Players on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spoke out about the need to stay together as a team in the midst of their winless start to the 2009 season. Veterans on the team acknowledge the frustration with being 0-3, and discussed what the team has to do to play better and start winning.
"We all want to win," said linebacker Barrett Ruud. "The biggest thing for everybody on the team is to look at themselves and be accountable to themselves right now. Find out what I can do better. When you lose three games in a row the finger pointing starts. In reality, you have to be accountable to yourself and find out what I can do better and what I can be more detailed on.
"It's frustrating because they methodically beat us. We made them go the hard way every time, and they did that. They did have one big run, but we've gotten rid of the big plays. Still, there are too many third down conversions and long drives. We have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down."
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was extremely disappointed with the team's performance against New York. After the game, Morris said the Bucs were out-manned and out-gunned. Leading up to the game and after the contest, Morris referred to the Giants as a team that he wanted Tampa Bay to look like.
"You have to say yesterday was a step back in the development of our team," said Morris. "But there were some encouraging things on both sides of the fence. The defense got us into halftime down only 14-0. It could have been gotten very ugly, and it didn't. We still had a chance in the second half. There were a few positive things, but not that many. I don't want people to take that the wrong way."
Wide receiver Michael Clayton cited the words of his head coach when he was asked what the Buccaneers have to do to keep the team together and get a win.
"You got to stay close when things like this happen," said Clayton. "You have to remain unwavered. That is one of Raheem's quotes of the year. Remain unwavered. You take this as a learning experience. Although there were a lot of negatives, you still take the positives in a defeat like that and you move on. That's what we have to do. It is our job as leaders to make sure that's the mentality of this team to keep us together. Like I said we have the confidence in our ability to compete with anybody in the league. As long as we have that, we have the ability to better ourselves from week to week."
Ruud said the character of the team would make itself evident as they tried to break their losing streak to start the 2009 season. In his Monday morning press conference Morris said the players and coaches would have to be accountable to perform better, and Ruud echoed those comments in the locker room.
"It's easy when you win. Character comes out when you lose a few games," said Ruud. "You have to rely on your character, and tell guys it's not finger pointing time, its time to get better individually. Find a way to get yourself better because that's going to get the whole team better. My college coach used to say, ‘don't point the finger. Point the thumb.' You have to find a way to make yourself better and that will carry over to the entire team."
Ruud leads the defense with 47 tackles. Morris said the Bucs missed 24 tackles in their 33-20 loss at Buffalo. Before the Week 3 clash with the Giants, the defensive players said the tackling would have to improve against New York. The Giants racked up 397 yards of total offense in their 24-0 victory over the Bucs. New York ran for 226 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Ruud discussed the tackling after watching the tape of the game on Monday morning.
"I thought it was better, but we missed a few tackles," said Ruud. "They have two good backs, so you have to give them credit as well. The tackling isn't as good as you want it to be, but it was improved."
Ruud pointed towards taking the ball away from the opposing offense as another way for the defense to increase their production. The Buccaneers defense has forced two turnovers in three games with one interception and one fumble recovery. Tampa Bay did not record a turnover against the Giants.
"We definitely need to do a better job of creating turnovers," said Ruud. "You have to win the turnover battle. When the offense isn't having a great day you have to help them out and give them a short field or even some points. That sparks them and the whole team."
While Ruud said the defense has to improve their production with causing turnovers, the Buccaneers have other mistakes that need to be cleared up. Late in the fourth quarter Clayton dropped a touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Johnson in the back of the end zone without a defender near him. Clayton did not record a catch against the Giants, and has seven catches for 120 yards so far this season. Tampa Bay's wide receiver corps totaled three receptions for 29 yards on 11 passes thrown their direction. Clayton answered what was next for Tampa Bay.
"Go to Washington to dominate," said Clayton. "We have four days to prepare physically. The only things we can do are evaluating this film and make our corrections. We know we have the ability to compete with anybody in this league. It is something internal that we are dealing with that we have to fix. As grown men you would like to say it is an easy fix, and it should be because the things that are going on are uncharacteristic of us and our abilities. We have to fix those problems, and we can't expect to play well under those circumstances, and we'll do that. We have full confidence that we have the ability to do that. We'll move on to Washington and dominate that game."