Bucs lose in embarrassing fashion to Saints

by Gary Shelton on November 6, 2017 · 8 comments

in general

Dirk Koetter saw his team lose its sixth game of the year./CARMEN MANDATO

Dirk Koetter saw his team lose its sixth game of the year./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 3 a.m.

As they flail through the air, their arms akimbo and their voices in full scream, with the wind whistling past and the ground rushing to meet them, there is but one question that counts for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

How long before they hit bottom?

They are already worse than the Jets, worse than the Bears, worse than the Jaguars. They are gaining on the Browns, on the 49ers, on the Giants. They are worse today than they were Sunday, and they were worse than than the week before, and worse then than the week before that.

They might as well be coached by Lovie Smith or Greg Schiano or Raheem Morris or Sam Wyche or Richard Williamson or Ray Perkins or Leeman Bennett. Their energy is gone. Their fight is gone. They fit in with the empty helmets of their history.

They are the Bucs in 2017, and the Bucs of too many other seasons.

And they have wavy lines of stink raising from the franchise.

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Winston had another tough day against Saints./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston had another tough day against Saints./CARMEN MANDATO

How bad can it get? How long can they lose? Will it get fire-the-coach bad? Will it get change-the-quarterback bad? Will it get torch-the-general-manager-bad? Might it be start-all-over time?

“We weren't good enough in any phase,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “Of course, I know that starts with me.”

Martin gained only seven yards on eight carries./CARMEN MANDATO

Martin gained only seven yards on eight carries./CARMEN MANDATO

Shouldn't it? In the past, there was a reason to believe in Koetter. He did nice things with the offense in his first season as a coordinator. He got the team to the brink of the playoffs last year. But a team's shortcomings have turned into his own. The slow starts. The scattergun  passing. The inability to run. The offensive line that sputters to run block. The silly penalties. The backs who run to nowhere. All of it.

From here, from 2-6 and going in reverse, all things seem possible. The Bucs are a mess, and they keep adding things to the list of those they cannot do.

Ask yourself this: On a neutral field, would you bet on the Bucs to beat the winless Browns? Or the winless 49ers? Or a rematch against the one-win Giants? How about this? How many Bucs' teams, halfway through the season, would you bet to beat this one? These days, the Bucs are 2-6, and the six looks more solid that the two.

This one was particularly ugly. For the second straight week, the Bucs failed to score a touchdown in the first three quarters. For the third time in four games, they gave up at least 30. They lost their fifth straight game because, well, they've played only five in the last five weeks.

“We can't get punts blocked,” Koetter said. “We can't have four sacks. We can't miss tackles and not be able to run the ball. We're not playing good enough in any aspect and that starts with the head coach.”

Did you see the Bucs try to stop Drew Brees Sunday. It looked as if they were shorthanded in the secondary. Brees hit 22 of 26 passes for 263 yards and two scores. They couldn't protect their punter. They couldn't rush the passer. They couldn't run. They couldn't cover. They couldn't tackle. They couldn't keep their composure.

It happened late in the third quarter, when the Bucs had the ball on a third-and-five. New Orleans' corner Marshon Lattimore was near the Bucs' sideline. Winston – out of the game — was pointing toward the field. When Lattimore turned, Winston poked him in the back of the helmet and Lattimore shoved him. Mike Evans came running and, from behind, shoved Lattimore to the ground.

Four viewpoints of what happened.

Winston: “I was telling him to go back to his sideline.”

Evans: “I shouldn't have done it. I let my emotions get the best of me. I'm going to protect my quarterback. But I shouldn't have done that. I should have hit him from the back.”

Koetter: “I didn't see it. I was looking out at the team. I really don't know what happened from that. I heard a report on what happened. That's definitely not the way we want to represent ourselves if it was in fact the way I was told.”

New Orleans coach Sean Payton: “If you're going to have an ejection, isn't that what you have an ejection for?”

Nationally: A headline in the New York post didn't mention Evans, but said “Annoying Jameis, vicious cheap shot spark Bucs-Saints faceoff.”

Mind you, this is a Saints team that the Bucs beat last year (they won one of two games). But last year's 9-7 record seems as if it were a million years ago. They were third-graders playing with fifth-graders. Maybe sixth.

There are no heroes here. This isn't a wonderfully coached team whose players are failing. This isn't a terrifically talented offense whose defense isn't measuring up. This isn't a great defense being betrayed by a bad offense. This is all wrong, from the first blueprint to the last game plan. This is embarrassing. The Bucs were supposed to be a top 10 team, and along the way, someone held the standings upside down.

What's the best part of this team? The running game? The pass rush? The coverage? The tackling? The discipline? The offensive line? The quarterback? Better question: Is there a best part of this team?

Not for a series, not for a down, was this a game. The Saints marched down for a field goal on their first drive. On the Bucs' first drive (a three-and-out, naturally), the Bucs went to punt. Bryan Anger punted it away cleanly. But Devante Bond had a false start, forcing a second punt. This one, Bond whiffed on a block and Justin Hardee came up the middle to block it.

That's how it went. Jameis Winston was scattered. Doug Martin couldn't find space. Brees practiced his carving skills. It was 16-3 at the half, 30-3 after three periods.

Even worse, Winston was knocked onto his shoulder again and missed the second half. In his time, he was only seven of 13 for 67 yards. Martin gained seven yards on eight carries and was replaced by Peyton Barber. DeSean Jackson caught two passes and Evans one.

In other words, it was a disaster. And when does it get better. All eight remaining opponents have more wins than the Bucs. Even the Jets. Even the offensively challenged Dolphins. Even the Rodger-less Packers.

It was humiliating. It was embarrassing. It was a desperate team losing in desperation.

“I am totally embarrassed by it,” Koetter said. “I would imagine the players are, too.”

The Bucs try to stop the humiliation next week at home at Raymond James Stadium. The opponent will be the Jets in a 1 p.m. game.

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