Tampa Bay took one on the chin yesterday and things aren’t set to get easier any time soon.

Sure, New Orleans isn’t the New Orleans of a few years ago, but the Titans aren’t exactly the 1990s Cowboys, either.

Head coach Lovie Smith stepped to the podium and used the word disappointing or disappointed six times within the first minute of Monday’s press conference, which is about how much time it took Tennessee to hang six on the board Sunday afternoon.

“We put an awful lot into being ready for the opening weekend to play your best ball,” he said after getting a night to sleep on yesterday’s debacle. “You assume that you’re ready to go. You have to get to that first game. In our case we got to that first game and we weren’t as ready as I thought we would be. So it’s disappointing.”

Indeed.

SLUGGISH STARTS

Once again the Buccaneers offense, like an old diesel engine in a Buffalo winter, needed some time to warm up before being of any use. Unlike that old diesel engine, the Bucs performed more like a 4-cylinder Geo Metro.

Tennessee commanded the start with a 21-0 first-quarter lead that saw Tampa Bay generate just 78 yards of total offense. The Bucs’ first two drives resulted in rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s pick-6 and a three-and-out.

Running back Doug Martin helped get the offense on track its third time with the ball, picking up 36 yards on the drive’s first four plays. Winston went on to hit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins with a 5-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the second quarter.

Not waiting until a new 15 minutes gets put on the clock to generate points would be a welcomed sight, though. The Bucs averaged just 2.7 points in the first quarter in 2014, better than only Tennessee. At home that number dropped to 2.0.

NO HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE

Any time a team loses by 28 points, even the shoddiest of refereeing can’t be to blame. That being said, the Bucs got no home-field favors Sunday.

It took just one offensive snap to see the first head-scratcher when safety Major Wright apparently hit running back Bishop Sankey too hard. It’s not the last time we’ll see a big hit result in an infuriating 15-yard penalty and Sunday’s helped Tennessee move out of trouble to its own 26.

One quarter later came a forward progress call as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was busy strip-sacking quarterback Marcus Mariota at the Titans 2. The ball bounced into the end zone and appeared to be good for a Buccaneers touchdown or at least a safety. This was a borderline call, but it was another that didn’t go in Tampa Bay’s favor. Despite being down 21-7 at the time, a healthy dose of positive momentum that early in the second quarter wouldn’t have hurt.

About three-and-a-half minutes of game time later the refs were being showered in boos once again. Head coach Lovie Smith sent the offense back on the field on fourth-and-1 near midfield and running back Doug Martin appeared to give Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs with a short run. Tennessee head coach Ken Whisenhunt challenged the spot and officials agreed with the second-guessing. Martin’s knee may have hit the turf before he fell forward enough to move the chains, but seeing the ball picked up and slid back just far enough to result in a turnover on downs was like adding insult to injury at that point.

Officials tied a bow on the performance during garbage time in the fourth, hitting receiver Vincent Jackson with an offensive pass interference call that wiped out what could have been Winston’s third touchdown pass of an otherwise forgettable afternoon.

MAKING IT RAINEY

Of the few positives Bucs fans can look to from Sunday’s loss, Bobby Rainey’s job handling kick and punt return duties makes the cut.

It’s a small positive, but it wasn’t bad; which in this case is pretty good.

Tennessee kicked off plenty yesterday and Rainey got to run three back, averaging 27.7 yards per attempt. What the fourth-year backup running back lacks in size he more than makes up for in effort. Rainey ran back kicks with a straight-forward decisiveness that was encouraging to see. Though his returns may lack the electricity shown by top-notch guys around the league, he didn’t put the offense in a tough spots, either.

And while Rainey’s 8.5-yard average on two punt returns doesn’t look like much, it’s not including a nice 24-yard run-back to the Tennessee 38 in the second quarter that was negated by Johnthan Banks’ illegal block above the waist penalty.

It was only one game, but a 27.7-yard kick return average over the course of an entire season would have ranked fourth-best in the NFL last year. Despite that fact, Rainey’s probably keeping both return spots warm until someone else is called upon to take over. He’s that guy that always seems to fill in admirably when needed but never gets trusted for a full-time position.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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Knightrider79
Knightrider79
5 years ago

Good article. It was a tough game to watch but thankfully its a long season and I believe this team will improve

deucefranchise
deucefranchise
5 years ago

Did lovie ever explain why he didn’t challenge the Vincent Jackson td? Seemed close enough to take a look and would have ended the game on a positive note. Does he know he can’t save them?

