Don’t let the score fool you; Cardinals clobber Bucs

by Gary Shelton on October 15, 2017 · 6 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Koetter admits his team wasn't ready to play./CARMEN MANDATO

Koetter admits his team wasn't ready to play./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 3 a.m.

The run defense was bad. You know, 1986 bad.

The pass defense was awful. You know, 1986 awful.

The tackling was terrible. You know, 2011 terrible.

After a whipping like this one, you can reference every bad season, every bad coach, and every bad player the Tampa Bay Bucs have ever had, This was the Arizona Cardinals, dismissing the Tampa Bay Bucs like so many escapees from the practice squad. If you weren't worried about insulting the jayvee team, you might call it a game worthy of the jayvees.

It was the kind of game that brought back memories of all the awful teams that this one was supposed to have outgrown. Teams are no longer suppossed to run through the Bucs, or pass over them, the way the Cardinals did.

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Fitzpatrick threw for 290 yards, but had two interceptions./CARMEN MANDATO

Fitzpatrick threw for 290 yards, but had two interceptions./CARMEN MANDATO

Yeah, you can fool yourself by the 38-33 final score, and if you want, you can warm yourself in the 27 points the Bucs scored in the fourth quarter. But, down deep, we know better. This was close because of garbage time. This was a case of a team being lost in the desert.

For most of the day, the Cardinals simply showed their superiority for the second straight season. Once again, the Bucs were jumped by the escapees from the old age home.


McCoy says a 2-3 record isn't good enough./JEFFREY S. KING

McCoy says a 2-3 record isn't good enough./JEFFREY S. KING

Start with 32-year-old Adrian Peterson, acquired (and taken out of mothballs) earlier in the week. Peterson had 134 yards on 26 carries and scored twice, and suddenly, it was 2012 again. No one was wondering if Peterson was finished anymore.

Then come with 34-year-old receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who keeps talking about retirement. When? 2052? Fitzgerald caught 10 balls for 138 yards.

At last, there was 37-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer hit his first 14 passes. He finished by hitting 18 of 22 for 283 yards and three scores.

It was a reunion of the 2007 Pro Bowl. Think about it. That's 103 years worth of living. And together, they landed on the Bucs like grumpy old men.

Think about it? What, exactly, did the Bucs' defense do on Sunday? They didn't tackle. They didn't cover. They didn't rush the passer. This is a team that had won only against the 49ers (in overtime) and the Colts (in overtime). And they wore the Bucs out.

“I can't tell you how disappointed and embarrassed I am at the way we played through

Evans  ended the day with 95 yards receiving./JEFFREY S. KING

Evans ended the day with 95 yards receiving./JEFFREY S. KING

the first two quarters and the first two series of the third quarter,” said coach Dirk Koetter, whose team is supposed to beyond this kind of butt-kicking. “Unfortunately, that starts with me. I obviously did a horrible job of getting them ready to play because that was the worst first half of football I've ever seen in my life.”

You can talk about Jameis Winston missing time because of his injured shoulder. But it was 24-0 when he left. Besides he had nothing to do with how the Cardinals dissected the Bucs' offense. You can talk about the comeback. Of course, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two crippling interceptions. You can talk about a defense playing better, but the top three tacklers were all from the secondary.

“We couldn't stop the run,” Koetter said. “We couldn't run. We couldn't tackle. We couldn't block.”

Something else they couldn't do? They couldn't look like a legit contender.

Winston hurt his throwing shoulder in the first quarter and wasn't able to come back. He will have an MRI today, but he anticipates playing next week.

"Not concerned at all,” Winston said. “It was just pain. That was the only reason I didn't come back. I don't think I've (ever) missed a game. I don't think I'm going to miss a game, either."

If you are the Bucs, there are two ways you can look at this. It was either a narrow loss when you just ran out of time, or it was an eyesore that should have all of the films of it buried. The Bucs do themselves no good by trying to pretty up this loss. When it counted, when the teams were close to even, the Cardinals dominated. Anything else is just spin control.

Still, there will be those who get fooled by the five-point defeat.

“Two and three is not good enough,” said Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “We could easily be 5-0. We beat ourselves way too much. The teams that have beaten us have done what they were supposed to do.”

Five-and-oh? Really? How about the 17-point loss to Minnesota? How about a loss to Arizona that isn't reflected in the final score.

The truth is that the Bucs are 2-3, and if they had to play their schedule again, well, they'd probably be about 2-3.

From here, the Bucs have five of their next six games on the road. Next week's is at Buffalo. Don't look now, but the Bills might bring back Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith for that one. Against the Bucs, evidently, a guy is never too old.

They have to play better. Or they have to prepare to sit out another post-season.

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