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.
This is complicated stuff, so let us begin small. When a team is taking baby steps, keeping it simple is a good thing.
So far, this is easy, even a kid could do it. Why, it’s Cat in the Hat stuff. There are four seasons in a year, four downs in a series.
Okay, now it’s getting a little harder. You have to count twice to be sure. Let’s see. You could talk about the movie Eight Men Out. You could talk about the old TV show Eight Is Enough.
And there you have it. For the last team in the NFL you can count on, it’s that simple. There are 12, as in the Dirty Dozen – 12 as in Disciples. Count the fingers on both hands and your ears, and you have 12.
Which, in an 11-man game, is too many.
The Tampa Bay Bucs lost a football game Sunday because they could not count that high. Not the head coach, not his offensive staff, not his offensive players. In an 11-man game, the Bucs went to 12. Because they could not count to 12, they lost their 10th.
Never let it be said that the Bucs lose games in the same old way. Every week, it’s a new adventure. It’s getting an incredibly small amount of points against the Bears despite an incredibly large amount of passing yards. It’s botching the first play of overtime against the Vikings. It’s missing wide-open receivers against the Browns. It’s penalties every week, especially against this offensive line.
Yeah, the Bucs are 2-10, but let’s face it. They are a very creative 2-10.
If that helps, which of course, it doesn’t.
This time, the Bucs seemed as if, miraculously, they were going to pull a game out of the fire. Faced with a second-and-14 at the Bengals 41, quarterback Josh McCown hit wide receiver Louis Murphy with a 21-yard pass with 32 seconds to play.
From there, what looked simpler? The Bucs planned to let the clock run down to four seconds, and then trust kicker Patrick Murray to kick his third field goal of the game. Just like that, and the Bucs would finally win a home game. Yippee.
But wait. On the pass to Murphy, the Bucs lined up with four wide receivers. But guard Oneil Cousins came into the game as an extra tight end — as he had done throughout the afternoon because the team was short of tight ends. Oops. That was too many unless, of course, the NFL has decided to ship the Bucs to the Canadian Football League.
Hey, they get the count right in pee-wee football. It’s not that hard. Count the commandments. Add one. There’s your limit. No more. Here’s a handy hint. Once you get to double digits, slow down.
“It’s a coaching error on our part,’’ said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who may forever be known as “12.’’ “We didn’t catch it. It’s as simple as that. It shouldn’t happen. It’s a miscommunication. Blame the head coach. Bad move on my part.
“It’s the head coach. It’s the offensive staff. The offensive players. There are a lot of safeguards in place. A lot of us should have caught it.’’
And yet, no one did. Except, of course, the replay official.
“Absolutey, we have to help out,’’ said quarterback Josh McCown. “We were in a bit of a muddle huddle, getting guys on and off. I didn’t see it. I call out protections and I didn’t get my eyes over there to double check it.“
It’s really perplexing that the Bucs would have problem counting. Usually, they are all over the small numbers. They have the number of victories (2) down pat. They have the number of points (20 or less for the ninth game this season) memorized. They have their fractions set as far as their rushing attempts.
Alas, they could not count to 12.
“We told them we saw 12,’’ said Bengals’ defensive end Carlos Dunlap, “and they didn’t substitute anybody. They went back and reviewed it, and they were like “Oh, you’re right.’’ The coaches on the sideline made us aware, and I told the first referee I could see.’’
So let’s get this straight. The Bengals’ coaches could count the Bucs. But the Bucs couldn’t count the Bucs. It’s fair to say that if Smith was not in his first season, this would hurt him in the owner’s skybox.
The Bucs lost because they had 12. All of 12
And the Bengals won with 14 points. Only 14.
You wonder how seriously the Bengals took this game. They ran a lateral pass. They ran a direct snap. They tried an onside kick while up only four points, which gave the Bucs the ball at their 31. Why? It stands to reason that Cincinnati simply didn’t believe the Bucs could score. And guess what? They couldn’t.
This is such a theme for this team. It scored one touchdown Sunday. It scored one touchdown the previous week against Chicago. No wonder the Bucs are among the worst scoring teams in the league.
For crying out loud, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw three picks, and there was the onside kick, and still the Bucs could not manage more than one touchdown. Part of that was because the offensive line creates so many penalties that a yellow flag should be part of their uniform. Smith mentioned “stupid penalties’’ three times. Once, he referred to as “dumb, stupid’’ penalties. And I’m not sure that completely described it.
Even if with the addition problems at the end of the game, this was a frustrating one for Tampa Bay. Take, for instance, running back Doug Martin, who looked fresh and new in a first half in which he rushed for 55 yards. But he finished with 58. Odd. McCown’s quarterback rating was 58.1. Trust me: That isn’t the symmetry a team wants.
Where is the discipline? Where is the efficiency? Look, we all know that the Bucs are one of the least talented teams in the NFL. No one is going to hold that against the coaches in their first year. But for crying out loud, the team doesn’t have look as ragged, as sloppy, as this one does. Ask yourself this: Do you think the Patriots are likely to have 12 men on the field on the biggest play of the game?
This one does. And so the abysmal year continues. The problems persist.
Just a hint: There are more than 12 of them.
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.
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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
Gary; you’re right on in this Article. Lets add some more to the fire. Our Center had 4 holding penalties; name another center that has had that many in any game and still played? It was the typical for decades that when the Bucs to get up on a team by 10 point and try to go into the half leading by 10; getting the ball at the start of the 2nd half, and screw it up. We all have seen this scene over and over in our past history, but yet we watch it happen and can’t believe that lessons are never learned by any Buc coaching staff. I’ll just one more; how about 4th down with just a few seconds to go and you either have to throw a hail mary to the end zone or try a long field goal with a kicker who has a leg to get it there. What do we do? Throw a 10 yard pass that means nothing. Yep, that’s our Bucs. I still love you, but thank goodness I’m not married to you.
Gilkey and Cousins do not belong on this team. They both are perpetual screwups just like their Coach, WarFLOP! I have been complaining about this Brownie Trio all season that Licht brought to the Bucs but, alas, Lovie is ignorant when it comes to offense and a light never comes on in his brain–Make this dumb and dumber trio walk the plank now! Play your rookie linemen and give them some experience for next year. Let our All Pro Guard be a player/OL Coach to finish out the year.
Perhaps most of our offense today (including coaches) is preparing for a move to the CFL in 2015….I would gladly swap them (apart from Evans and VJax) for the starting offense (including coaches) of the Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders.
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