If you’re thinking of pressing the panic button after one-game in the 2006 season then I’m here to revoke your playa’ card, and cancel your Direct TV subscription.
No NFL Sunday Ticket for you!
Sure, after seeing the Bucs get a 27-0 bushwhacking at the hands of the Ravens in Sunday’s season opener, you’re stunned. Perhaps even a bit peeved. Shoot, some of you paid your season-ticket dues and have that right.
But before calling for Jon Gruden’s head, Monte Kiffin’s driver’s license and Chris Simms’ playbook, understand that time is the healer of all wounds. And there’s tons of time.
Ask yourself this, had they blown out the Ravens 30-0, would you be looking for a hotel in Miami in February?
“We’ve got 15 more in front of us,’’ defensive end Simeon Rice said. “You can only put so much on this one. If we came out and won this one, would that mean we’d win the Super Bowl? You have to play each game as they come. Not make too much out of it, other than a bad, bad, bad, bad showing.”
That’s Simeon speak for retched. And the Bucs were indeed retched.
“I am not going to point fingers at anybody but myself and say that I am very disappointed and I apologize again to our fans,” Gruden said.
Smart message to the fans.
Smarter message to the team.
Maybe it’s me, but the last thing I want to hear is my head coach apologizing to the fans about my performance. I’m thinking things aren’t going to be peachy the next day in the meeting room.
Here’s part of the news, the Bucs got shut out by a very good defense led by Ray Lewis, who is still one of the best players in the league. No shame in that.
Here’s the other part, their defense got skunked by a quarterback dumped by his previous club and a once elite running back trying to regain his status in the league. That’s a different story.
Steve McNair, discarded by the Titans, was a serviceable 17-for-27 for 181 yards with one touchdown. More importantly, he avoided just about every Buccaneer rush and made enough timely plays to have his agent call the Titans and say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah!”
Jamal Lewis, who was on the free agent market before resigning with the Ravens, rushed for 78 yards on 18 carries and scored a first-quarter touchdown that set the tone for the game.
The truth is, after Baltimore rammed a 14-play, 80-yard drive down the Bucs’ throats in the game’s first possession and the Ravens defense established itself on the Bucs next two offensive possessions, only Sir Edmund Hillary would have helped with that climb.
How bad were things? Rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski played in the game. The first game of the season. Shoot, Kyle Boller played too.
With the exception of punter Josh Bidwell, who could be on the injured reserve list today with an exhausted right leg, the stunner is that the breakdowns were everywhere.
On one level, the Bucs defense fell woefully short of its high standards. On another level, the offense was … offensive.
They struggled to protect. They couldn’t string together first downs. They failed to punch it in from inside the 10. As for Chris Simms, he threw three picks and never seemed himself. All in all, the Bucs had 142 total yards and were 3-for-12 on third down conversion.
“It stinks, plain and simple,” Simms said.
You know it’s a bad day when rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata’s 60-yard interception return makes Sportscenter, ahead of anything the Bucs did on offense. In their defense, this wasn’t the starting offensive line the Bucs had planned. With guards Davin Joseph and Dan Buenning out with injuries, the Bucs had to mix and match with Sean Mahan and Jeb Terry. But even left tackle Anthony Davis accepts that consideration is no excuse.
“It’s starts with us, as we all know,’’ Davis said. “We’re the engine of the offense and we just have to play better. We didn’t win and we didn’t score any points, so from my perspective we didn’t do our job today.”
But, at least for Sunday, I’d advise you to put away the jar of tar and the bag of feathers. This is a good team and good teams rebound quickly.
“There are going to be 16 teams that lose (opening weekend),” cornerback Ronde Barber said. “If you’re judged on a one-game season, we would be pretty down on ourselves after that. But, we have 15 more, we know that.”
And if you’re looking for a silver lining – you bleeding-heart optimist – be reminded that the Patriots were humiliated 31-0 by the Bills in game one of the 2003 season, and then went on to win the Super Bowl.