It was another S.O.B. story for the Buccaneers on Sunday in a 37-32 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

You know, the team that only put up nine points in two games this season?

S.O.B., as in same ol’ Bucs – but there was likely some legitimate sobbing going on at Raymond James Stadium as Tampa Bay fell to 1-2 on the year as the Rams’ mastery of the Bucs somehow continued.

Were those tears streaming down the faces of Bucs fans, or some leftover rain drops after the one-hour weather delay due to lightning and thunderstorms at the two-minute warning? Likely the former. This Tampa Bay team will make you cry.

It was the same ol’ Bucs, as in a team that can’t do the following:

• Win winnable games.

• Win home openers, which hasn’t happened since 2012.

• Beat the Rams, which hasn’t happened in the last four tries.

• Beat Case Keenum, for Pete’s sake.

• Hold a lead – the Bucs led 20-10 in the first half, remember?

• Stop big passing plays on defense. Two TDs over 40 yards.

• Get to the quarterback on defense. One sack.

• Make field goals. One big miss.

• Make extra points. Another big miss.

• Properly manage the clock.

There are 10 things off the top of my head. There are more, but you get the gist of what I’m saying.

Bucs S Keith Tandy and Rams WR Tavon Austin – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs S Keith Tandy and Rams WR Tavon Austin – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

A new head coach in Dirk Koetter, a new defensive coordinator in Mike Smith … and not much difference in Tampa Bay – yet.

It’s the same ol’ Bucs – so far.

It’s just three games into the 2016 regular season with 13 more to go, but this loss to the Rams stings. Even if the Bucs somehow make it interesting down the stretch, this loss to an NFC opponent could be the difference between a losing season, and a .500 season, or even between a .500 season and a winning season.

Dare I say between a winning season and a playoff season?

No. Not buying it?

I’m not either after Sunday’s dreadful loss in S.O.B. style. There is a big, big, big difference between 2-1 and 1-2 right now for this Tampa Bay team. And 1-2 it is.

Even if Jameis Winston had pulled off a near-miracle comeback against the Rams, the Bucs would have to be considered one of the worst 2-1 teams in the NFLs due to the wretchedness of their defense.

The safety play is awful.

Tampa Bay’s defensive line can’t get to the quarterback without Jacquies Smith and Robert Ayers it seems.

And after an hour to think about it, the Rams decided that the best place to go with the ball on third-and-11 was right at Brent Grimes, the Bucs’ $8 million cornerback.

Grimes made a nice play on the ball, but got flagged for pass interference in the end zone earlier in the game. It just goes to show you how little NFL offensive coordinators think about this past-his-prime player, which is quite damning.

As bad as the defense played – it surrendered four touchdowns, including two in the red zone, helped doom the Bucs – and as awful as Roberto Aguayo was in missing four critical points, put the blame for this loss squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Jameis Winston and Koetter.

Why?

They said so.

Winston had plenty of time and chances to get the ball into the end zone. Taking over at the Bucs’ 44 with 1:42 left with two timeouts, he connected on his first three passes for 29 yards down to the Los Angeles 27 with 49 seconds left.

Bucs RB Charles Sims - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Winston then hit running back Charles Sims with a 12-yard gain down to the 15-yard line. Sims failed to get out of bounds, choosing instead to pick up the first down but cutting back inside. That was the right call, according to Koetter.

“We tell those guys when they’re near the sideline, if it’s a situation where they can get out, but if the guy overruns it when we have timeouts then they should take the yardage,” Koetter said. “He made a good play there.”

But the wrong call was Koetter not using a timeout after Sims’ gain down to the Rams’ 15. Instead of having close to 40 seconds to operate from inside the L.A. red zone, Tampa Bay had just 26.

“Yes, there was an opportunity,” Koetter said. “I got a lot of confidence in our two-minute [offense] and I sometimes push the envelope on that, on getting to the next play. I thought we were a little bit slow lining up on that next one. I thought we still had time to check it down again and use it, but as it worked out, we were still lining up so I probably should’ve used [a timeout] there.”

The Bucs got just six plays off before time expired after Winston’s 10-yard run on second-and-10 from the Los Angeles 15. Tampa Bay would have had two more plays on that series of downs to score a game-winning touchdown, but it ran out of time. There wouldn’t be a third down chance or a nail-biting fourth down opportunity.

And Koetter took a timeout into the locker room after the game, which was Lovie Smith-like.

Winston made his own wrong call by not throwing the ball up to Mike Evans in the end zone on the final play and letting the 6-foot-5 receiver make a play on the ball. Instead, he got tackled from behind at the 5-yard line after a 10-yard run.

