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10 Things We Think We Learned - 2014 NFL Week 1

The Oh No We Suck Again Edition.

Cliff McBride

Well, that sucked. No, not an eloquent way to begin an article but it about sums up the feeling after watching the Carolina Panthers maul our beloved bumbling multi-colored band of pirates in the debut of the Lovie Smith regime.

The score may have been 20-14 and the Bucs may have had an opportunity to win the game late but let's face it folks, had the Bucs pulled off the miracle comeback it would only have masked the stench coming off the field at Raymond James Stadium.

We learned a lot this week about our football team and it's quite disturbing.

1. You're not going to get the "Well 16 teams win and 16 teams lose on opening week," cliche' from me this year, folks. The Bucs lost a game they should have won, there's no bones about it. Carolina came in without their starting quarterback, a patchwork offensive line and an entirely new receiving core. The Bucs defense that had been so dominant against the run in Pre-season was poised to stuff the running game and force a guy who hadn't played since 2010 beat them.

I can be okay with the Panthers dominating the Bucs' offensive line. We knew that was going to happen, even before Logan Mankins got hurt. We expected it to be a dogfight to get yards and points on the offensive side of the ball.

But for the Bucs defense to be absolutely dreadful on third down, allowing the Panthers to have a 15 minute time of possession advantage in the first half, was unacceptable. To allow a below average offensive line dominate the Bucs' vaunted new front four, allowing DeAngelo Williams to average 5 yards a carry and Derek Anderson to carve up the secondary? No, that's unacceptable.

The offense is going to struggle agains the better defenses in the league. The Bucs defense has to do it's job and get off the field on third and long, force turnovers and give their offense short fields.

They accomplished none of those things on Sunday and that's why they're sitting at home wondering what the hell just happened.

2. $18 million in cap space the Bucs have allocated to Dashon Goldson and Michael Johnson. The former is making too much money to allow a game changing interception slip through his fingers. The latter is making way too much money to be an absolute non-factor the entire ballgame. While Gerald McCoy was doubled, sometimes triple teamed, Johnson was one-on-one a lot of the ballgame against a player, Byron Bell, making his first NFL start at left tackle (he has played primarily RT for the Panthers the last couple seasons).

No, not Joe Thomas, although you wouldn't know it by looking at the domination of Johnson on the field. Many of the gashing runs by Williams were right at Johnson.

Zero pressures is not what the Bucs are paying him $14 million guaranteed to produce.

3. Well, it's a darn good thing the Bucs hid that other 80% of their offense from the Panthers, huh? Look, I don't have any inside info to back this up but I have a theory. I think the Bucs up tempo, spread offense we heard so much about went out the window when Bucs OC Jeff Tedford had his heart procedure performed. Lovie took control of the offense and what we saw on Sunday was pure Lovieball. There was no way he was going to let Arroyo become innovative calling his first NFL game. Nope. With the man he trusts unavailable, it was vanilla, ball control try not to lose the ballgame offense.

Only, the Bucs aren't built to be a smashmouth footbal team. The Linemen aren't tough enough, especially against a top five defense. The running backs aren't powerbacks. The tight ends don't block well enough.

Oh and that thing about "try not to lose the ball game", oops.

4. Perhaps it was the Mike Shula-esque gameplan or maybe he is what we feared he was, but Josh McCown looked every bit the part of journeyman quarterback on Sunday. The two interceptions were just horrible decisions by a veteran quarterback who should know better.

Say what you will about the offensive line, but frankly with Mankins getting injured and some dude they picked up off of the Cleveland scrap pile this week suddenly facing Star Lotulelei, the o-line wasn't as bad as it could have been. Two of the three sacks surrendered were more due to Doug Martin whiffing on blocking than a missed assignment by a guard or tackle.

McCown had time, he just couldn't find a wide receiver to throw to. For a team nicknamed "The Dunkaneers", that's disturbing.

I'm trying not to overreact to McCown's first outing. When the offense finally went up tempo and spread at the end of the game, it gassed the Panthers defense and they finally found a rhythm and they produced two quick touchdowns to make things interesting.

