The Bucs lost. It's the nineth time we've said it this season but this time it feels a little different. This time it feels like opportunity lost. I'm not sure there's been a more dominant first half performance this season. For 30 minutes, the Bears were a team wanting to be beaten and the Bucs were the team doing it. Unfortunately it was not to be as Tampa Bay did what all bad teams do, got in their own way and surrendered to a Bears team asking to be punished.
It was a tough loss for our white and pewter clad band of Buccaneers, but even moreso for Josh McCown and Lovie Smith, both having a hand in this defeat at their old stomping ground.
Did we learn anything? Let's find out.
1. It's frustrating isn't it? You dominate a game for 30 minutes and all you have to show for it is a 10-0 advantage. Therein lies the problem with the Bucs' offense. Tampa Bay churned up 211 first half yards and had 10 points against the worst scoring defense in the NFL.
They would finish with 367 yards and 13 points - against a defense that came in surrendering over 30 points a game. Its not good enough. There are too many playmakers on this offense to not score points. Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin - the two other rookies Charles Sims and ASJ.
You may see the offense rise in the rankings again but they're not getting better. There's no reason why this offense can't average 24 points a game. They can make plays between the 20's with the best of them. Scoring plays? They're few and far between and that's why this offense and Marcus Arroyo continues to fail.
2. Of course, the offensive line continues to be a travesty. Josh McCown was sacked 5 times and hit 13 times by a Bears defense that hasn't gotten to the quarterback all season. Some guy named Paea had two sacks, he had just four coming into the game. The Bucs running game continued to be stuck in the mud managing just 54 yards from running backs. Tampa Bay lost its balance on offense and attempted 53 passes (48 pass attempts, 5 sacks) to continue to move the sticks. Josh McCown is not a guy you should have throwing 53 times.
And hey Marcus, if you're going to throw that many times with a suspect offensive line, how bout mixing in a few quick step/three step drop routes? Spread the field, get the ball, fire. Offensive line only has to sustain a block for a few seconds.
3. Speaking of McCown, I think the most disappointing thing about him this year is he's not as advertised. No, I'm not talking about the guy who played superbly as the Bears QB last season - I think we all knew that wasn't going to be happening here. I'm talking about a savvy veteran game manager who knew how to protect the football - an Alex Smith type who can make a play or two here or there but not cost you the game.
Maybe the offense doesn't sustain drives with Glennon but he certainly didn't get you beat. McCown has cost Tampa Bay at least three games this season with his poor decision making and turnovers. Rather than check down, he kept going for the big play. Several times receivers, tight ends and backs sat wide open in the middle of the field but McCown focused on Evans and Jackson before the offensive line caved in on him.
The two turnovers at the start of the second half were unforgivable. Yes, I know he was hit from behind - but you can't carry the football like that while scrambling around deep in your own territory. You just can't do it.
I know the interception was tipped, but you can't sail the pass high in a danger zone like that.
McCown was skittish the entire game. The pressure was indeed intense but there were times he held the ball too long waiting for Jackson or Evans to come open rather than taking what the defense was giving.
He blamed his accuracy issues on the wet ball and still injured thumb. Okay, all the more reason to play it safer, especially with the lead.
Those two turnovers turned victory into defeat.
4. For yet another week, the defense played a fantastic game. I thought the Bears would light up the scoreboard with all world linebacker Lavonte David in street clothes but not only did the Bucs defense play well, they dominated the first half with three sacks, a forced fumble and limited the highly touted Marc Trestman offense to just 68 first half yards.
There was really only one drive the entire game the Bears drove down the field and that was on their first scoring drive of the second half to cut the lead to 10-7. It's tough to fault them on drives that started on their 13 and 15 yard lines thanks to Josh McCown's turnovers. Sure, you'd like to try and hold for field goals there but any decent NFL offense should get six points if you get handed the ball in the opponents' red zone.
In the end though, even though the Bucs defense played extremely well and limited a good Bears offense to just 204 yards of total offense, Lovie's defense has always been predicated on winning the turnover battle. They lost, 4-to-1.
5. This ladies and gentlemen is not a fumble.
But the bottom line is V-Jax simply cannot let the Bears players pry the football away from him in that situation. It can't happen. You can't leave it up to the refs.