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

I listened to that press conference and the more irritated I got. Just about every team know how to beat the Bucs because the scheme sucks! The offense will get better, but I don’t see this defense going anywhere. I sure hope I’m wrong.

Garv
Garv
Reply to  Eric Horchy
5 years ago

How the HELL does a defense “step up” against a Drew Brees with a eek pf preparation when it could not with MONTHS of preparation for a rookie QB on a 2-14 team? You have confidence in St. Lovie? I don’t. I have seen NOTHING since that man got here that tells me the game hasn’t passed him by. NOTHING that tells me he can prepare a team to play, execute or even play with fire. He is a stubborn has been washed up HC and the Glazers are to blame for his hire AND his continued presence at One… Read more »

GoldsonAges
GoldsonAges
Reply to  Garv
5 years ago

To be fair, nobody in the NFL had seen what the Titans trotted out on offense. And they had a completely new defensive scheme as well. This week we are playing a team we know inside out. No more excuses now.

seat26
seat26
Reply to  Eric Horchy
5 years ago

Horse is right. The offense will get better when Dotson and Evans are back. The Defense has almost nothing to feel good about. McCoy played pretty good, but beyond that it was a disaster on every level. DL, LB’s, and the secondary. I hope this is just a one game hiccup. Because if it is a lack of talent we are in for a long season.

GBOBUCSFAN
GBOBUCSFAN
5 years ago

Sunday was absolutely embarrassing. If things dont turn around soon Lovie will lose this fan base even more than now

cremdonado
cremdonado
5 years ago

Let’s just be honest- it was a mistake and a reach to hire Lovie in the first place.We are now suffering through what will be another blunder by the ol Glazer boys.If Lovie was worth his salt he would still be the coach of the go nowhere Bears- but they sent him packing for what he now is starting to do to the Bucs…Winston and our players didn’t fail us- it’s the coaches and owners who have failed…
Lovie just isn’t the man for the job and I’m not sure the Glazers will ever be competent enough to find him…

Knightrider79
Knightrider79
5 years ago

The biggest difference between the Saints and the Titans is there’s tape on the Saints. We had nothing on a rookie QB. I expect a different outing this time because now we have an OC that can game plan.

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Lovie is lost. Don’t care if anyone thinks I’m being too harsh or inpatient. I’m tired of the BS excuses. Falcons had leagues worst defense last year. Hired Quinn from Seattle and watching them right play very well against Eagles high powered offense. Funny he didn’t need years to do it or “more talent”! He’s using what he has and playing his players to their individual strengths. It’s about putting players in best position to win. Bucs scheme, adjustments, etc just a joke! Falcons also made Mariota look bad in pre season. I don’t want to hear Lovie doesn’t have… Read more »

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
5 years ago

I hate to say it, but Lovie makes me miss Raheem Moris.

DJ-JOTA
DJ-JOTA
5 years ago

Very good article as always. This is Lovie Smith’s what , 2nd season? not even. And you all are already dumping him??? Give him a chance. Obviously we are trying to build through the draft, which is the way to go right, just ask the Packers. Don’t you realize we have two Rookie Lineman, a Rookie QB, A Rookie MLB all starting? 2nd year TE, WR. McCoy and L David are young too, it takes time to put it together. We all want to win now, I get it. But just 2 years of coaching I don’t think is enough… Read more »

jongruden
jongruden
5 years ago

I have a huge game room with a larger flat screen for the main game and a smaller 32″ tube in the corner for the other game well after last week the Bucs will be on the old RCA in the corner from now on

buddah
buddah
5 years ago

Whew, you guys are tough AND UNREALISTIC. Rotating coaches every two years is not the way to build a franchise. You might want to lobby for a new defensive coordinator, but I’m not in favor of dumping coaches every time we lose a game by a wide margin. Every new coach wants his own guys and then you start another rebuilding process, new schemes, new assistants–everything. As for the Falcons, anyone who watched the game ALL FOUR QUARTERS could see that the Falcons were a beaten team. They lucked out, first with a missed field goal by the Eagles and… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  buddah
5 years ago

Agreed, although I haven’t seen much to build my faith in Lovie, coaching roulette is not the answer. The L&L era has brought us some quality players, all that’s left is to work a scheme that works. With the talent level we have there’s no excuse for blowouts like this!

dotASC
dotASC
5 years ago

Eric, I don’t have much specific to comment on but I did want to commend you for continuing to write above average recaps for the site. You do a fine job adding depth, and entertaining asides (Geo Metro!) to a genre of sports writing that is typically a non-factor for me.