When it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I can’t help but hope for the best. It’s in my nature to root for the underdog, which they’ve reluctantly been just about all season. I’m as stubborn as any when it comes to screaming “Never give up! Never surrender!” Regardless of setbacks, I do my best to focus on the potential for a turnaround. When the Falcons squashed the Bucs on Thursday Night Football, I sat there and hoped against hope for a record-setting comeback. I imagined every possible way that it could turn around. That gets harder as time goes on.
Right now, that game might as well be a microcosm of the Buccaneers entire season. I know it’s nice to think of it as an anomaly, but the Bucs haven’t done much to prove that. If anything, the win in Pittsburgh is the anomaly. This past game against the Atlanta Falcons was the beginning of the season’s third quarter. Game nine, and it definitely felt like the Bucs entered down 35-0. Here’s the thing, that moment isn’t the end of the game. Being down five scores certainly isn’t an easy mountain to climb, but it’s a mountain. It’s not a wall. It’s a rough hike, but it can be done.
Here’s the problem with that. Rather than hiking, the Buccaneers just sort of watched the mountain get steeper in the second outing against the Atlanta Falcons. When you’re down at the half, you’ve got to score to open the third quarter if you want to have any hope of redemption. You can’t just mosey on down the field like that’s going to fix things. If there’s going to be any chance of climbing the mountain, you have to work for it. Right now the Buccaneers are playing with the urgency of a construction worker paid by the hour.
If a construction worker knows his pay is the same regardless of how long it takes to complete a job, you best believe it’s going to be done with some speed. If they know it’s by the hour, they’re certain to take their sweet time. However, those who are good at it still appear to be working hard. I’m not saying that the Buccaneers are purposefully taking as long as possible to not suck, but it sure as hell feels like it. I’m stuck trying to blame the failures on the Ginger Badass and his beard bet, because that’s less depressing than accepting how disappointing the Bucs are right now.
On one hand, Lavonte David continues to be a tackling machine as he sneezes another performance of 14 combined tackles. Mike Evans is making a solid case for Rookie of the Year with 125 yards and a touchdown on, wait for it, only seven receptions. Evans averaged 17.9 yards per reception. Unfortunately, he’ll probably get overlooked for the award because of his team’s problems just like Lavonte David gut snubbed for the Defensive Player of the Year award last season.
There were other highlights such as Marcus Thigpen. I’ll wait an appropriate amount of time for everyone who has no idea who that is to google him. All done? Marcus Thigpen had an astonishing 53 yard return against Atlanta. Unfortunately, much of these good things were nullified by several issues. Michael Koenen continues to defy the odds by being an even worse punter than I thought possible. His sad average of 30.3 yards per punt is even worse when you remember that one of them went for only 23 yards.
As the Thursday Night Curbstomp wore on, the level of optimism for a turnaround dwindled. If you enter the third quarter down 35-0, you might have a chance to come back. Right now, the Bucs are on the way to entering the fourth quarter down 56-0. There’s a modicum of hope in the fact that the next three teams the Bucs face, the Redskins, Bears, and Bengals, are all in tough stretches. I know that the Buccaneers can beat those teams. When I predict a game, I’m doing it with the thought that the team plays as well as they can.
With a gigantic steaming pile of luck, the Buccaneers could still finish the season 8-8 after opening it 1-8. They technically can do that. Will they? That remains to be seen. I’ll continue to look at the ways the Buccaneers can defeat upcoming opponents, but my optimism for turning the season around was shot in the heart at Raymond James Stadium. After the game, Josh McCown was in mourning and Gerald McCoy was at a loss for words. The season isn’t finished, but hope just might be.