Welp Folks, when your favorite lovable losers pretty much spit the bed in the same fashion every single week it's tough to talk about things you might have learned from the game.
Frankly, you don't learn all that much.
Still, we endeavor to provide you this feature every week so lets see what we can come up with,
1. I was fearful about this game being the one the Bucs meaninglessly win to cost themselves that franchise QB. And let's face it, Carolina did everything they could to give the Bucs the ballgame. To Derek Anderson hitting Alterraun Verner and Bradley MacDougald in the chest for what should have been easy interceptions to Carolina not being able to finish off drives against an obviously disinterested Bucs defense, to Jonathan Stewart fumbling away an opportunity to put the Bucs away, the Panthers seemed determined to prevent the Bucs from getting that first overall pick.
Thankfully, Oneil Cousins and Josh McCown came to Tampa Bay's rescue. With Green Bay losing at Buffalo, the Packers are going to be in some foul mood when they come into Lambeau South. Its hard to imagine a victory for the Bucs' in that one. So that leaves the New Orleans game as the final obstacle to Mariota. (Well that and Mariota could opt to stay in school for another year - but let's put that out of our minds for a bit). The Saints have proven capable of losing to anyone but let's continue to have faith that the Buccaneers will find a new and inventive way to lose that ballgame.
2. Marcus Arroyo proved yet again why he needs to be granted his walking papers at the end of the season. Yes, I know the kid stepped in to a situation that he has no business being in and he's doing the best that he can. But when your running back runs for 92 yards in the first half and only gets the ball six more times the rest of the game - you're failing. In fact, when your offense is averaging 6.6 yards a carry but you only run it 21 times with your running backs. You're failing.
It was almost as if Doug Martin has some contract bonus if he makes it to 100 yds so the Bucs did everything they could to prevent it from happening. I don't think I've ever seen that before. A running back with 92 yds in the first half not breaking 100. Has it ever happened?
Gotta ask the human stat machine, Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman, about that one.
Speaking of Martin though, amazing what a few holes will do for the Dougnenaught, huh? That long 63 yard run was vintage Doug. It was good to see theres still some tread on the Hamster's tires.
3. Guys in New Places. I thought Demar Dotson held is own on the left side. It's not an easy transition and while Dotson gave up a few pressures I think all in all his performance was encouraging. Oneil Cousins at right tackle was a disaster. He needed help with the Panthers best defensive lineman (still eligible to play) Charles Johnson all day and the times he didn't get help were u-g-l-y. Danny Lansanah for the second consecutive week looked decent at MLB. He is still biting a bit on the play action but he was impactful, finishing with 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 qb hits and vicious pass breakup. TJ Fatinikun got the majority of snaps opposite Jac Smith and didn't do much. Macdougald led the safeties in snaps and had a whopping 15 tackles.
4. Speaking of the offensive line. Another pitiful performance in pass protection from them. 3 sacks surrendered as well as 5 qb hits and a number of pressures, it was another horrible day att he office. Some say the Bucs should dump Logan Mankins because of his salary but frankly, I'm not one of them. Mankins and Demar Dotson may be the only decent linemen the Bucs have on their roster. The rest of the lot? Below average to downright terrible. How Oneil Cousins remains on an NFL roster continues to perplex. Oh and Mr. Gilkey? He was in for 3 snaps. He false started on one of them.
I don't think the Bucs need to break the bank on offensive linemen in free agency. Just get some average guys to slightly above average. They don't need to be former Pro Bowlers. Just decent guys that have shown they can "not suck". That would be a dramatic improvement over what we have this year.
5. Mike Evans continues to amaze. Yes, Carolina did everything they could to slow down the amazing Bucs rookie and to their credit, held him in check most of the day (although in Evans defense, he can't throw to himself). But Evans showed again why he might be the NFL Rookie of the Year if he didn't play for Tampa Bay with his sensational toe tapping touchdown grab.
He may be slowing down due to the extra attention paid to him and the atrocious QB and line play, but he's still a weapon every time the ball heads in his direction.
6. Remember a couple weeks ago when I lauded the improvement in the Bucs' defense? Welp, so much for that. Two weeks in a row, the defense has given up a ton of yardage, failed to get off on third down and didn't make the plays when opportunity presented itself.
