Bucs were close, but really, they deserved to lose

by Gary Shelton on September 26, 2016 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston threw for 405 yards, but he was tackled at the 5 on the final play./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Winston threw for 405 yards, but he was tackled at the 5 on the final play./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Monday, 4 a.m.

You can moan about the time. If only the clock was a little kinder. If only the Bucs had handled it a little better.

You can gripe about the distance. If only Jameis Winston had thrown quicker to give a receiver a chance. If only he had run harder so he wasn't caught from behind.

You can grumble about the weather, or about the mistakes or, as coach Dirk Koetter did, about the culture. You can blame a dozen different players. You can hide behind fat statistics, if you want.

Eventually, you will come to the truth about Tampa Bay's 37-32 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

The Bucs lost this game because they deserved to lose this game. They worked

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Humphries had his frist 100-yard receiving day./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Humphries had his first 100-yard receiving day./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

hard for it, and enough players worked for it. There were too many blown coverages, too many turnovers, too little clock management and too many Rams – the Rams! — in the end zone.

The Bucs are 1-2 today, with the two Super Bowl teams up next. That's staring 1-4 in the eye, a possibility that will make you ask this question: What, really, has changed? Might it not have been Lovie Smith or Greg Schiano or Raheem Morris on the sideline? Might it not have been Ray Perkins or Richard Williamson or Leeman Bennett? With the game in the air, this team continually latches onto defeat. Again.

Jackson caught three passes from Winston./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Jackson caught three passes from Winston./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Hey, Koetter has never been a head coach. This clock management stuff is new to him. When Charles Sims stayed in bounds after a catch, it would have been a perfect time to call time out.

“We lined up slow, so maybe I should have used it then,” Koetter said.

These were the Rams, mind you, a team that had scored nine points in two games. Against the Bucs, they got 37. Their quarterback was Case Keenum, a quarterback with a popgun arm. I'm sure Case is swell to his dog and all, but let's face it: There were passes when you thought the refs were going to call the infield fly rule. Batter's out. There was one pass where I was sure that the receiver was going to call a fair catch. And it went for a touchdown.

Sims rushed for 49 of his 55  yards in the second half./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Sims rushed for 49 of his 55 yards in the second half./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Then there was Roberto Aguayo, whose toe — and maybe his head — is evidently not on straight. Aguayo missed two of four kicks on the afternoon.

There was Charles Sims, who tipped another pass into another interception, and Donovan Smith, who didn't block Robert Quinn on his way to a sack-fumble-touchdown. There was Chris Conti who didn't cover a receiver and Keith Tandy, who didn't tackle one. There was Dirk Koetter, who cost his team several seconds — maybe enough for another play — when he didn't call time. Taking a time-out home is never good. There was Jameis Winston, who strolled to the five, still pump-faking although he was far past the line of scrimmage, on the final play.


It was like an Agatha Christie novel. Everyone did it. Everyone played a part.

“Our culture is not where it needs to be,” Koetter said. “That starts with me. I'm the

Ghoulston wraps up Todd Gurley for a short gain./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Gholston wraps up Todd Gurley for a short gain./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

head of that. I'm putting that squarely on my shoulders. There is something about our culture. I wish I could grab it. I've been on teams that had it and you don't want to let go of it. When you don't have it, it is hard to figure out what it is. I wish I could grab it. When you don't have it, it's hard to figure out. Something in our culture that lets game like this get away. We got to get over that hump and we're not there.”

No, they aren't. The Bucs had a lot of great performances Sunday – Winston threw for 405 yards, Mike Evans caught 10 passes for 132 yards, Adam Humphries caught nine for 100 – but there were enough mistakes to erase them all.

Winston, of course, blamed quarterback play as the thing the Bucs need to have better. But it wasn't his arm. It was his hands (which were stripped by Quinn) and his legs (he never really did commit to the run on his 10 yard gain at the end).

It can get a little silly when Winston is suggesting that better quarterback play is all the Bucs' need. What they need is for someone else, every now and then, to be the Bucs' best player. It's not saying that Winston couldn't have been more precise – he admitted he overthrew Vincent Jackson in the end zone – but who would you say did the most to try to help the Bucs' win.

Look, none of us really expected this team to be ready to make a run at the Super Bowl. Not two years after being worst in the league. But we did kind of hope for improvement. But if the Bucs lose their next two, it would have to go 6-5 to finish 7-9. Can they do it?

Not playing like this, they can't. The Bucs still give up too many long plays. Their running game struggled at times (Charles Sims had six rushes for six yards in the first half).

The team still doesn't protect the ball enough. Time management, one of Lovie Smith's failings, is still a mystery.

Maybe someday it will be different.

Maybe not.

David finished hte day with eight tackles against Rams./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

David finished the day with eight tackles against Rams./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

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