It’s Monday night. What could turn out to be the game of the season is about to be played. Everyone’s talking about Tiger Woods and Charlie Weis. Dinner is starting to rest in my stomach, but my head is anything but settled.
I question the fake punt, but reason that it was not a bad call, just poorly executed. I replay cornerback Derrick Roberson holding the receiver away from the play late in the fourth quarter, and I realize he was on the practice squad three weeks ago. I think of Connor Barth being money from 50-plus, then I realize there wasn’t a large enough sample to truly determine that.
So, I conclude, it all boils down to one tired cliche: Good teams win those kind of games, and bad teams don’t. And the Falcons, with no Michael Turner, no Matt Ryan and two starting offensive lineman on the shelf, found a way to win.
And it’s because of Sunday afternoons like those and Monday states of mind like this that I feel I am a part of a select few who have found a way to cope with the season that all Bucs fans find themselves seemingly trapped in.
To be a Bucs fan in 2009, you have to take what you can get. Head coach Raheem Morris said it best earlier this year when he said there are no moral victories. However, the cornerstone of optimism is found not in the win-loss column, but in the little victories found peppered throughout an otherwise losing effort.
The Buccaneers out-gained the Falcons by 21 yards in the game on 19 fewer plays. The defense recorded six sacks against a team that had allowed just 14 all year. Antonio Bryant reminded us why we kept him around after last season with 91 receiving yards on just three catches, one of them a 42-yard touchdown. Morris found a way to put the best players on the defense in positions to make plays, occasionally sending Ronde Barber on the corner blitz and bringing pressure from the outside to collapse the pocket.
“(The defense) played hard,” Morris said after the game. “They played hard and they continued. It was a hard fought game as a team. We blocked the punt on special teams. On offense, we moved the ball fairly well. In the second half, we didn’t play as well as the first, but we played well as a team today. I am just proud of the guys in that locker room.”
Sure, there were times when some questionable decisions were made. The fake punt, the long field goal, the late timeouts. Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to be critical. However, if the fake punt worked, the Bucs likely win. If Barth splits the uprights, the outcome may have been different.
“You can’t second guess yourself,” Morris said. “This is a grown man’s sport. When you start second guessing yourself, then you become soft.”
It was a great 58.5 minutes of football from the Bucs in Atlanta on Sunday.
The best thing to do after a game like this is look at this football team like a girlfriend you’ve already decided to break-up with, but you’re waiting for the right time. We've all been there. You can’t do it right before Christmas, that’s not cool. Her birthday is right after that, and you’ve already made plans. So, for now, you’ve got to hang in there. Come February, the offseason will be in full swing and you can have your pick from the free agent pool.
When it's all over, the 2009 Bucs will be long gone. Maybe you'll wash your hands of them altogether because the memories are too painful. Perhaps you'll stumble upon an old picture of them one day and remember the good times. At 1-10, it's pretty easy to jump ship.
Just don’t come crawling back when the Bucs show up as a completely different girl in 2010.