It was just a few weeks ago when Tampa Bay was 6-6 and talk of playoffs was legitimate. But after three straight losses to teams under .500, the season has taken a turn for the worst and a once-bright future seems a little dimmer.
Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s not how we wanted to finish,” said Gerald McCoy, who hasn’t been on a winning team since 2010. “We definitely wanted to finish with momentum. We have an opportunity to get a win next week, but you get one more home game and that’s how you finish?
“It just goes to show we are not there yet.”
It’s hard to argue with that. Over the past five games, a 1-4 stretch, The Bucs are 1:9 in the turnover margin and can’t seem to get out of their own way when opportunity knocks. The 26-21 loss epitomized their month-long struggles of failing to take the ball away and negating any progress, as a 15-yard penalty in the second quarter was a key turning point.
“It’s kind of what we’ve been doing all year – shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” McCoy said, referencing the facemask that erased a tipped pass-interception to the Bears’ 15-yard line. “Coach always shows the turnover margin and how huge it is. You go plus-three, you have a 95 percent chance of winning the game, so there it is right there.”
An eye-opening stat, it certainly proved true on Sunday. Chicago won the turnover battle 3-0, capitalizing on the last two by scoring 10 points to put the game out of reach.
But don’t blame coaching, McCoy says. Lovie Smith stresses takeaways and has a proven track record as a defensive head coach. In nine seasons at the helm in Chicago (2004-2012), the Bears finished in the top five in interceptions five times, including the league-lead in 2012. The Bears had 20-plus interceptions five times and never recovered less than 10 fumbles during his tenure.
The Bucs’ stats in 2015 – 14 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries – would be Smith’s lowest total as a head coach, down from last year’s mark of 14 and 11 in each respective category.
“You cannot win without taking the ball away. And our head coach – he stresses it,” McCoy said, defending Smith and co. “It’s not like (coaches are) not stressing it. In the meetings, every day at practice… Guys get in trouble for it. It’s stressed. It just needs to get done by us (the players) – it’s not on the coaches. It’s about (players) taking the ball away, and we just need to get it done.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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