Bucs’ game more important than it sounds

by Gary Shelton on November 2, 2023

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

They have lost their way. They are stuck in the road, and they are low on gas, and the GPS isn’t working. They are going nowhere, and they’re going fast, and no one seems to be steering.

This week, we may find out if they have any sense of direction at all.

It doesn’t sound like much, does it? A forgettable mid-season game between two losing teams. But for the Tampa Bay Bucs, it might provide a clue to whether this team can right itself and compete for a weak division title or if it fooled itself with a fast start.

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The Bucs, 3-4, travel to Houston to play a not-quite-as-rotten-as-usual Texans team. The Texans, who have been among the dregs of the league for a while now, are also 3-4 and in second place  with wins over New Orleans and Pittsburgh. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has brought a new energy to town.

So can the Texans, trending up, beat the Bucs, trending down?

“It gives you a chance to win when you don’t turn the ball over,” Bucs’ coach Todd Bowles said. “Stroud is playing very smart football. When you don’t turn it over and you don’t give up big plays, you give yourself a chance to win.

“We’ve got to attack the ball. We’ve got to see it.  Our vision has to expand. We’ve got to play smarter. Obviously, we want to start faster. We understand that every game is valuable to us.”

It’s amazing how quick it can turn. Two weeks into the season, the Bucs were 2-0 and the Texans were 0-2.

Since then, the Bucs haven’t held up physically, and they’ve started slow, and they’ve been cursed by penalties.

“(The slow starts) are really frustrating,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “I keep saying it, but it’s the truth. You look at the film on some of the first drives, and some of the slow first halves overall, (we’re) just shooting ourselves in the foot, whether it’s a penalty, whether it’s one guy off in the run game, or not hitting  the third-down conversion on my part. It’s all things in our control.”

Mayfield is impressed with what he has seen on film from Houston.

“In the secondary, they’re really good,” Mayfield said. “They have their two edge guys that present their own issues. We just have to be  better on our part with the fundamental parts of the offense.”

Frankly, there is nothing wrong with a 4-4 record in the NFL. But at 3-5 and sliding? That’s trouble. That’s an omen that the season isn’t going anywhere.

No, it isn’t a big game.

For the Bucs, however, it’s an important one.

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