There are tough games and then there is what occurred Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 58,191. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers found another way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the hands of kicker who missed three kicks previously on the day and eeked out a kick just inside the upright.
Of course, it was a lot more than that, wasn't it?
Let's talk about what we learned from this week's disappointing result.
1. The Bucs just don't know how to win games right now. Be it coaching, players making crucial mistakes at inopportune times or guys just not making the plays needed to be made - Tampa Bay gets just close enough to lose. Until they learn how much the little things matter, they won't win many games.
2. Josh Freeman. He's working in a new offense with new players around him and a new philosophy. None of that accounts for accuracy. Freeman has always been inaccurate in the intermediate routes (15-20 yds) and he isn't getting better. If anything, he's getting more inaccurate because of he continues to throw behind the wide outs.
Freeman is at least developing touch on his deep ball but he doesn't use the big gun until desperate times call for desperate measures.
Free is also struggling with his decision making to run. He doesn't slide when he should and then he slides when he shouldn't.
It's disturbing as Freeman appears to have regressed all the way back to his rookie season. QB coach Ron Turner and Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan are going to have to build the fourth year quarterback from the ground up.
I still believe Freeman can be a top 10 quarterback in the NFL, but the inconsistency needs to stop soon. We have to begin to see the Bucs quarterback get more comfortable in his offense, in his decision making and become better at anticipating his throws. If he can't, then the Bucs are beaten before they even play the game.
3. It was a disturbing game for the Bucs defense. The one thing you could hang your hat on with Tampa Bay defense was that they would stop the run. Rookie running back Alfred Morris destroyed that facade, rumbling for a 39 yd score and breaking loose on a 17 yard scamper. Morris was a bowling ball of butcher knives for the Bucs' defense, who simply couldn't tackle the bruising back. In fact, tackling was in short supply in the first half - in what may have been the worst tackling performance of the defense this season.
4. While he missed one on Fred Davis, one guy who certainly was making some tackles was Buccaneer outside linebacker Lavonte David. David finished the day with 14 tackles (12 solo) in a performance reminiscent of the great Derrick Brooks. Tampa Bay has something there with David.
5. This may be one week the Bucs wished the scab refs were still on the field. The referee crew called Tampa Bay for 10 penalties for 107 yards - including two questionable roughing the passer calls. The first was on a tackle by Mark Barron, who brought down RG III with authority after the mercurial Quarterback had scrambled out of the backfield and became a runner. Late in the game with the Bucs trying to force the Redskins to punt deep in their own territory, Mason Foster put hands on RG III shortly after the quarterback released the football in the back of the endzone.
In a move that would have made the members of Manchester United proud, RG III went flailing backward like one of those old cowboys in a Clint Eastwood movie getting blown away by a shotgun. It drew a flag allowing the Skins to continue their drive and bleed precious seconds off the clock.
That's not even talking about the safety that wasn't.
6. It was nice to see both Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams return to the offensive game plan after getting shutdown by the Cowboys. Taking advantage of the Redskins horrible secondary is no big feat, but after a first half that looked an awful lot like that Cowboys game, it was good to see both receivers shake off a bad first half and start making big plays.
7. We lambasted Mike Sullivan's play calling in the Dallas game, but I'm going to credit him for staying aggressive with the passing game, even though Freeman turned in a forgettable first half. While I'm sure the scoreboard had something to do with it, Sullivan came out throwing in the first half trying to take advantage of the Redskins' defense most obvious liability. Unfortunately, Freeman's inaccuracy helped put Tampa Bay in an early hole but eventually the quarterback hit on some big plays and gained a little confidence.
8. If not for a tremendous play by Mike Williams, we could be talking about a terrible finish for Josh Freeman. It looked like Freeman had thrown away the Bucs' chances at comeback before Williams jarred the ball loose from the defender attempting to intercept the pass.
9. I don't know what in the world the Bucs were thinking on that final drive. Apparently, some of the players were a bit confused, too. On RG3's big run that set the Redskins up for the game winning field goal, Michael Bennett questioned his coach's play calling, "You run a blitz and it was just wide open. I knew myself. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should run this play or not, but I did my job.’ I knew he was going to get outside. That’s what he does. The edge was too short. The whole defensive line slanted."
10. I'd be remiss if I didn't give a tip of the hat to Connor Barth. Barth was simply unbelievable against the Redskins, nailing two 50 yders (one for 57 yards) and a 47 yarder. Barth has made a team record 25 consecutive field goals. If there's one player who deserves to go to Hawaii - it might be Tampa Bay's kicker.
Bonus - I think we should give a big kudos to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Perhaps they didn't buy up enough tickets to avoid the blackout and certainly there was a large Redskins contingent - but early reports on Sunday were the Bucs would be lucky to get to 40,000 tickets sold for this game. If that's accurate, then the Bucs enjoyed a massive walk up game day crowd of nearly 20,000.