Gary Shelton, former Tampa Bay Times sports columnist and long-time friend to PewterReport.com, will be a contributing game day columnist for PewterReport.com as the 2014 Buccaneers campaign draws to a close. Bucs fans can read this column and several others daily on GarySheltonSports.com, and are also encouraged to follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Looking back, perhaps Josh McCown should have saved his tears.
This week, a lot of people might have wept along with him.
After watching the Tampa Bay Bucs hand one over to the Chicago Bears, a lot of fans might have shed tears. McCown had perhaps the worst day a quarterback with 341 yards passing has ever had, throwing wide, throwing high, throwing short, throwing wobbly. He threw two interceptions; it could have been more. He lost a fumble; he could have lost another one.
And, in the end, McCown helped to give one away against a beatable Chicago Bears team. In a span of minutes, he fumbled away a ball he held only in his taped right hand. Just afterward, he threw a screen pass to about the height of a basketball goal, forcing his receiver to tip it into an interception.
So that’s why the Chicago Bears didn’t bring him back this year.
McCown, a week removed from a performance against the Washington Redskins in which he demonstrated he had some strengths as a quarterback, too, appeared to be pressing for most of the day. Perhaps he wanted to be good in front of a Chicago crowd that cheered for him. Perhaps the rainy weather got the better of him. For whatever reason, this was not one of those weeks where you look at McCown and see his intangibles. This was a week you looked and saw his shortcomings.
The shame of it was the size of the opportunity the Bucs gave away. Had they been able to win their second straight game, it would have been easy to envision them succeeding in this wacky NFC South. Instead, the Bucs remain the bottom dwellers of football’s most comedian division.
Even in the first half, when the Bucs’ had so many receivers running free in the Chicago secondary that you would swore they knew shortcuts, McCown seemed hurried and scattered. Otherwise, the Bucs may have led even more than 10-0. After all, they dominated that first half more than they have dominated any all season. A big lead was there for the taking.
Again, maybe it would have been different if the Bucs could have handled the rain a little better. But the Bucs could not run, again, which left the offense in the hands of McCown. And, yes, McCown threw for a lot of yards.
But what do you want? Statistics or the truth, which on this day seem to argue with each other fairly loudly?
The truth is that, despite his yardage, you couldn’t help but keep glancing to the sideline to see if Mike Glennon was warming up. Perhaps he should have been. Perhaps this quarterback controversy is not yet complete.
It’s sad, because given the right circumstances, McCown can be a successful quarterback. But his team needs to run behind him. It needs to play defense in support of him. It cannot ask him to be one of the best players on the field, which the Bucs seem determined to do.
In all, this one will be remembered as a victory that the Bucs simply couldn’t hold onto. There have been very few games in which the Bucs have dominated the way they did in the first half of this game when they held Chicago to only 68 yards. There have been few games when the opposing quarterback seemed to be no threat at all.
But in the second half, the Bucs could not protect the football, and thus, they could not protect the lead. Besides McCown’s two interceptions and a fumble, Vincent Jackson also fumbled inside the Bears’ 10 after a second half reception. The best thing anyone could say about the Bears’ defense is that it did a good job grabbing fumbles and catching deflections.
Sunday, the shame is that that was enough. Jay Cutler was dreadful when the game was in his hands. But when a team’s three touchdown drives are 58 yards, 13 yards and 15 yards, it doesn’t take much of a quarterback to get them there, either.
In some ways, the difference in the game was Matt Forte, who was able to run for 89 yards (73 of them in the second half). That, and the lead, meant the Bears were able to keep the ball out of their quarterback’s hands. Not so with the Bucs, who were forced to throw the ball 48 times. If they could have run it even a little bit, they might have might it tougher on Chicago.
It’s odd. Bears’ fans are going to remember this as the Day That Lovie came home. In the end, it wasn’t really about that. No one can coach his way around four turnovers (although some of the silly penalties still linger).
Instead, it wasn’t a coach who came home. It was a quarterback.
And in the end, he simply brought too many mistakes with him.
Award-winning sports columnist Gary Shelton covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and other local Florida sports teams for decades with the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times. PewterReport.com invites you to read Shelton’s wit and wisdom on the Bucs on a daily basis at his new website – GarySheltonSports.com.
With unique insight and analysis, fans are encouraged to subscribe to GarySheltonSports.com for as little as $4 per month to read about the Bucs, Tampa Bay’s other local pro teams, and columns on the various Florida college teams. Click here for more information.
Be sure to follow Shelton on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
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
Yes it was another blown opportunity with Atlanta losing today. This Bucs team flat out stinks. So many needs. Im not sold on Lovie. I am convinced McCown and Glennon are not starter material. We need a MLB that can cover middle of field if Going to stick with Lovie and Tampa 2. Also need DE’s than can pressure regardless what defense we play. Yes pass rush better last couple weeks, but look who we played. Bears and Redskins both stink too. The offensive line just cannot run block this year period. Pass protection has slowly improved from dreadful to just below average. Really need to address QB and O line if we are going to ever compete again. I never got my hopes up for today and said maybe Bucs can win a tight game like 27-24. Also said it would likely come down to who could run the ball better and didn’t turn it over because both teams stink and fairly evenly matched. Crappy O lines and crappy QBs. Coaches both seem lost. Both defenses stink. It was Like we played ourselves today and lost. Lol. Forte ran better and we lost the turnover battle. That simple. McCown was inconsistent and likely always will be.