“That was just dumb on my part,” Winston said. “That was bad. I’ve got to get somebody a chance there.

“In that moment I’ve just got to give somebody a chance in the end zone. But when I [saw] them basically drop the whole team, I was like, ‘Man, let’s see what we can do.’”

Evans, who finished with a career-high 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, would have been a nice guy to give a chance to.

For some reason, Winston didn’t throw his way once during the final, 10-play drive.

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Instead, Winston targeted Jackson four times on the drive, but only connected on the first pass of the drive, which went for 16 yards.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to complete the football,” Winston said. “That’s the main thing. I had Vincent Jackson wide open for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. That’s just pitch and catch – I overthrew him. I had Charles Sims coming over on the check down – overthrew him. But I’m going to get better. I’m going to get better. I guarantee you. I guarantee you I’m going to get better.”

After the game, Koetter admitted there is just something not quite right about these Buccaneers, who haven’t learned how to win yet.

“Our culture is not where it needs to be, and that starts with me – I’m the head of that,” Koetter said. “I’m the head of that, so 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 before that have had it, and you don’t want to let go of it. But when you don’t have it, it’s hard to figure out what it is.

“There is something in our culture – and it’s my job to fix it, and the coaches – of letting games like this get away. … We have to get over that hump, and we’re not there.”

Koetter’s candor is refreshing after two years of Smith’s worn, tired coach-speak, but wins are preferred, aren’t they?

Losing winnable games, blowing leads, losing to average or below average quarterbacks, poor pass defense, no pass rush, missed field goals and poor clock management.

We’ve lived this for the past two years under Smith, and it’s games like Sunday’s unthinkable 37-32 loss to the Rams that was a big reason why I called for Smith to be fired last year and replaced by Koetter.

Sigh.

Same ol’ Bucs – for now.

We’ll see if Koetter can figure out and correct his team’s culture, and do it quickly enough to salvage a 2016 season that could easily spiral to a 1-5 start heading into the bye week.

Tampa Bay has to take on both Super Bowl 50 participants in the coming weeks.

It’s Denver next up at home and then hitting the road to face Carolina on Monday Night Football after that.

Somewhere in Illinois, Lovie Smith might be smiling if he wasn’t fretting over his Fighting Illini’s own 1-2 start – thanks in part to an ugly, 34-10 home loss to Western Michigan last week.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

19 COMMENTS

  1. 8 and 8 is still salvageable. I know when you are building from the worst and trying to get to first, it does not happen over night. Good drafting is everything. We have had pretty good luck in that regard as of late, but we have to stop sending multiple picks away for players that we have a radar on that do not deserve moving up to get. Be patient and let the draft come to you and spend more time scouting and finding out if a player has a physical flaw or mental one. All those picks we wasted on the kicker and Jenkins and Stocker would really come in handy right about now.

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  2. I cannot express how disappointed I am in this Buccaneer team tonight. The game today was a disgrace. It was as if they did everything they could to LOSE the game and the Buccaneers ARE damn good at losing games. How many defensive breakdowns? Third and longs turned into first downs? On a DRAW play? The “kicker” was terrible. There is no WAY he can be trusted and yet he’s going nowhere. Our HC, a PROFESSIONAL NFL HEAD COACH who cannot manage the clock with the game on the line? EVERYONE knew time was running out and it did, with a timeout in his pocket? What the HELL is THAT?

    Scott, you mentioned not winning a home opener since 2012 and it’s true. How many times does this team lay an EGG at the WORST possible time? Over and over disappointing it’s loyal fans with incompetence and bad dicision making, the Buccaneers are as unsympathic a mess that I can remember. At least that is how I’m feeling tonight.

    Right now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are PATHETIC! And now I expect more of the same for weeks to come. Great, just great.

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    • JG I feel everything you feel. All these moves wind up in the same awful place. I literally wanted to cry last night. I don’t want to hear promises. I’m tired of potential. I’m scarred to the bone from squandered chances. This team punishes its fans. PUNISHES.

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  3. Hmmm poor safety play and a kicking game which literally cost the Bucs a lead (remember there were two failed 2 pt conversions as a result of the failed kicks, so that’s a total of 6 pts lost, and Bucs lost by 5).

    I wonder if we could somehow look back in time…and think what could have changed to erase this all? But, Scott, what could it be? What, one single, boneheaded move, could we look at that fixes both problems?

    Could it be trading up in the 2nd and taking Vonn Bell and not basket-case Aguayo, thereby adding a talented safety who has coverage skills, subtracting that player from a division rival in the Saints and adding to the kicking game by subtraction?

