TAMPA – The Buccaneers fans who haven’t jumped ship already woke up on Monday morning looking for something, anything positive to take away from that disturbing 38-33 loss to the Cardinals the Bucs subjected them to in the desert on Sunday.
Well, as positives go, this one’s not much but it’s something: Right along with the Bucs, the Falcons and Panthers both lost this past week as well. Not as badly as the Bucs but hey, a loss is a loss and in this case, those were important losses.
While the Bucs loss dropped them to the bottom of the NFC South standings with a 2-3 record the Falcons fell to 3-2, same as the Saints, and the Panthers fell to 4-2.
That means the Bucs are just 1.5 games out of first place in the division with a game in hand as they say in the NHL against the division-leading Panthers, so all is not as lost.
That doesn’t mean the Bucs’ situation isn’t dire. It is. We’ve yet to see the offense rev its engines the way we thought it would and now it may have to play a game or two without quarterback Jameis Winston.
Cynics might consider that a positive given the way Winston has played at times this year, but let’s keep in mind that Winston is one of the biggest reasons the Bucs have two wins to their credit.
He’s only thrown an interception in one game so far, that in the loss to the Vikings, and when he went down on Sunday he was coming off three consecutive 300-plus-yard passing games.
The only other quarterbacks to have had three 300-yard passing games this year prior to Sunday were Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, who somehow managed to fall short of that number while helping the Cardinals rack up 38 points against the Bucs this past weekend.
One of the reasons for that, of course, is that the Bucs were unable to stop running back Adrian Peterson or the Cardinals running game, but prior to that the Bucs were allowing an average of just 87.3 rushing yards per game, eighth-best in the NFL.
So which is the anomaly? Peterson running for 134 yards and two touchdowns or the Bucs suddenly surrendering nearly twice as many rushing yards in one game than they previously had in two.
Look, we’re not trying to gloss over the fact the Bucs stunk up the field on Sunday. Coach Dirk Koetter called their first half the worst first half of football he’s seen in his life and he’s lived a long football life.
For whatever reason the Bucs came out listless and ill-prepared for that game. As inexcusable as that is, it happens and it usually happens to just about every team in the league at least once a season.
What the Bucs have to do is make sure this loss doesn’t define them or, worse define their season. If it does, then all will indeed be lost. That’s the kind of hole the Bucs have dug for themselves.
But keep in mind that the Bucs have yet to play their first division rival, and that’s a trio of teams that the Bucs went 4-2 against a year ago, including 2-1 on the road with wins at Atlanta and Carolina.
And as for the rest of the schedule, look at it objectively and find the game there that doesn’t look like a winnable for the Bucs, at least at this stage of the season.
Granted, the Bucs will have to play a lot better than they did against the Cardinals to win any game but that should be expected. After all, it’s doubtful that Cardinals game will become the norm for this squad.
It may not seem like it to some but there’s too much talent here for that to happen and while they have yet to show it, there’s a reason this team was pegged by so many to be a playoff contender before the season started.
The talent that made the Bucs such a chic playoff pick back then is still intact, and in an NFC seemingly devoid of an elite-level team there is still time for the Bucs to get back into the playoff race.
So there it is, Bucs fans, a positive culled from a negative, reason to believe. Granted, it’s much, but maybe we should all just let the season play out before we call it over after just five games.