IT is going to take more than a couple of drafts to fix what is wrong with this team. There are so many holes to fill. It would appear we are set at receiver though. I think a couple of linemen on both sides of the ball plus QB and a few secondary players and we can become a good team but we are going to have to accept that the talent level on this team is just bad right now.
I’m not putting this blame on McCown; come on Gary. There are other fingers you could point too? How about the play calling in the 2nd half that I and I am sure many others saw as not adjusting to what the defense was giving us? That was quick throws to the Dunkaneers in the middle instead of just the sidelines. Our OL wasn’t too good today and our receivers didn’t catch passes that were good enough to be caught. The time management before the half and in the 4th quarter could have been better. No there’s a lot to go around as to the blame game which is easy to do after the game is over. Now that you are no longer working for a newspaper, how about going out more on a limb and tell us why we lost. the coaching staff was slow today to help Josh and he tried too much which will get a QB in trouble when it doesn’t work out for him. Don’t get me wrong Gary; I have enjoyed your articles for many years. This is a new beginning and lets be bold here. I for one still see this a better team than last year because of the Coach and the GM. Go Bucs!
In reference to your last sentence, ” I have a bridge in Alaska to sell you”. It’s real cheap…Most people measure a team by wins and losses, right now, we have two.
Sorry Gary Shelton has always written negative an sarcastic columns on the bucs
He just hates the Bucs just like duimeg
SR you picked a lemon
McCown sucks under pressure. After giving him a “A” last week, and supporting Freeman to the bitter end, its time for PR t admit they were wrong, yet again. They can’t seem to see beyond their own personal emotions and gratitude when they are actually let inside the velvet rope. Decision making like McCown’s in the twilight of his career, for goodness sake (!Earth to PR!), says it all. Every game with him under Center is a wasted attempt by Lovie to regain credibility. Stop talking your book and tell the truth.
Always loved the humorous twist in Gary Shelton’s columns. He’s always told the story from his unique perspective. Great addition to the Pewter Report gang.
Regarding this Bears game. It is clear that our defense has read the yellowed and tattered pages of the “How to Play the Tampa 2 Defense for Dummies” book and are executing it well enough to win games. It’s a team sport and in this contest there is still a lot of blame to go around……but the Defense had nothing to do with this defeat. Koenen still is inconsistent, Thigpen makes poor decisions and has trouble even catching the ball. Evans was held in check and had a lapse of immaturity that led to poor field position. That was not a fumble by Jackson. Murphy dropped one in the end zone. The offensive line is still the weakest unit on the team especially Omameh and Dietrich-Smith. And please don’t tell me Dotson is good. The play call to do a QB sneak expecting that duo to get enough push to gain a full yard was just dumb. Constantly getting to the L.O.S. with less than 10 seconds put the entire unit in panic mode too often. But in my view, in spite of the passing yards, the main culprit in this loss was the guy who gave the Bears the ball inside our own 20 yard line and who was only able to muster 13 points while cranking out nearly 400 yards. Sad.
I watched the Cowboys/Giants game last night and while I enjoyed the circus catch made by Odell Beckham, what really got my attention was what an excellent offensive line the Cowboys have. The Bucs O-Line should be forced to sit in a room and view how it’s supposed to be done, then write an essay titled “I now understand why we are losing games!”.
while I concur with your sentiment…and certainly am no fan of our Oline…McCown could have had 5 hall of famers in front of him and we would have lost…his decisions were just bad decisions time and again throughout the game…he was very lucky not to have several more INTs…and that’s not because of pressure, it’s because he was making bad decision after bad decision…
I actually thought the Q.B. sneak was a good call, had we handed it off, probably get stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Look, this team has many holes, but the biggest A hole plays Q.B.. We need a real threat back there, not an old journeymen, and not a stork who can’t run. Do we have any bootlegs, or rollouts in our playbook? McClown can move, but we have no plays that get him outside the pocket. When your center gets consistantly blown up, maybe you want to roll the Q.B. away from middle pressure. Just a thought.
Gary, see how this works? Superdudes, Macabee, Horse, Seat26, give constructive criticism. Put on your big boy pants and give positive things to help our Bucs or just go off somewhere else like Chicago and New York that are never happy about their team.
Break the game down all you want the major problem with this team is qb position and like I said before winning meaningless games is irrlevant at this pouint of the season unless your my friend Scubog so he can make some of the home games more tolerableto watch around visiting fans, lol. Suck the rest of the yr and draft the best qb in college who is Mariotta and hope he can help next yr
Looking into the future, I’m sorry, I just don’t trust either Winston or Mariotta with this high of a pick. The Bucs have a boat load of needs so I’m inclined to take the best player available route. I like the wr Cooper from Bama.
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