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The 0-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made the trek to Lincoln Financial Field today for only the second time hoping to end 8 weeks of frustrating losses dating back to last season. So far, the team has remained unified and is not pointing fingers, which is a good thing as there may not be enough fingers for all the pointing. Four weeks into the 2009 season, and the Bucs have beat themselves as much as their opponents have. Penalties, poor QB play, and an almost invisible pass rush have all added to the list of evidence against the accused.
If fingers are to be pointed, you would be hard pressed to find a week to week stretch where they are pointed in the same direction. The first two weeks found the Bucs offense ranked in the top 5 as the team was scoring 20.5 points per game. The last two games? Eight. Even the 1999 Bucs defense could not win very many games with the offense scoring 8 points.
Then you have the defense that could stop neither pass nor run in the first couple of games, then after not giving up the big play to the Giants in week 3, showed signs of life by harassing the Redskins passing game and achieving 4 turnovers last week.
Since we're accusing, lets not forget about special teams, which have been anything but in 2009. Pro Bowl returner Clifton Smith has been workman like at best so far, but lacking in the game changing efforts of a year ago. Perhaps his time spent practicing with the offense has hampered his efforts, and if so, should not be of too much concern in the future. Fumbling away a last chance in Washington, Smith is likely to be replaced by a hot Cadillac Williams on the team's 2 minute offensive lineup. Place kicker Mike Nugent was brought in to kick the 45+ yard FGs that former Bucs kicker Matt Bryant had forgotten how to hit. Bryant is now kicking in the UFL, and Nugent will be lucky to do the same after missing his first 4 of the season. Shane Andrus, brought in as a free agent, will be the next to try to infuse some life into a franchise once known for nothing but losing, cleaned of that image with uniform and stadium changes over a decade ago.
A stadium mind you, that is getting harder to sell out due not only to the economy but also the fan discontent with the product on the field. Not to mention the irony of wearing the throwback uniform of the only winless team in franchise history (1976) in a year that if quarterback troubles are not addressed, could be (COULD BE) repeated a generation later if they're not careful.
The Bucs get another chance against a team they actually have owned as of late, beating the Eagles the last three times (2006, 2003, 2002 NFC Championship) since falling the previous 4 in a row (2002, 2001 Playoffs, 2001 season finale,and 2000 playoffs) ; one of which cost then coach Tony Dungy his job in 2001. If they are unable to rise up to the challenge, they will face an equally inept Carolina team at home next week that could also be searching for its first win.