Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson - Photo by: Getty Images
In the NFL, there is a mansion on the hill. It is surrounded by orange groves and tennis courts. A Rolls-Royce is parked in front.
The Tampa Bay Bucs do not live here.
This is the Patriots mansion. The place where they mail Bill Belichick’s rings to him.
There are lesser houses in the neighborhood, but still, they are stately. They are the homes of the Broncos, the Packer and the Steelers. On occasion, the Cowboys and the Raiders and the 49ers have lived here.
The Bucs don’t live there either.
This is Success Street, where the roads are paved in melted Lombardi trophies. The good teams, the really good teams, reside here.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Before Sunday, you probably didn’t really believe the Bucs were talented enough to live here. But you probably thought they were closer, didn’t you?
Turns out, it’s the same old neighborhood for the Bucs, who were walloped 40-7 by Arizona on Sunday. They live with the Browns and the Bills and the Lions.
To sum up: Running back Doug Martin was injured against Arizona, which forced the Bucs to become one-dimensional, and that dimension was Jameis Winston’s arm, who couldn’t throw it anywhere the Cardinals’ secondary couldn’t cover. By the time the day was done, Winston had 25 incompletions, four interceptions, three sacks, a fumble and too many bruises to mention.
In other words, ouch.
You would have hoped the Bucs would be better than this. No, they might not be good yet, and all of that playoff talk may have been a year premature, but for goodness sakes, aren’t they behind losing by 33? In the fourth quarter, only questioned remained for Tampa Bay fans. “What is Winston still doing in there?”
Koetter, for the record, said that Winston stayed in because he wouldn’t have come out. He said that the captain always wants to go down the ship. Of course, that makes you wonder just who’s in charge around here. Winston was getting hit enough he needed to be out for his own protection.
Hey, it’s a no-excuse world. I do think the Bucs would have been vastly better off if Martin stayed healthy. That way, Winston wouldn’t have thrown as many passes, or as many interceptions. The Cardinals still would have won — they’re better — but it would been kinder.
But maybe the Bucs needed a reminder that they’re still trying to be upwardly mobile. They’re a team that has spent a lot of years near the bottom of the standings. They aren’t going to get better simply by wishing it were so.
Take Sunday. The Cardinals were faster. They were more precise. They were more explosive.
They were deeper.
Yeah, that’s what a playoff looks like. It looks like the Cardinals.
What the Bucs looked like, on this day, was a team that will get a high draft pick, and a team that needs it.
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter called this “a reality check.” That’s true for the Bucs, and true for a lot of their fans. The reality is that the Bucs, at best, are a long-shot contender for a wild-card berth. They don’t have enough speed at receiver, they don’t have enough oomph at running back, and their secondary can be had. They are woefully thin, and when they lost Martin, they had no Plan B. Charles Sims is a nice receiver out of the backfield, but he leaves much to be desired as a runner. Once Martin left, the Bucs’ attack had no balance to it. It forced the team to put the ball in Winston’s hands, and Winston threw too many to the other guys.
Looking back, perhaps the Bucs should have pressed harder to find a second running back, harder to find another receiver, in the offseason.
All of this makes sense, of course. Hey, it was only two years ago that the Bucs had the No. 1 draft pick in the NFL. You don’t get that by being so good, do you? And you have to fight your way to a new residence.
Eventually, I think the Bucs will get there. As ugly as Sunday was, I think next week’s game against the Rams – a team that has had the Bucs’ number lately – will be more telling. The Cardinals? They’re just better. The Rams?
If the Bucs are indeed a better football team that will be a fine time to show it.
No one has won more awards, including two national Associated Press Sports Editors Best Columnist awards and eight top 10 finishes, than the legendary Gary Shelton, former sports columnist of the St. Petersburg Times. Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can.
Shelton just received his sixth Sportswriter of the Year award for Florida by the NSSA, and no one has seen more big events, including 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics and 11 Final Fours. Shelton still goes into the locker room to obtain his stories.
And no one has made you angrier, or laugh louder, or think harder about what he has written. Simply put, no one has covered Tampa Bay sports like Shelton has. Now you can read Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Bucs fans can enjoy Shelton’s weekly post-game column on the Bucs following every Tampa Bay game exclusively on PewterReport.com, and our readers are encouraged to subscribe to GarySheltonSports.com for all of his expert commentary on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays, USF, Florida, Florida State and all of the sports teams and sports figures in the national spotlight.
Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Gary, you said what needed to be said. Time to put some pressure on Meathead as he did screw up some of this? Where’s our high priced OG or that high priced DL that also foolishly cost us a 4th round pick; and while I’m at it, Kenny Bell, Vitale, Griffin,Glennon? Yes I believe the GM has some growing up to do in this business.
Agree, if can’t beat the Rams At home then we can start thinking about next years draft after 3 weeks as usual…..
Usually I’m a bit of a downer after a loss, but this article is down right glass 99% empty. We’re 2 games into the year. We played both on the road. We beat a decent ATL team (that just went into OAK and won) in their own house. And yes, we lost (the score is more a reflection of the turnover plays – clearly too many – than the but-kicking that is suggested) on the road to a team desperate to avoid an 0-2 home game start to their season…a season in which many pundits have them as Super Bowl favorites.
Was it bad – yes. Is the sky falling – no.
Glad to see Mr Shelton’s commentary. Thanks PR.
My golly some people sure go the way the wind is blowing. Last week everything was great. This week everything sucks. East End Boy has it right. It’s but one loss to a team no one gave us much of a chance to defeat. OK we didn’t win. Big Whoop. The score was lopsided because the Bucs have gone two games now without getting a turnover and we have given up 6. Turnovers are the great equalizer and often distort the score. We got the Cardinals best shot after they were energized by the first INT that should have been a TD if # 13 made a better effort.
This game was reminiscent of the Titans game last season when it just snowballed. Let’s see how our team reacts before we stat seeking Mel Kiper’s Big Board.
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