The top 2 running backs, the starting center and starting left guard, a starting defensive tackle, the starting middle linebacker, and the top 2 safety’s. These are all the players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were without for the majority of their game against the Chicago Bears.
Despite this the Bucs were down by just 6 points and were less than 50 yards away from completing yet another 4th quarter comeback. However sadly there was not enough magic left in these Bucs to pull out the victory.
The death knell for the Bucs on this day was the continued poor play of Josh Freeman. The young man who threw just 6 interceptions all of last year almost matched that total in this one game. 4 interceptions on the day from Freeman were bad but it was the way they happened that was the most disturbing. It truly looked as though Freeman had no idea that there were defenders covering his receivers. I’ll grant that one interception was not his fault but rather the fault of wide receiver Mike Williams who instead of catching a touchdown, bobbled the ball and allowed Bears safety Chris Conte to make the interception.
The slow start blues that have plagued the Bucs the last few years were out in full force once again as the Bucs offense failed to put up any points until a last second field goal before the half. Things did not improve as the Bucs failed to produce any points in the 3rd quarter either but broke through with 13 points in the 4th.
The lack of balance on offense really hurt the Buccaneers who had no choice but to drop back and pass once Earnest Graham went down with an injury in the first quarter. The only healthy halfback at that point was Kregg Lumpkin. Eric Lorig was still healthy at that point but even he went down after that. That left us with 1 healthy back of any kind on our roster. When you’re a team that likes to run those power running plays only having 1 back of any kind tends to be a problem. The fact that the offensive line blocked like they were playing pee-wee football didn’t help either. Julius Peppers made Donald Penn and Ted Larsen just look silly over and over as he stunted, twisted, and powered his way into Freeman’s face repeatedly.
Tampa’s defense sorely missed Gerald McCoy as Matt Forte ripped the Buccaneers for 145 yards and a touchdown. They were further handicapped when Mason Foster who was questionable coming into the game, went down with an injury. Tanard Jackson also left the game early with an injury. The shorthanded Tampa defense just had no answer for Forte who seemed to run for big chunks of yards almost at will.
At this point Tampa is 4-3 heading into the bye week and our schedule is absolutely brutal in the second half. We open on the road at New Orleans, the Texans at home, then on the road at Green Bay and then at Tennessee. Those teams only have 6 losses between them. We’re going to need to get healthy in a hurry, and really make some adjustments in how we execute early in games if we're going to have any shot at making the playoffs this year. We have talent, we have depth, we have an above average coaching staff, and we have everyone in the world counting us out.
The Saints are up a game on us, the Falcons are rolling again, Carolina is improving, and the Bears and Lions hold tie breakers over us in the wild card.
I still have faith though. I believe in this team. I believe that we can beat anyone if we play smart and hard. Now we just have to go out and prove it. The Superdome is now the proving ground for these young Bucs. If we go in there and lay another egg we may well really be finished. But if we can go into New Orleans in just under 2 weeks and come away with another victory maybe, just maybe we’ll make everyone start to believe in us.