The Buccaneers are 0-5 and a majority of the reasons are self-inflicted errors including the inability to score points in the second half of football games. What did the players and staff have to say about the problems?
Tampa Bay has a finishing problem. That much is obvious through five games – painfully, at times.
Despite being right in the mix during most of those contests at halftime, the Buccaneers’ ship suddenly loses its rudder in the final 30 minutes.
Not a single offensive touchdown has been recorded in the second half as opponents have outscored Tampa Bay by a combined 48-13 in the third and fourth quarters of games.
According to the website TeamRankings.com, the Bucs’ 2.6-point average in the final 30 minutes is easily the lowest of all 32 NFL teams. The next worst teams in that category, lowly Jacksonville and Cleveland, are each putting up 6.7 per game.
For what it’s worth, the combined record of the bottom 10 teams in second-half scoring is 20-38. That club includes all three winless teams and just two with winning records: New England and Cincinnati. Adding up the records of those in the top 10 produces a 37-21 figure that’s buoyed by the league’s two undefeated teams and six that are either tied for their division lead or alone at the top.
Further highlighting the futility, the Bucs haven’t even scored a single point of any kind in the third quarter this season. No other team can lay claim to producing a combined goose egg in any of the four quarters.
While it’s difficult to pull out close games when offensive rigor mortis sets in after a 12-minute break in the locker room, the Bucs have certainly found other ways to fudge up potential wins. A couple ill-timed personal fouls here, a missed field goal there, top it off with a little soft 2-minute defense; all are classic ingredients found in the cookbook of losing football.
A number of players addressed the late-game stumbles during Wednesday afternoon’s open locker room session at One Buc Place. But while all acknowledged the issue and the obvious need to rectify it, pinpointing how the Bucs can go about doing so was harder to come by.
“With us, we’ve just got to finish games. It’s as simple as that,” said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “Going into the fourth quarter, four out of five games we were right there. We’ve just got to finish them.
“What it is we have to do to finish them? I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it. But that’s our issue. We’re just not finishing the games. In years before we were getting blown out. Games weren’t even close. We’re right in there [now]; we just have to finish them.”
Third-year linebacker Mason Foster largely dittoed McCoy’s comments, adding that he remains confident in the Bucs’ ability to play winning football this season.
“I feel like we’re doing things well,” Foster said. “We’re 0-5, but at the same time guys are working hard. It’s not like guys are quitting and consciously not finishing. There are little things here and there that are adding up that you can look back at and say, ‘Yeah, they should have finished those.’ But what it comes down to is we just have to make more plays than they do.
“We’ve got a good team no matter what the record shows. We just have to continue to play and keep working and keep heading in the right direction; don’t jump ship.”
Although Bucs defenders have been responsible for a couple critical late-game gaffes that contribute to the team’s current inability to finish off opponents, it’s not their side of the ball that really needs some reevaluation.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was asked about the group’s inefficiencies during his Wednesday press conference and pointed to “self-inflicted wounds” as one glaring issue.
“It’s tough to put a finger on something specific,” the second-year Tampa Bay OC said. “The self-inflicted wounds, the penalties we have to overcome, certainly any turnover for whatever reason is inexcusable; and we’ve got to eliminate that.”
Ball security is an area Sullivan’s new man at the helm, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, must improve upon moving forward. All three of Glennon’s interceptions have come after halftime and he lost a fumble that Arizona turned into a fourth-quarter field goal in Week 4. The rookie’s passer rating also drops from 101.5 to 40.3 from the first to second half, as with his completion percentage, from 64.3 to 52.3.
Sullivan did touch on elements of the overall passing game that showed signs of improvement, such as tight end Tim Wright’s emergence and Glennon’s solid, early chemistry with No. 1 wideout Vincent Jackson. But the product of those improvements – a pair of Jackson touchdown catches last week against Philadelphia, Wright’s 36-yard, seam-route reception – need to start showing up in crunch time, Sullivan said, or the misery will continue.
“[It’s] certainly not going to be a good season for us at all moving forward if we don’t do what we need to do in the second half,” Sullivan said. “Whether it’s score one touchdown or two touchdowns or three, whatever we have to do. We’ve got a huge challenge and we’re looking forward to doing that.”
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