Whooooosh!

That was the sound of the air being let out of the Bucs’ balloon late on Sunday evening after another rain-relayed disappointing loss.

deflated-balloonAll of the excitement that fans and the organization felt after Tampa Bay’s opening-season road win at Atlanta is gone.

Part of the air left in Arizona when Doug Martin, Robert Ayers and Luke Stocker all limped back to the bus following a 40-7 beat down at the hands of the Cardinals in Week 2.

More air left last week when quarterback Jameis Winston went 1-of-6 down the stretch in a comeback bid against the Rams.

Any remaining air left following the team’s third straight loss, a 27-7 beat down at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos last Sunday.

Where are the problems for the Bucs? A better question is where aren’t the problems for this football team?

No question injuries haven’t helped things.

Losing Jacquies Smith in Week 1 at Atlanta took the team’s second-leading sacker out of the equation for the whole season. A week later Ayers goes down, a player who had 9.5 sacks in 2015 and was counted on to duplicate those numbers for the Buccaneers, injures an ankle and things got worse.

Then on Sunday the team lost its best pass rusher in Gerald McCoy, plus 2016 second-round draft pick Noah Spence and all of a sudden fans are grabbing the nearest roster to look up jersey numbers and try and figure out who is even on the field.

And for a team that is led by an offensive coach in Dirk Koetter, things are just as bad – and that’s where the most optimism was heading into the season.

Losing Stocker, the best blocking tight end, and losing last season’s NFL second-leading rusher in Martin can’t be underestimated. It literally takes away several pages from Koetter’s play-action playbook, and completely affects his personnel packages, the team’s blocking schemes not to mention the damaging effect it has on the overall psyche of this young Bucs team.

Whooooosh!

The fact is, for the Bucs to compete for a playoff spot this year they needed a lot of things to go right.

No major injuries.

Bounces to go their way.

Calls to go their way.

Kicks to clank off the upright but still sneak inside the goal post.

Potential interceptions skipping out of defenders hands and into the Mike Evans’ mitts for a touchdown.

All the things that happen to good teams en route to a winning season, and the Bucs needed them to happen. Through the first quarter of the season it has been the opposite, and it is no surprise Tampa Bay closed out the first four games with a 1-3 record.

The potential to bounce back is there. Tampa Bay will travel to take on a Carolina team that has its own issues, along with an identical 1-3 record through four games. This is also a Panthers team that has star quarterback Cam Newton in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Cam Newton – Photo by: Getty Images

Cam Newton – Photo by: Getty Images

Following their Monday night match-up in Charlotte, the Bucs get a bye week. Most teams prefer it come at the halfway mark of the season, but it couldn’t come at a better time for Tampa Bay. Martin, Ayers, Stocker – and perhaps McCoy and Spence if they can’t go on Monday Night Football – could return when Tampa Bay gets back to playing football after the break and travels to take on the 49ers.

Now we’ll see what type of head coach Koetter is. Now we will see what type of coaching staff the Bucs have. Can Koetter out-scheme opposing defenses despite being undermanned? Can defensive coordinator Mike Smith manufacture a pass rush with players that most fans had never heard of two or three weeks ago?

Following the loss to the Rams, Koetter identified a “culture” issue within his team. Most likely he identified it last season. And looking back on it, it has been apparent the entire organization has had that same issue since the last four games of the 2008 season.

This football team, like many who have struggled to string wins together, just doesn’t go into football games feeling like they are going to win. Instead they hope they can win. The fans don’t walk into Raymond James Stadium feeling like their team is going to win. Instead they hope they can. They have confidence perhaps, but that supreme air of confidence that teams like the New England Patriots have just isn’t there as of now.

How does it happen? One win. Then another. And then another.

The air of confidence fills the balloon and it swells.

The Buccaneers’ balloon began to fill after Week 1, but the team didn’t handle its limited success well.

Whooooosh!

When the Bucs get their next win, it will be the first step. Will they add another one to it the following week, and then the next week? Time will tell.

But for now Koetter is chasing the deflating balloon as it flies all over the building wildly as the air continues to escape. Can he catch it, add some more air, and seal it up?

That is the challenge that he and this team faces on Monday night.

 

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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wnb0395
wnb0395
5 years ago

I really dont get why everyone is down on us right now. Yes 1-3 isnt a good start but look at who we have played. I had us going 2-3 to start the season and with a Win against a hurting Carolina team, we still can. For all the injuries we have had, to start the season 2-3 or 1-4 isnt that bad. Who out there really had us starting better than 2-3 this year?

