I was sitting in the South endzone with a few friends of mine. A buddy had season tickets, and none of his family wanted to go which left him with three extra. We all reminisced about our favorite teams (Bucs, Jets, Giants, Eagles) and everyone knew Tampa was going to go home 1-0.
About this time last year I was extremely high on Tampa's offense. It was going to be the biggest in the league. With the addition of Carl Nicks, the line was enormous. Tampa had the biggest starting quarterback in football, and a 250 pound LeGarrette Blount. Their receivers were gigantic, with Jackson, Benn, and Williams. I was looking forward to smash mouth ball- then the offense that was fielded looked quite different. Martin in, Joseph and Benn out. I was still quite satisfied with what I saw and figured next year they'd give it a serious run.
Yesterday afternoon I had finished nearly an entire flask of whiskey by halftime. God knows how much I spent at the beer outlets- I just kept getting drunker and drunker during Tampa's free fall into oblivion. At one point I looked down at the glass flask I brought in and questioned, if I broke it and tried to eat the pieces, would I experience less pain than continuing to watch? Flags were absolutely everywhere as two teams without discipline demonstrated near absolute offensive incompetence. Part of the reason was two defenses playing well, the other was the poor quarterback play. I wasn't too disappointed in Freeman, though I've come not to expect mistake free afternoons from him.
Rex Ryan's defense embarrassed almost every caught screen pass. What frustrated the hell out of me was Freeman being unable to hit martin in the flat the handful of times he could have gone for positive yardage. The only time Doug was struck in the hands mid stride, he proceeded to drop it. Josh's interception was, at best, mindless. He drilled Williams in the endzone and, in tandem with Vincent Jackson, abused Cromartie most of the afternoon. Yet I found myself wrought with worry midway through the fourth because of costly turnovers, ill advised plays, and unbelievable penalties.
I wasn't worked up over the referees. They didn't have outlandish calls going directly against the Bucs, and mostly called what they were supposed to on Tampa. Where they egregiously dropped the ball related to Adrian Clayborn and Eric Page. Penalty calls were inconsistent, which only highlighted the stupidity of the actions of a few choice pewter defenders. Forgetting that, most seem to agree the game should not have been close enough to be decided by a field goal. The defense played well, but the offense failed to execute while coaching on both sides was very disappointing.
Watching Sanchez get popped in the preseason worried me greatly. Voicing this, people would react by suggesting I had an even better chance to win going against a rookie. I disagreed, as Sanchez is a known quantity. Also, Geno is going to run. Several drives were lengthened by a Geno Smith tuck and run on third down, which infuriated me time and again. No one was set to spy, and players lost contain. There's no reason to throw when you don't have to, and while the Jets might only win four or five more games this year, Smith gave the otherwise stagnant offense the life it needed.
I pride myself on not giving way to knee jerk reactions when it comes to most anything. There are over a dozen games left on the schedule and they'll have ample opportunity to work on scheme, discipline, and execution. However, the schedule gets no easier than the jets and a rookie quarterback. Buffalo offers a similar circumstance, but by then EJ will have played eleven games. Tampa faced a solid defense but got in their own way repeatedly- and the defense had a hard time covering the tight end.
After watching the abortion of a game yesterday I can't see a scenario in which they beat the Saints next weekend. Jimmy Graham is classes ahead of Winslow, and Brees is going to have his pick between Leonard Johnson and Johnthan Banks. Even without any linebackers or pass rushers, Rex's brother orchestrated a defense that kept the Falcons to 17 points. I find myself asking how in the name of everything holy is Tampa going to fair with only a week to correct the embarrassments that prevailed in Jersey. Last year, with the worst defense in the history of football, Tampa got shut out.
The more I write, the more I depress myself.
We can only hope Nicks comes back quickly and Banks/Leonard develop rapidly. Schiano will be beside for a while, which should get the attention of everyone on the roster. Maybe that will result in fewer penalties.
Tampa is tied in the division for second place. Sadly, they dropped the easiest game on their schedule while the rest of the division played some of their hardest. The Jets aren't going to beat anyone else in the division, and one game in the NFC South is particularly valuable considering the parity within. This team has the potential to be a ten win team, but after watching an anemic offense in the preseason and yesterday I would not be shocked if their record matches their own of last year.
People say it's too early to panic, and I disagree. If we want to see the Buccaneers get into the playoffs they cannot afford to lose even a single more winnable game. Every contest needs to be treated with a sense of urgency by the players and coaching staff alike. Schiano needs to send a message to the team that a lack of execution will not be tolerated, and to the league that week one was an aberration.