1) That four-game winning streak hid a lot of sins, didn't it. It made us all think - the team, the fans - that the Bucs were better than the rebuilding project we originally thought they were at season's beginning.
It made us think that Doug Martin was going to be rambling off 70-yard TD runs at least once a game. It made us think Josh Freeman and the wide receivers were FINALLY on the same page and playing mistake-free football. It made us think our offense could outscore teams to compensate for the fact our secondary is going to be historically one of the weakest in NFL history.
This is exactly the rebuilding team we should have expected all along: a team with some talent here and there, but not enough to win games with it. A team with a first-year head coach still figuring just what the hell he's got on the field and on the sidelines.
I'm pretty sure I had this team at 6-10 back in August. I'm not lying if I say that seems like an embarrassment, thanks to seeing that 4-game win streak back in November. But I gotta remember: this really IS a team in full rebuild mode.
2) So: Blame Josh or Excuse Josh?
This remains the infuriating thing about him. One month he's focused, delivering deep throws like a professional; next month he's indecisive, forcing bad throws, getting sacked like groceries. Right Now, this is Bad Josh Freeman, evil wicked Josh Freeman, the QB we'd trade in a heartbeat to the New York Jets - for a CB and a Second Rounder - and laughing about it until we cry realizing we gotta find yet another FRANCHISE QB.
This week by all accounts Freeman's problems was not being in sync with the receivers, even with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson getting over 100 yards each. That's because for Josh it's feast-famine: he tends to throw best for the deep ball (15+ yards) and almost nothing around 10 yards. And while he can make for an exciting pass play, it's rarer than titanium: he was 30 for 54 (!) pass attempts today, meaning 24 passes were for naught. And too many of them were for INTs.
3) If I'm blaming anyone right now, it's the offensive coordinator Sullivan. For some reason he's making play calls for a pass-heavy scheme, underusing Doug Martin who could be gaining us more yards and more first downs, if not TDs, if we kept a strong running game mixed into the offense. Martin can get the offense going into third gear if he warms up enough: he wasn't getting it.
3a) I'm also blaming an offensive scheme that seemingly does not have a First-and-Goal plan: TWICE the Bucs got inside the 10 late in the game. TWICE the Bucs were denied the end zone: and because the Rams were up by 2.5 touchdowns already, the Bucs went for it on 4th Down TWICE and got rejected. If this sounds familiar, it should: The Bucs have been one of the worst teams at the goal line in the NFL this year. This happened against the Saints at home THREE times (if I recall, I was there in-person and the trauma of that day confuses me). The play-calling for what should be a punch-it-in moment has been hideous, and that's squarely on the coaching staff.
4) The Bucs are currently in third place in the NFC South, and if they lose to Atlanta next week with Carolina winning, we slip to fourth. You know, the one happy thought I had up to this point was that at least the Bucs would end the season better than the Panthers. And now, we're facing the possibility of having the one team we beat twice move ahead of us in the division once more. /headdesk
5) As the title of this post suggests, my twin brother (relax, he's nothing like me) is keen on heading up to NYC for this April's draft night: he really wants to go to see another episode of Letterman getting filmed, but hey any excuse would do. Anyone else keen on going? Who knows, if Sander gets a budget for it he could send me up there to cover it LIVE or something... ;-)
6) In other NFL news: be grateful the Bucs are not
6c) Kansas City
6d) The Jets. Arguably the most toxic locker room in the NFL since... well, last year's Jets team. Good Lord, even TEBOW is p-ssed at the coaches: they took arguably the one "Put Me In Coach Wherever You Need Me" guy on the roster and drove him to "If You Don't Want Me, F You" mode.
6e) The AFC playoffs are pretty much set, with only placement the major issue (Houston or Denver fighting for home-field). The NFC playoffs still has a few openings, especially with the NFC North still up for grabs between Washington and Dallas. Wild cards are still wild.
6f) I would have included Buffalo in the list of "Be Grateful You're Not" list earlier, but I totally forgot about them.
6g) Remember Michael Spurlock? He returned a punt for a TD playing for San Diego today. Good to see the guy who broke our kickoff jinx still fighting the good fight on special teams somewhere...
7) In professional hockey news: Gary Bettman is threatening to poison the Gotham City water supply with Joker Venom, including this latest scheme of villainy with the rest of crimes against humanity he and the NHL owners have committed against the United States, Canada, global hockey fans, and that sweet little lady down the street who gives you Christmas cookies every year, yeah her too. WILL SOMEONE ARREST THESE BUMS ALREADY?
8) In major league baseball news: why the hell is everyone giving Toronto major off-season props for overloading their roster with aging talent just like the way Boston did much to their shame the last 2-3 years? If anybody's lining themselves up for a "we jinxed ourselves" mess, it's the Jays.
9) In Saturnalia news: we need Hallmark to make more Saturnalia cards. IO SATURNALIA!
10) Next week: Tampa Bay travels up I-75 in the hopes that Atlanta, having secured home-field bye, will rest most of their starters and give the Bucs a 50-50 chance of actually scoring a touchdown and a couple of field goals.
GET READY FOR THE DRAFT BABY!