To close out the first half of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited Cleveland, Ohio and “The Factory of Sadness” to try to turn the current flop of a season around. The Cleveland Browns entered at 4-3 in a tough AFC North where four out of their four teams entered week nine with a winning record. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers came to town at the bottom of what is currently the worst performing and sloppiest division in the NFL.
Going into week nine, the NFC South had combined for nine wins between all four teams. This may be a surprise to hear, but teams that are 3-4-1 don’t usually hold first place in a division. Every single team in the AFC North started week nine with a better record than any team in the NFC South. Spoiler Alert: That fact didn’t change by the end of week nine. With a win, the Buccaneers could’ve left the Cleveland Browns at 4-4 and the bottom of the AFC North. That same record is currently leading the NFC South at the helm of the New Orleans Saints.
Somehow, for yet another week, the Buccaneers played completely differently than the previous week and still finished with the same conclusion. The Buccaneers losing to the Cleveland Browns is frustrating. The Buccaneers losing to the Cleveland Browns 22-17 after staying in the game, maintaining a lead, finding an offensive identity, and Mike Evans averaging 17.7 yards a reception for 124 yards and two touchdowns is infuriating.
After the game, Gerald McCoy took a stand against a team that seems satisfied with just not getting blown out. “I don’t think anybody is upset enough with losing,” McCoy said. “Every time the game is over we sit here and say, “Oh, they made a play, we didn’t.” When are we going to get tired of that? I’ve been dealing with this for five years, I’m tired of it… you’ve got to get tired of losing, man.” McCoy was easily the unofficial face of the franchise going into this year, but that might as well be official after his recent contract extension worth nearly $100 million.
In the previous game against the Vikings, it was frustrating to see the defense play so well but the offense completely stall. Against the Browns, the Buccaneers finally looked like a football team again. They haven’t looked like a real team since the week five overtime road loss to the New Orleans Saints. Even without Charles Sims in the lineup after finally being activated off of injured reserve, the Bucs found an offensive groove again.
Mike Glennon utilized Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson exactly like we’d hoped they would be all year long. Both of them victimized the short stature Browns secondary. Bobby Rainey may not have broken any records, but his average of 4.6 yards per carry is a stark contrast to the way the rushing attack has looked in recent weeks. The Buccaneers were only able to convert four of twelve third downs, and failed on their lone fourth down conversion attempt.
While the offense produced, it couldn’t put any of it together. The defense managed two important interceptions, but neither was capitalized on by the offense. One of those interceptions resulted in a punt. The other had any usefulness negated by Mike Glennon throwing an interception of his own on the ensuing drive. Glennon’s other interception of the day ended with a field goal by Cleveland that clearly made a difference near the end.
It’s baffling that the team has so much ability and so many flashes of great play, but can’t put things together. Mike Evans, as a rookie, is the best offensive player on the team. Vincent Jackson should be significantly more threatening than he has been. No running back in sight has played up to expectations. Meanwhile, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are having solid and outstanding games left and right on defense. Major Wright even finished this game with 13 combined tackles. That’s all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-7. The end.
I’m at the front of the line in noticing the closeness of games, but they’ve also gotten blown out more than once. The team has fluctuated wildly and set a new bar for inconsistency. Regardless of how well the team has played in moments, the record doesn’t reflect moments. The record reflects the team’s ability to finish games with a win or a loss. We’re excellent at finishing games, especially close ones, with a loss. Moments won’t get us the playoffs, but only halfway through the season they might already be earning us a favorite first round pick.