Today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a game because they had twelve men on the field, in field goal range, inside the two-minute warning, trailing by one point.
The officials didn't notice until Marvin Lewis threw a challenge flag, which is illegal inside the two-minute warning. But that rule was changed this year: while doing so costs your team a timeout, it does guarantee that the officials will take a look at the play, which is exactly what happened.
The Bucs had twelve players on the field. They lost five yards. And over the following three plays, they couldn't get back into field goal range. Turnover on downs. So ends another dreadful game.
The dumb thing is that this isn't even the worst way in which the Bucs lost this season. They lost to the Falcons on what was basically horrible officiating. They lost the opening game to the Panthers because while needing a field goal to tie the game, Bobby Rainey fumbled the ball on the first play in a two-minute drill. They lost to the Rams because Mike Evans got them into field goal range, but injured himself, causing a 10-second clock run-off that probably should have left them with enough time time to kick a field goal to win, but instead just ended the game.
They lost to the Saints because they couldn't hold on to a 31-20 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, in part because they managed to turn first-and-ten at their own 20-yard line into a safety. They lost to the Browns because Mike Evans didn't know he couldn't chuck a receiver after five yards. They lost to the Vikings because they couldn't stop Teddy Bridgewater from driving for a field goal, and because Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled the ball on the first play of overtime, handing the Vikings a touchdown. And finally, they lost to the Bears because they couldn't get a single yard on three consecutive plays.
Bad teams find ways to lose, and that's consistently what's happened this season. It's disheartening. It's frustrating. And it makes for ugly, ugly football. But there's one upside to all of this. It's small, but it's there: no team consistently wins or loses close games, season after season. And yes, as hard as it is to believe, the fact that the Bucs lost all those close games means you're likely to see a turnaround next year.
That doesn't change one simple fact, though: Tampa Bay is 2-10. And that sucks.