    But I mean, who could have predicted that would have been the right move? I mean everyone was on board of what a stroke of genius Licht had in moving all of those assets for a rookie kicker right Scott? Didn’t an unnamed GM tell PFT it was the “dumbest pick in the history of the draft”? Good thing we have no-biscuit Licht to set us straight. I’m still waiting on those mortar kicks you told us about. Can’t wait to see it in action. Do you think Aguayo will practice them in Canada next year?

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    • He’s not good enough to play in Canada.

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  4. A good reminder that while offensive football (Pun not intended) is fun to watch, defense wins games. And we have no defense.

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  5. My son and I are screaming time out, time out! Doesn’t Koetter have an extra coach for managing the clock? For half his salary Surferdude would be happy to replace him. Imagine, a 61 year old surfer knows when to use a time out over an NFL coach. We’ve been waiting to see Mike Smiths D in action, and after three games we now know it sucks. It was supposed to confuse Q.B.’s, but be simple for the defenders. Looks the opposite to me. So many blown assignments, big plays, dumb penalties. Maybe Koetter shouldn’t have hired his buddy, more bad games he’ll have to fire his good friend. I’ve been tortured watching Buc games before, but this was 6 hours of pure hell. L David said this might be the best Buc defense of all time! What do you expect coming from a player who’s never been part of a good D, and obviously doesn’t know what one looks like. October is around the corner, time to start talking draft, and possible new coach, and G.M..

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    • Right there with you. I couldn’t understand why koetter didn’t call the time out.

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  6. Man is it hard to stay positive with this team. I’ve tried to stay positive and I will continue to hold out hope that wins are going to become more frequent sometime before I grow old and die. I’m going to keep on hoping until all hope is dead. But for Pete’s sake, why do the Bucs have to lose and make me embarrassed to go to work on Monday at the same time? “Nice kicker you’ve got there dude. Second rounder really?” and “What the heck was Winston doing pump faking 5 yards past the line of scrimmage? Do you think he pump faked like that on the way out the door with those crab legs?” Every team loses sometimes. But some teams do it without looking ridiculous at the same time. Seriously, it’s the WAY they lose games sometimes that is more maddening than the loss for me. It’s indicative of a mentality of mediocrity. But I’m going to keep on hoping until all hope is dead. I just hope that I’m not reading mock draft reports before Halloween.

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  7. Well, here I am droning on this again. A Second Round pick for a kicker that is LOSING games for us? How many missed extra points and very makeable field goals are the Bucs willing to stomach before getting a new kicker? Jason Licht unfortunately will be forever tied with this one completely terrible pick. I know you folks in Florida have a softspot for this kicker, but if this kicker was out of the University of Nevada, you would be screaming that this might be the worst pick by the Bucs since Bo Jackson! Dirk will figure things out. He will be an ok head coach (although I think he should’ve remained in his comfort zone and ended his career as an excellent Offensive Coordinator, instead of being remembered as a so-so Head Coach). I actually like Jason Licht, I think he has done some excellent moves for the Bucs, but one glaring terrible, bone-headed, second round choice that he traded up to get, will by his epitaph in Tampa Bay.

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    • The majority of FSU alums I know were as shocked about Aguayo going in the 2nd round as we were about EJ Manuel or Christian Ponder in the 1st. I remember being at a grocery store in Tallahassee the day after Manuel got taken and a guy in line commented how Manuel was the luckiest guy on the planet.

      It’s sportswriters like Scott Reynolds that don’t follow these players that thought it was such a brilliant move. Aguayo converted a lower percentage of his kicks for FSU last year than Barth did for the Bucs. But the PR spin was about how college kicks are harder because of the hashmarks and he would’ve made all NFL kicks. Which is totally true, because the pro’s are really easier than college. I just forgot that, thanks for reminding me PR.

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  8. SOB’s sums it up. Putrid defense. Team isn’t going anywhere this year. Yes the kicker was the dumbest ever. I remember thinking when I was getting blasted here for saying it what are these people smoking and what kind of Kool Aid are they drinking thinking this would be better than getting a great safety or WR. Oh well here is another saying I have come to know very well as a Buc’s fan. one that’s always the same too. A.N.Y. Lol. Always Next Year. Knowing it’s over after 2-3 games is just ridiculous but that’s where we are. Not being negative just being real. So I’ll sit back enjoy any games that they happen to be somewhat competive in (wont be many) and dream about next years draft. Sigh.

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  9. For the record I still like Koetter and Winston. Hopefully Koetter learns from this. All new head coaches have issues with clock management at some point. Winston needs to become more accurate and settle down. He’s got fire and passion and works hard. He’s a great leader. If he can’t improve accuracy he won’t be much better than average.

