Observations From The Solstice Doldrums and Tampa Bay's Loss This 12/9/12

1) There's something about this time of year that gets me wistful, melancholy, depressed. It's the shortness of the days as the sun sets by 5:30 pm. It's the stress of shopping for presents for friends and family struggling to figure out what heart-felt gift makes the most sense. It's the fog rolling in across the hills of Dunedin. And it's the time when the Bucs seem to have a problem winning the games they're supposed to win.

2) This was supposed to be a winnable game. The Eagles were coming in banged up, falling apart, the coach two steps out the door already. The Bucs had the 2002 championship team in the house for a remembrance. The stadium sold out enough tickets to avoid an embarrassing black-out.

And during the First Quarter, and for a good chunk of the First Half, the Bucs' defense actually played pretty well. Getting sacks. Stopping run plays. If only the Bucs offense f-cking showed up for those 30 minutes of game-play, the team could have gone into halftime with a lead and enough points on the board to keep Philly from staging a comeback. But NOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo.

3) For all the talk about how Josh Freeman can become a great quarterback, it's days like this that makes you wanna take it all back. Our offensive stalls of the First Half came from Freeman's constant overthrows, his inability to deliver a light-touch toss within ten yards, his refusal to throw out of bounds or scramble for yards if his deep receivers aren't open. Frustration. Pure and g-dd-mn simple frustration.

4) And for all the good plays we saw on defense today (SACKS! ACTUAL SACKS!) once the Eagles figured out to run a West Coast pass-dump system that got the ball out of the QB's hands inside of 3 seconds, they were able to move the ball and rack up an early lead. If not for the muffed punt in the middle of the Third Quarter that Tampa recovered, the Bucs would never have gotten back into the game and start off a 21-point scoring run to get a 21-10 lead in the Fourth. And so the Eagles didn't panic, made their last few drives count, and the Bucs' porous pass D let them earn a literal last-second TD pass and win.

4a) There is nothing more embarrassing than letting a slow-foot quarterback STROLL into the end zone for an easy touchdown run.

4b) and for all the good work RB Doug Martin left on the field, for all the times Freeman got his sh-t together and got the ball in Vincent Jackson's hands, for Gerald McCoy's two-sack day, for having Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp hanging out with John Lynch in the FOX booth during the Third Quarter... sigh. SIGH.

5) If anyone had a worse day than Freeman on the field, it was the Eagles FG kicker who shanked two kicks, one of them within How-Could-You-Miss range.

6) The Bucs' playoff hopes are truly dead. Statistically we're still in it, but let's get real. Can this team honestly beat the Saints next week? Can you count the Rams game as an easy win now? Odds are if Atlanta shows up for their own home game even with homefield advantage wrapped up they can still beat the Bucs by a field goal.

6a) Let's be fair, this was a rebuilding year coming into this season. This team IS performing better than last year's disaster. It's just we're three-four key defensive players away, and one G-DD-MN CPU upgrade to the faulty microchip in Freeman's noggin, from an honestly good team that would crush teams like this Eagles unit.

7) In other NFL news, who cares. It's December, the Bucs aren't in the playoff hunt anymore, woohoo, let's see if we can tank the season and work our way to the 10th overall draft spot for next April.

8) In NHL news, Gary Bettman and his co-conspirators among the NHL ownership are knocking over liquor stores in Winnipeg, just daring ANYONE to arrest them for this and their other crimes against humanity.

9) In baseball news, I just realized that they moved Houston over to the American League, making it pure 5-team divisions across the leagues... and meaning we're gonna have inter-league games up the wazoo in 2013. I think this is what scared the Mayans into ending their calendar...

10) Next week: I go shopping while the Bucs lose to New Orleans. I'm just calling it right now. Sigh.

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