Buc on the Move
Buc on the Move
Reply to  wnb0395
5 years ago

Though playoffs are looking pretty slim, the Bucs do still have plenty chance to show progress this year. The injuries along the D-Line are definitely killing Mike Smith’s chance to build a new defense here. Obviously the high drafting of a kicker when so many other pieces are lacking (i.e. safety) is a pretty glaring eff up as well. All these things said, I agree that a win against Carolina would turn all of that around. For Aguayo’s sake, I hope the team puts him in position to kick a couple of game winners this season, and he connects, otherwise… Read more »

surferdudes
5 years ago

Living here in Melb Beach, I hope I have a home, let alone power to see the game! Put’s the shitty Bucs problem in the rear view window for right now. Wish me luck boys, and girls, I’ll be riding this one out.

Morgan R
Morgan R
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

Good luck surferdudes, hoping you get through with minimal damage and disruption. I lived in Orlando when Charlie hit and it’s strongest winds went right through my neighborhood. We had no power for 8 days. It was miserably hot and that’s when I realized that Florida is truly uninhabitable without A/C. Moved to Portland Oregon the following year. If you do end up lucky enough to have power Monday, I truly hope the Bucs don’t crush your spirits with another pitiful MNF performance.
Rooting against Carolina AND Hurricane Matthew.

wnb0395
wnb0395
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

Good luck surferdudes

htownbucfan03
htownbucfan03
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

Good luck to you

htownbucfan03
htownbucfan03
5 years ago

Y is telling it like it is such a good thing. You know what is better than that it’s winning. I don’t care about anything except winning. It’s football I don’t care if u r a great person or a bad one I just care about wins. We have let more talent leave this team and haven’t replaced it. Just think aqib Bennett blounte Revis and we replaced them with guys like verner Grimes and complete busts. We have no edge we want a 2nd year quarterback to take a bunch of guys who wouldn’t be on alot of rosters… Read more »

russmillerwy
russmillerwy
5 years ago

The Bucs rely too much on their superstars to carry them. Teams like the Patriots remain confident when superstars go down because they have role players in every roster spot. No one player is indispensible or expendable. Every member of their team has something they’re good at that makes them good enough to start in specific situations that favor that talent. The Bucs have lost superstars Martin, McCoy, Ayers, and pass rushing specialist Smith. They’ve tried to fill their shoes with second stringers who don’t seem to have a particular specialty, they’re just “good enough to be in the top… Read more »

CDNBUCSFAN
CDNBUCSFAN
5 years ago

This is an overall view from me on the Bucs 1-3 start. Absolutely I’m disappointed…but…I think we all expected too much too soon, especially after that great start in Atlanta. Remember this…we have a new defensive scheme (which takes time). We have a second year QB, whom I support fully. He’s 22! Do you know any 22 year old SuperBowl QB’s? Chill! As mad as I get when he throws picks, a) he bounces back b) I’d rather have a guy with confidence and makes young mistakes than a guy that doesn’t take any chances. c) he makes throws into… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

The good thing about a balloon is you can blow air back into it just like you can let the air out. It just takes more work to do it, just like winning.
All the points made about why the Bucs are losing are key factors to why they are. But Fortunately none of these injured players injured except for Smith is out for the season. After the bye week, seeing no other unforeseen injury, all of the Bucs should be up and running.
Let wait till midway through the season to see which direction the team is headed in.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

BTW, the Panthers are struggling offensively for the same reason the Bucs are, they lost their top RB Johnathon Stewart to a hamstring as well. They also list their top RT who is in concussion protocol as well. I really believe the Bucs will be fine when Martin returns and Winston doesn’t feel like he has to win the games all by himself. All Winston needs to do is be more careful with the ball. A punt from your 30 yard line is much more beneficial to your team than an INT. It will also help if Robert Ayres can… Read more »

nmkinley
nmkinley
5 years ago

This is really a ‘the sky is falling’ article. I agree with wnb’s comments above, as who really expected us to be any better that 2-3 after the first 5 games? The ARZ and DEN games were unwinnable for the young Bucs, as they are playoff-tested veteran teams with great, man-based defenses. No Doug Martin / Luke Stocker / Robert Ayers / J Smith excuses would have saved us from those losses. The Rams game was the one that got away, so they have to make that one up through the rest of the season. Winston will have a fine… Read more »