Bucs fall again, will enter playoffs limping

by Gary Shelton on January 9, 2023

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.


Spin it how you want. Talk about the players who didn't play. Chatter about the upcoming playoffs.

The bottom line, of course, is that the Bucs lost, 30-17 to a horrible Atlanta Falcons team.

In the end, they were mediocre at best, pedestrian, run of the mill. They were less than ordinary, and much less than expected. They were below par, below acceptability.

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The loss left the team with an 8-9 record. And let's face it. A season like this feels like it was a loss. History should remember it that way.

Yes, the Bucs played a lot of the game with its backups. All that proves is that the team needs better backups. The Falcons were 6-10 coming in, down to a rookie quarterback (Desmond Ridder) who had never thrown a touchdown pass, and they ran away in the second half. Atlanta outscored the Bucs 20-0 over the last two periods.

So tell me: Is this any way to go into the playoffs?

Some young guys got a chance to play," Bowles said. "We expect them to play the same way [as starters] with little dropoff,” Bowles said. “We had more dropoff than we wanted to. Given the opportunity, those guys have to play better.”

True, the Bucs gave playing time to Blaine Gabbert and to Kyle Trask, both of who reminded everyone why they're on the bench. But it isn't as if the Bucs have been a scoring machine with Tom Brady, either. The Bucs didn't do much on defense, but they've been vulnerable all season.

In the second half, the Bucs had all of nine yards rushing and 29 yards passing. Atlanta , on the other hand, turned into a dynamo. Quarterback Desmond Ritter threw for 183 yards. Tyler Allgeier ran for 80 of his 135 yards. Receiver Drake London caught five passes for 95 yards.

And the Bucs were the same Bucs you have seen all season.

This season, they have lost quarterbacks such as P.J. Walker, Jacoby Brissett, Mitch Trubisky, Brock Purdy (in his first start) and Ritter. Has anyone lost to quarterbacks with lesser pedigrees?

Of course, defenders of the team will note that the game didn't mean anything, that it was no more than a preseason game. However, it was one that came a week before the playoffs begin. The Bucs felt they had gained a little momentum with two straight wins. It's easy to wonder if that evaporated with the feeling of defeat.

“We should have been able to preserve the lead,” Bowles said. “We got beat on the fundamental stuff. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board with some of those younger guys.”

Now the Bucs play Dallas, who they thumped fairly easily on opening weekend. But the Bucs have cooled off, and Dallas has improved.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’re battle tested,” Brady said. “We’ve had some tough games. Some we came back from. Some we haven’t. But like I said, close won’t be good enough for going forward for anybody.”

Brady had a mixed day on Sunday. He set a record for completions, but he also suffered the first losing season of his career.

The Bucs will try to erase the sting of this season on Monday night when they host the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium.

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