Injuries to Gerald McCoy, Mason Foster and Lavonte David have certainly taken their toll but if the Bucs hope to be competitive in 2015, the defense has to become a Lovie Smith defense. It wasn't on Sunday. The Bucs did stiffen in the red zone though, and that was encouraging considering the Bucs defense has been one of the worst in red zone touchdown percentage all season. They held the Panthers to 19 points, which according to Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman was the 7th time this season the Bucs have held an opponent under 22 points and lost. It leads the league.
As mentioned, Bucs have seven losses this season when allowing 22 points or less. From 2011-13, Bucs had four such losses in three seasons.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 14, 2014
7. The Bucs have lost 8 games this season by 8 points or less. Over two seasons in 2012-13, it happened 11 times. To say Tampa Bay can't win close games is an understatement. Think of it for a minute. If the Bucs win just half of those close games, they're in first place in the putrid NFC South. Of course, at this point, winning the NFC South might just be a bad thing. The winner of the division is lumped into the playoff pool, despite their record. So you could conceivably have a 6-10 team picking in the 20's.
8. Derek Anderson has two starts this season, both against Tampa Bay and both victories. Anderson is 20-25 in his career as a starter and has only started these two games since 2010. Anderson did what a good backup QB is supposed to do, don't get you beat (although a couple of his throws certainly should have been picked off). I bring this up because this type of play is what the Buccaneers expected to get out of Josh McCown this season. McCown was supposed to be the game manager guy. No one expected him to throw for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns a game. But you didn't expect him to lose it for you, either.
In nine starts, McCown is 1-8 and has personally turned the ball over 20 times (12 ints, 8 fumbles, 4 of his fumbles were recovered by Tampa Bay). He is averaging 2.2 turnovers a start. Talk about buyer's remorse.
9. And then there's Mike Glennon, holding the clipboard and looking more and more pissed off at what's going on. Yes, you know the giraffe is just burning inside thinking to himself, I wouldn't have made that throw or I would have checked down for the first down there. But unfortunately for him when he was in there he didn't light up the scoreboard, he pretty much looked like McCown, just less turnovery. The truth is neither quarterback is worth a damn and when you have two crappy quarterbacks behind perhaps the worst offensive line we've seen since the expansion Buccaneers you get 2-12.
10. I'm not among the growing tide of "Fire Lovie" folks. I think he needs another season or two to get the franchise to where we hope he can get it. Still, this first season couldn't possibly have gone worse, could it? At the beginning of the season, USA Today Columnist Nate Davis predicted 3-13 for Tampa Bay while all other pundits predicted a worst-to-first for Tampa Bay. We scoffed and laughed at him. How could the Bucs possibly have a worse season than the dumpster fire that was Schiano's 2013 season? Surely the Bucs would at least win six and likely a lot more.
Welp, it looks like Davis' prediction was a little high. I have to admit I'm stunned at how this season has turned out. I expected more out of the defense. I expected Tampa Bay to have some semblance of a running game. I thought Josh McCown would give Tampa Bay a veteran presence and show Mike Glennon how to be a pro. I, like everyone, worried about the offensive line but thought they'd come together as a unit the more they played.
The thought of a step back before taking a step forward never entered my mind. There was too much talent on this team, I said to myself. 2-12 on its way to 2-14 seemed ludicrous. And for that, I fully understand the thought that Lovie should be one-and-done (I definitely don't agree on Licht, I think a GM should at least get 3 drafts).
The Glazers sold us that Lovie was going to bring this team back to relevancy. Instead, he delivered what appears to be headed to the worst season for the Bucs since 1986. I'm certain they are as shocked and dismayed as we are. This is not what they brought Lovie in for and I wouldn't blame them for losing a little faith.
There are rumors out there that Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton could be fired. Crazy, I know. But if two marquee coaches are on the market, how do you not consider it if you're the Glazers? Payton teamed with a big time first round QB be it Jameis or Mariota would ignite an instant excitement in the fan base and at least the Bucs would be fun to watch again.
I'm not advocating one-and-done for Lovie. I'm just saying I wouldn't be shocked at this point. Lovie needs to say all the right things. He needs to want the quarterback to build around. He needs to have a good plan to get the Bucs out of the hole he's helped put them in.
And for the love of all that is Holy, please Lovie, tell the Glazers to burn those orange socks.