6. Late in the game, Lovie Smith reminded Bears fans as to why they called for his head. Tampa Bay's offense showed absolutely no urgency down by two scores and time dwindling down in the fourth quarter. They got a field goal to make it a one score game (taking entirely too long to get that score) then as they drove down the field again, they again took too long to line up, didn't show any urgency and simply watched the seconds melt away - until 4th and 1 when the team shockingly lined up quickly and ran an QB sneak into the teeth of the Bears defense. With only a few seconds left before the two minute warning and the game really on the line right here - why not take the two minute warning, consider the play and come up with something better than THAT?
Smith then compounded the horrible mistake by challenging the spot on the field. If the refs weren't willing to overturn the V-Jax call, which appeared to have enough visual evidence to overturn it, then why in the world would you challenge the McCown call - when there was absolutely no visual evidence that he got anywhere near the line to gain?
Of course the challenge failed, the Bucs lost a timeout and cost themselves an additional 30 seconds they could have used to try and secure a late score.
7. Yes, I'll be writing the Bucs playoff scenario article later this week. I don't think it's a bad thing that we as a fanbase hold on to that hope that the rest of the NFC Suck...er South will be so terrible that even at 2-9 the Bucs still have playoff hopes. But let's face it, to make the playoffs, you need to win some dang games. This team can't stop beating itself so to me, there's no chance to make it. But of course, that's why they play the games and that's why I'll have to write that article.
8. For the draftnik crowd who root for the Bucs to lose every game. Sunday is another example as to why the Bucs need to start winning right now. For the sixth time this season, Tampa Bay has let a second half lead go by the boards. That's six opportunities to put a team away, add to the win column and the Bucs imploded. This team needs to learn how to close the deal and win games, until they can accomplish that, they will continue to lose. They must learn how to win - period. You can't do that tanking.
9. Depending what happens with the Jets tonight, Tampa Bay may be sitting 5th overall in the draft. It's still striking distance to trade up and get Mariotta or Winston. Connor Cook and Brett Hunley are intriguing as well. I actually watched a bit all four quarterbacks this past weekend and came away impressed. Winston looks the most accurate of the bunch, which to me is one of the most important characteristics of being a good QB. I'm not necessarily talking about completion percentage, either.
With spread offenses prevalent in today's college football, it's more of a concern if you're NOT completing 65% of your passes. No, I'm talking about hitting receivers in stride and putting the football where it needs to be. Winston can do that. Mariotta can as well but not under duress. You get him under pressure and his accruacy takes a bit of a dip. Still, Mariotta seems to have that little something special that makes you go "Wow"!
Cook looked good as well but seems less accurate than the other two. That's a concern for me. Hunley played great against USC but from what I understand he hasn't had a very good season.
I think for me it's Jameis or Mariotta in the first round. If neither are available when the Bucs pick, they should go offensive or defensive line, their two biggest need areas and maybe trade up in the bottom of the first to secure their QB of the future (or the now).
10. For the 26th time in their 39 year history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be a losing franchise. It's the fourth year in a row, fifth in the last six years. Few franchises can match this level of futility. The last time the Bucs had a sustained run of losing, the fanbase evaporated to a small group of 27,000 to 30,000 die-hards who would go to every game no matter what. For them, games like Sunday became rays of hope among the hopelessness of another losing season. They too looked at next year's draft as the fixer of all ills. Let's get that Franchise QB, franchise tackle or franchise defender. That will put us over the top!
For 14 straight years, Tampa Bay churned through 6 coaches (Update: an earlier version of this article incorrectly said there were 7 coaches during the walk into the wilderness, which is one too many), 12 different starting quarterbacks and who knows how many offensive coordinators? In the past six years, the Bucs have had 3 coaches, 5 starting QBs and 5 different offensive coordinators (including Arroyo).
While some in the fanbase are calling for change once again, this franchise needs stability more than anything. There will likely be a new offensive coordinator next season and probably a new quarterback as well. If the Bucs hope to get off this carousel of suckitude, they must stop this. Tampa Bay does indeed need their franchise QB - or at least someone to give the ball to for the next four or five years. Lovie needs to stay and the Bucs need to continue to improve. Changing for changes sake will not get the Bucs out of this funk. It was obvious Morris was over his head. It was apparent that Schiano had no clue how to relate to professionals. Lovie is an accomplished coach and he can win in this league. He's done it before and given time, he'll do it again.
The stability of Tony Dungy got the Bucs out of hell. We have to give Lovie the time to do the same.