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 encouraged to do so.
They got three.
In the upset of upsets, in the staggering performance of staggering performances, the Tampa Bay Bucs went out and got themselves a field goal Sunday afternoon. That’ll teach the doubters, all right. They zigged, they zagged, and they got three whole points for Christmas. Just like the French hens.
Spread it among yourselves, boys.
But, um, you might want to spread it thin.
The ever-devolving Tampa Bay Bucs, going backward all the time, lost a thoroughly uninspired game to the thoroughly bored Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon, 20-3. It was painful to watch, like one of those predator documentaries where large mammals pick small ones out of their teeth. It was the kind of game to make you think “I spent a day of my life watching that?”
Playing against a less-than-average defense, one that ranked 23rd in the NFL and 27th against the run, the Bucs were overwhelmed. They never had a chance. Their offensive line was playing in traffic, and the running backs were buried by an avalanche. And you didn’t know whether to boo Josh McCown or give him Last Rites.
All in all, it was one of the worst offensive performances you could imagine. It was Trent Dilfer bad, and Lars Tate bad, and Josh Freeman bad. It was Alvin Harper bad, and Charles McRae bad, and Jack Thompson bad. No wonder Jeff Tedford, the departed offensive coordinator, beat it out of town. This offense could not be less coordinated.
For crying out loud, the Bucs would have been better off to just take the snap and fall forward on every down. This was pathetic. After five offensive series, the Bucs had run all of 15 plays, and they had exactly zero yards. Say what you want, but five three-and-outs is not exactly a reason to fire the cannons.
“It’s hard to win games when you put up that kind of offensive production, which is very little,” said a clearly frustrated Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith. And why wouldn’t he be. If you look at the Bucs defense, you can find reasons for hope. It has been a much better unit the second half of the year.
But where is that improvement on offense? This offense line would be dreadful’s backups. It’s like five guys picked out of the stands and thrown onto the field in ill-fitting pads.
“I think it’s a combination,” Smith said. “We’re not playing good enough football up front pass-blocking or running. It’s tough when you have less than 20 yards rushing. And when you pass, you can’t really protect. Quarterback-wise, there were some decisions we would like to have back. It’s a combination of all of it now.
“We need help on the offensive side. We’ve needed help for a while.”
Talk about your well-oiled machines. For the day, Tampa Bay ran well enough to gain all of 16 yards on 14 attempts, which is a nifty 1.1 yard average. And throwing the ball was even more hopeless. Josh McCown was sacked seven times, and he completed only 12 passes. The running backs don’t make anyone miss. The line opens no holes. The quarterback scares no one but his teamates.
In a year of running in place, this offense has never been worse. The Bucs have scored fewer than 20 points in 12 of their 13 losses this year, but they have never been this weak, this impotent. It was as if the Bucs had not practiced all year. It was as if their coaches had no idea how many players they should line up, or what they should require that their players do.
Give the Bucs credit, though. It was the most amazing thing imaginable that they managed to score. In years to come, it might be known as the Christmas Miracle of St. Lovie.
Consider this: Mike Evans takes a short pass on second-and-21, and he makes a guy miss, and he goes for 22 yards on a first down. Three plays later, on third-and-11, McCown lobs a ball downfield that Vincent Jackson makes a 40-yard catch on. After a penalty, Charles Sims takes a screen pass for 18 yards. Two plays after that, the Bucs barely convert a fourth-and-one.
All of that leads to a field goal.
And points for the holidays!
Of course, you can blame a lot of this on the departure of wanna-be offensive coordinator Tedford, who somehow got the job as coach of the British Columbia Lions last week. Tedford tap-danced through his press conference, saying that he had been healthy for months. On the other hand, he wasn’t exactly scratching at Lovie Smith’s door, was he? He was a bust of a hiring on a bust of an offense on a bust of a team.
“There are no excuses, but there is a reason why 31 teams have an offensive coordinator,” said McCown. “If you say it doesn’t matter, people say, ‘let’s wing it and don’t go with an offensive coordinator.’ It does matter.”
Maybe it was Tedford’s fault, and maybe the problems were just too big for him. But all season, the Bucs have lacked direction, and identity, and sizzle, and creativity, and command on that side of the ball.
When you consider all the money spent on this team, and all of the free agents signed, and all of the draft picks spent, you can suggest that this is the most disappointing offense in Bucs’ history. Yes, I realize the enormity of that statement.
One more week, and the eyesore is over.
Just wondering, but do you think the offense can get all the way to the finish line?
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.
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
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.