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  10. This is why I kept saying in the pre-season that I wasn’t convinced that the team was the possible playoff team that others seemed to think they saw.

    I bought the kool-aid last season, but was hesitant to drink it this year. I still think this team will show improvement on the year, but now even a 8-8 record looks hard to get to if Smith can’t figure out how to get more out of his defense. We can only hope that either Denver comes in flat next weekend or the whole Carolina team shows up at the wrong stadium so that we can get a win by default, but 1-4 is looking mighty certain at this point.

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  11. I’m still positive about this team. We lost Martin, ASJ decided to make bad choices, 2 of our important dlinemen are hurt. JSmith and Ayers is much needed pass rushing that is missing. With those losses of personnel, we still managed to put up 32 points on a bad team. And, unlike last year, we still had a chance to win this game, even with Aguayo not understanding how to kick a fricking ball. If we had Barth, we potentially have 37 points on the board.

    Last year, all we wanted was a chance to be competitive, be in the game. That’s what happened yesterday. We shot ourselves in the foot against a mediocre team who we should have beaten. If we continue to lose this way, then I’ll be mad, but for now, I’m saying…. given the circumstances of our injuries, our team had about 3 plays (Winston steps up or somebody tackles Westbrooks, Safety help on Austin, and somebody breaks Aguayo’s leg) we win that game.
    I’ll take that over the feeling the game is over at halftime, like most of Lovie’s career, and the game last week at AZ.
    I think this team will get the funk off of it, start learning to win, and we’ll see a playoff contender next year, if we fix kicker, safety and get a pass rush before next season.

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  12. Grimes out, Hargreaves in.

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  13. Our safeties are horrible. The one we gave up on was playing on the other team and he made what might have been the decisive play in the game. A very disheartening game. I don’t know what it is about Jeff Fisher but he is now 9-1 lifetime against us. Koetter is a good play caller; now he has to prove he can be a good coach. A lot of great coordinators have failed in this capacity. The next two games will tell us a lot. I’m not giving up quite yet. I expected to lose on the road at Atlanta and to beat the Rams. I have us beating Denver and losing at Carolina. We’ll see.

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  14. the Rams gave up on Darron playing safety to, buddah/ He’s a LB now. Geesh. And as usual for Barron he didn’t cause the TO, he was jus standing there doing nothing when it came to him.
    Geeesh.
    What this team needs is a leader on defense like the offense has. That and a pass rush. If McCoy is a leader of the D, that is probably one of the biggest reasons this D keeps folding. 30 points or more scored against them in the last three games. No pass rush and some of you people think the safeties should be covering 4.3 receivers downfield one on one. Good luck with that without a pass rush.

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  15. I’ve been a Pacific NW Buc fan since I was six (I’m now 44). It’s been the Same Ol Bucs for most of those tortuous decades.

    I wasn’t able to watch the game, but I was getting the updates on my phone. For me, the biggest example of the SOB was immediately after the missed FG. (No, I am not blasting the second round pick. It’s done, people. Move on.) But, the Rams went straight down our throats and scored. And then the roof caved in. Once we righted the Pirate Ship, it was too late. Again. S. O. B.

    But, there were a few differences this time. Just a few, but they are important, nonetheless. The biggest difference I can see in these Bucs from previous years is the offense. For the first time in a LONG time, we have an offensive coach and legitimate offensive stars who can score quickly and often.

    Ironically, it’s our D who is killing us. I’m hoping and praying it comes along. It took Dungy eight games to get a win and several years for his D to become dominant, intimidating, and copied. Our defensive players are learning their third (fourth?) defense in the past five years? It will take time and patience to get better. It takes consistency. Having a coaching carousel every 2-3 years with new systems and players is the wrong kind of consistency.

    For all those calling for Licht to be fired, Aguyao to be cut, et al, THAT is the same old Bucs. Not letting anything develop and improve is the SOB. We were not a Super Bowl team after beating Atlanta and we’re one not now. The next 13 games will let us know more. The 16 (and hopefully more) next season will tell us even more. And the following 16…

    People seem to forget we were not a good team for the early years of Sapp, Dungy, Barber, etc. It took time. Imagine if social media was around during Dungy’s opening half-season of his career in Tampa. People who revere him now would have been calling for his head. Ditto for Ronde, Sapp, Lynch, etc. Chill. Out.

    Yesterday was a gut punch of epic proportions. Let’s see how our team shows up against Denver. As bad as yesterday was, it was better than another 40-7 beat down. Granted, the Rams are not the Cardinals. But, look what happened to the Cards yesterday. Anything is possible in the NFL. It might even be possible for some fans to realize if they were fired as often and early as they called for others to be, they couldn’t afford to watch the Bucs anyway.

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