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Tampa Bay’s Loss To The 49ers Is Problematic, But It’s Not Foreboding

It’s only Week 1....

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston had a rough day.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

A multitude of bad penalties. Turnovers. Missed opportunities. Poor red zone execution.

Sound familiar?

If it does, it’s because this is the brand of Buccaneer football that has resided in Tampa Bay for around a decade now. Outside of a winning season in 2010 and 2016, all of the above issues have provided the warm, cozy, hellish confines that have ensnared this franchise.

Bruce Arians and a well-rounded coaching staff are supposed to be the collective saviors that reverse the recent misfortunes and bring winning back to the Bay. They are supposed to fix Jameis Winston, the defense, and the culture.

After one week, that hasn’t happened. In fact, only the defense looks salvageable.

But it’s only been one week.

Sure, this team has issues. A poor offensive line, dicey quarterback play, and a growing defense will make this an up-and-down season. We’ve already seen what happens if things go wrong in those departments, but it’s not time to start making doomsday plans. It’s not time to start burning jerseys.

It’s certainly not time to give up.

The Bucs can build off of certain areas from their matchup with the 49ers. They ran the ball 26 times for 121 yards, good enough for 4.7 yards a carry, and both Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber averaged over 4.1 ypc. They held the 9ers scoreless in the red zone (0-3) and never allowed them to get into a goal-to-go situation. San Francisco couldn’t get a ground game going, rushing for 98 yards on 32 carries. The Bucs converted 45% of their third downs.

All of those stats are good enough to win you games, if you just do the little things correctly. Things like avoiding dumb penalties (cough, Demar Dotson) and bad turnovers are two areas that if even halfway corrected, could pay huge dividends.

These are mental issues. Sometimes, these issues stem from a losing culture. Sometimes, it’s just the player. I’m inclined to think it’s the former in this scenario and it’s something I’ve talked about before. This team has been mired in a losing culture and when you are stuck in loser mode, it takes many a good habit to break the old, bad ones.

Cameron Brate put it perfectly when he was asked about his two nullified touchdowns after the game. “Coach has been harping that we’ve got to eliminate Bucs being Bucs,” he said. “That’s kind of his go-to saying. Today, we just beat ourselves.”

This will take time. How much time, I can’t say. That all depends on how the players take this loss. Knowing most of them, they will be upset, but we won’t know how upset they truly are until Thursday night.

And some of them - like Winston - don’t have that much time. He didn’t get a whole lot of help yesterday - especially considering O.J. Howard’s fumbling issues, the offensive line’s protection issues, and a lack of separation from the receivers - but he cannot make that throw that cost the Bucs the game. He just can’t.

That has happened too much throughout his career, but I’m willing to wager it’s because he is stuck in the mindset of having to be Superman-like in his efforts to win a game. He was in that position yet again on Sunday, albeit only down one score, but it’s a situation he’s been put in time and time again. It’s hard to break those habits when that’s all you know.

There’s a reason we’ve always been told that the game is 90% mental and Sunday’s game was a perfect example of why that adage rings true

Thursday’s matchup with the Panthers will really show what this team is made of. A short road trip against a division rival is probably the toughest test a team can receive right out of the gate, but this team honestly needs it. If they can come out and win, then all of a sudden, this season already has a drastically different tone.

This is all fixable. All of it. It just depends on when.

And for the Bucs’ sake, it needs to be soon.