1) Reality Check: the 2010 Tampa Bay Bucs are improved from 2009. They just can't beat the good teams (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, now Baltimore) yet. At least keeping the score respectable (although it was never as close as that 17-10 scoreboard says it) is a moral victory...
1a) Moral victories still suck when the team loses... sigh.
2) Reality Check 2: Josh Freeman is gonna have bad days. This lousy, where-the-hell-you-throwing-it day where the good thing you can say is "at least he didn't toss up an INT". Oy.
3) Goat of the game: to the genius who didn't keep as close an eye of TE Todd Heap and he should have. You let a bulky, slow as molasses TIGHT END get behind you and into the open field for a reception that led the Ravens' longest scoring play of the year... so yeah, Barrett Ruud, I think it's time to start worrying - if you hadn't already - about those trade rumors to Detroit...
3a) To quote Samuel L Jackson from the film "Jackie Brown": "What happened to you? Your ass used to be beautiful..."
4) How bad was the Bucs' day? An awesome OH YEAH play happens with Talib snagging that INT and running it back for great field position... only for the play to end with S Cody Grimm getting carted off the field with a serious leg injury.
5) Statistics of the Game: That horrible Third Down percentages. The Bucs were coming in with pretty good ratios (57 percent success rate on Third Downs). Today? Three out of 12 Third Downs converted. Right about 25 percent. And it showed: the Bucs didn't drive very well outside of their two scoring drives. There were entire quarters (well okay the Third Quarter) where the Bucs were miserable on third downs...
5a) Four sacks today. And this was against a playoff-caliber offensive line (albeit one with injury issues) and a QB who knows what he's doing. The best news is that McCoy had 2 of those sacks and the D-line did get some decent pressure for most of the day.
5b) The Bucs gave up 92 yards rushing. The talk was about how Ray Rice could burn the team: He had 85 yards, although with a respectable 4-yard-per average.
6) My biggest quibble of the day: why the hell was Freeman tossing up those long bombs to receivers NOT named Mike Williams...? And those pass plays late in the Second Quarter when the Bucs are at the goal line and Freeman keeps tossing it across the middle into QUADRUPLE COVERAGE? Where was the look for some guy skirting the end zone line toward the pylons?
7) In other NFL news today: fans went to a Texans - Titans game and a hockey game broke out. Okay, seriously, Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan should really not face each other on the field ever again. As long as they are on the Texans and Titans respectively, whoever has home field has to sit out. Or work as a Beer Guy in the stands. And the other guy is buying.. yeah, for the fans. >:-) That oughta teach 'em...
7a) At this rate the Carolina Panthers will hold the overall top draft spot in next April's draft. Hey, guys, get a QB! >:-)
7b) The talk has started up again that a losing team could make the playoffs: there is currently no one in the NFC West above .500. The Monday nighter between the 3-7 teams of the 49ers and the Cardinals won't resolve that issue this week.
8) In college news, the entire Division I-A needs to understand one thing: Never EVER take the South Florida Bulls into overtime. You WILL lose. >:-) GO BULLS!
8a) That noise you just heard was the massive shout of schadenfreude by the BCS supporters once Boise State finally lost a game. They think this will settle the issue of converting the bowl system into a playoff system. The BCS supporters are wrong: there's still another non-BCS undefeated (TCU) and there is still a lot of frustration with how the bowl selection works (does anyone want to take a 4-loss Big East champion after next week? Yeah, I doubt it... even if it ends up being West Virginia).
8b) So the Florida Gators have a five-loss season. Whadda they gonna do, bring back Ron Zook? Look, guys, teams have letdown years: UF just lost a highly motivated and hard-to-gameplan-against QB in The Tebow. The shift of talent from a champion-caliber lineup to another is roughly 3-4 years the way things work in college football nowadays (the era of back-to-back killing machines like the Hurricanes of the Eighties and the Cornhuskers of the Nineties... and all the uber programs of earlier decades... are gone).
8c) So... anyone figure on the Bulls making it to the Champs Bowl in Orlando...?
9) Next up on the Bucs' radar: a home game. Against the Atlanta Falcons. Against the team sitting atop the NFC at 9-2. And looking to lock home-field advantage and a huge foot up on the NFC South race between them, the Saints, and us.
This... is REALLY the Game of the Year for the Bucs. Win it, and they help knock the Falcs down a peg. Win it, and they'll finally get a win against a winning team. Win it... and that 11-win season looks easier to reach...
10) Way off-topic note: I hit the 50,000 word mark on the NaNoWriMo event this month. Now the tricky part is to finish the rest of the damn novel and get it published! >:-)