FLAT Out, Must Win!

If you’re like me, you played sports growing up. Pee Wee football. Little League baseball. AAU basketball. You probably even played sports in high school or maybe even at the college level. If so, then you’re probably competitive to some extent. I tend to be a little more competitive than I should be. Sometimes it’s a good thing and other times it’s not. But that competitor inside me has a difficult time understanding how this Buccaneers team can come out “FLAT” (as Gerald McCoy admitted) against a Cardinals team that beat them 40-7 a year ago. How can you NOT be up or ready to play that team again? How could you NOT be chomping at the bit to get another shot at a team that made you look so foolish last season?

I mean, it wasn’t just one or two guys. That entire defense didn’t look ready to play. You’d think after giving up a forty burger against Arizona in Week 2 last year, these guys would’ve wanted to come out and make a statement. Am I right? How do you let the same team go up 24-0 at halftime in two consecutive seasons? According to coaches and players both, it was poor basic, fundamental football that caused them to get behind so quickly. Not staying in your run gaps. Poor tackling. Terrible pass coverage techniques. What about not playing with any heart? What about not playing with a will to win? What about not playing with any pride? We saw all of that in the second half. Where was it in the first half?

Maybe I’m oversimplifying this game. I never played sports beyond a high school level, so maybe things are different at the “elite” level. I dunno. However, I do know that when I watch a team play such a bad half of football as that, it makes me start to question all of these things. It makes me wonder how fans could possibly be more excited and hyped up for a game than the players. It makes me wonder why these guys are playing this game? Is it just for the paycheck? Do they really care so little about winning that they could come out “flat” for a game like that? I don’t get it. I’m truly baffled.

I don’t want to be writing crap like this about our team. I love our team. I love our players. I wish I was writing about how the Bucs came out fast and ready and destroyed the Cardinals on Sunday…but they didn’t so I’m not. Instead, I have to write this garbage ass article questioning the heart and soul of our beloved Bucs. I don’t get enjoyment out of it at all, but it’s been weighing on me all week long. It’s truly bothered me.

I know that we usually have one day of mourning after a game like that and then it’s on to the next one. I’ve tried to do that. Believe me. But as I sat here on Saturday night, the eve before the Bucs play the Bills, I’m wondering which Buccaneers team will show up today. Will it be the team that played complimentary team football and beat the crap out of the Bears in Week 2? Will it be the team that turned the ball over and got beat down by the Vikings in Week 3? Will it be the team that fought and clawed their way to a win against the struggling Giants in Week 4? Will it be the defense that held Tommy Boy and the Pats to 19 points and almost beat the defending World Champion Patriots in Week 5? Or will it be the “flat”, heartless, gutless, prideless team that showed up, better yet didn’t show up in Arizona for Week 6? Who knows at this point. I surely don’t.

I’m really not trying to be negative. I’m simply thinking out loud. I want this team to reach it’s potential. I want them to live up to the extremely high expectations that we all had for them throughout the offseason. This team has entirely too much talent on both sides of the ball to be playing this bad and this inconsistent. Neither side has lived up to their billing so far. The offense has been mediocre at best despite better o-line play up front. The defense has been up and down and all over the place week in and week out. How do you let Case Keenum murder you one week, then shut down Tom Brady two weeks later? How do you go from holding Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to 20 yards rushing TOTAL in Week 2 to letting Adrian Peterson gain 100 yards in the first half of Week 5? I don’t get it.

I want to see points from the offense. I want to see sacks and picks from the defense. I want to see some mother f#$&ing field goals going through the uprights on special teams. I want to see some heart. Some pride. Some anger. Some consistency. Some excitement. Some urgency. It’s sad to say that they’re playing a “must win” game in Week 7 of the regular season, but that’s exactly what this game in Buffalo is today. IT’S A MUST WIN! This team has to win to save their season. This team cannot go 2-4 with the upcoming schedule that they have and have any hopes of making the playoffs, which was the expected goal for them this season. This is a must win.

If they lose to the Bills, then they return home to play the Carolina Panthers who are playing good football. After that, they go to New Orleans to play an improved Saints team. Next they have a bit of a break with the Jets at RayJay before traveling to Miami, to Atlanta and to Green Bay over the next few weeks. They play three of their final four games at home playing Detroit and Atlanta again, then heading to Carolina, before returning to Tampa to face the Saints one last time. It’s not an easy schedule, especially not starting it off with a 2-4 record. This is a must win.

If they do win and even their record up at 3-3, then there’s still a chance that they can salvage this season. After this week, they begin division play with six of their final ten games being against NFC South opponents. The Panthers lead the division at 4-2, while the Saints and Falcons both sit at 3-2, so nobody is pulling away with the division yet. The Bucs, as bad as they’ve played, are still in the race. They still have a shot at the division and the playoffs…IF they can take care of business in Buffalo. This is a must win.

A “must win” game in Week 7 is never good. It means that a team hasn’t been playing well up to this point. Is every game a “must win” from here on out? Not necessarily. But a loss to the Bills would put this team in a 2-4 hole that they may not be able to climb out of. Not only that, it could potentially do enough damage to this young team’s psyche that it could end any chance they might have of recovering. This is a must win.

I realize that last year they were 1-3 after the first quarter of the season. I realize that they were 3-5 after 8 games last year. So you may be saying, “Well, they pulled themselves out of the slump last season!”. And you’re right, they did. Except for last season, they were coming off of a six-win season. Last year was Dirk Koetter’s first year as a head coach. Last year was Mike Smith’s first year as defensive coordinator. Last year, expectations weren’t as high. This season, the expectations were much higher coming off of a 9-7 season where they just missed out on the playoffs. This season, the offense was supposed to be unstoppable. This season, the defense was supposed to pick up where they left off last year which was dominating. This season, they were supposed to take that next step. None of that stuff has happened…yet.

There’s still time. There’s still plenty of games left on the schedule. There’s still an opportunity to make this season a special one. But it all starts with this game in Buffalo today. This is a must win.

Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!

Jon Hinkle

My name is Jon Hinkle, also know as Deez Bucz to most Buccaneers fans. I have been given the opportunity by WhatTheBuc.net to do some writing about one of my favorite subjects...Buccaneer football and all that goes with it. This is my first public writing gig, so I'm hoping that I can entertain the fine fans of Tampa Bay while learning and gaining experience towards a possible new career in sports reporting. I hope everyone enjoys the fruits of my labor and I look forward to bringing some new and exciting stories to Bucs Nation! And as always.....GO BUCS!!!

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