against Dallas on December 17 sold out, and aired locally on NFL Network and simulcast on WTTA.