Yet those first three and a half quarters were as bad of quarterbacking as we've seen in Tampa Bay...and we've had both Mike Glennon and Josh Freeman tossing the rock at Ray Jay.

5. The running game was pitiful. If not for the 54 yard explosion by Javorski Lane or the 27 yard scramble by McCown, Bucs running backs accounted for 21 yards on 13 carries. Doug Martin, before getting injured, looked nothing like the Pro Bowl running back that was a three down player in 2012. Rainey didn't really get a chance to get into rhythm but at least he didn't average 1 yard a carry.

Yes, Carolina has the best front seven you're going to see in football but they aren't that good where your "bell cow" running back can't get a run longer than a yard.

6. Solomon Patton was called up from the practice squad and his brilliant 33 yard punt return nearly went to the house but still set up the Bucs second scoring drive with a short field. I was stunned when the Bucs released Patton, who was clearly the team's best return man. I'm glad they brought him back.

7. Early indications is the injure to Logan Mankins is not season ending (let's hope that's the case). It's typical Buc luck isn't it, folks? The Bucs make this huge trade to get the all-pro guard. He was going to fix all the Bucs' woes on the offensive line. Three series in and he's gone.

The Gilkey kid did an admirable job not looking like Oneil Cousins in Mankins absence, but let's face it. If Mankins is out for a significant amount of time, it's going to be a struggle all season for Tampa Bay.

8. It was pretty odd day in the NFL wasn't it? The two teams who were expected to be at the top of the NFC South lost to the two teams expected to be bringing up the rear. The Patriots lost an opening day game for the first time since 2003. Buffalo went into Chicago and shocked the Bears. Tennessee embarrassed Kansas City.  Minnesota destroyed the Rams, who benched their 2nd string QB for their third string QB.

Pittsburgh blew a huge lead on Cleveland and had to scramble to get a W....and Johnny Moneyfingers didn't even play. Jacksonville had a 17-0 half time lead in Philly before turning back into the Jags.

So don't head to the skyway bridge just yet, Buc fans.

9. Call me crazy, but had Riverboat Ron played Cam, I believe the Bucs may have won this game. My reasoning? Newton still favored his ankle in the pre-season, had very little practice time with his wideouts and would have been wearing a flight jacket. Derek Anderson worked with the ones most of the off-season and pre-season and had an opportunity to get a rhythm and timing down with those receivers. Cam wouldn't have had that timing down and with his mobility suspect, it would have taken away the best aspects of his game.

No, Rivera made the right call to give the Panthers the best opportunity to win the game and Anderson did his job, especially on third down. In fact, Anderson's performance is exactly what I expected to see out of the Bucs' career backup journeyman. A good, clean game making good decisions and distributing the ball to your playmakers.

Instead, we got what we saw.

The truth is, no Lovie Smith team can survive being a -3 in the turnover margin. 17 of Carolina's 20 points were set up by turnovers. Its impossible for the Bucs to win that way. They needed to play more like Anderson and the Panthers and didn't get it done.

10. It's a bit crazy to call a week 2 game a must win but it really is if the Bucs hope to be anything this season. The Rams were embarrassed by a subpar Vikings team at home. They've already benched Shaun Hill, who was supposed to be the man to take over for Bradford. 2nd year player Austin Davis took over in the second half. Texans reject Case Keenum may end up being under center against the Bucs.

Now, Buc fans know Tampa Bay has a torrid history of making the backup QBs for teams look like Joe Montana (it happened again this week), but they really can't afford to lose this game.

You go 0-2, then head to the rejuvenated Atlanta Falcons, then Pittsburgh and then New Orleans on a three game road trip...well, let's just say we don't need a Magic 8 ball to figure out where this season is headed.

No, you need to beat the Rams, something the Bucs haven't been able to accomplish the last few years and at least leave Tampa at 1-1.

If they can take 2 out of 3 in the gauntlet, you head back to tampa at 3-2 and the schedule loosening up a bit. 

Lose that game and the confidence is shot and who knows when Tampa Bay earns its first victory of the season?

Big, big game this Sunday, folks.