The season is over, and the Buccaneers face a stiff 2014 verdict. They’re one hundred percent guilty of suckage, and the 2-14 record supports that. In many ways, it’s just nice that it’s finally over. The last several weeks of the season have been downright painful. In this year’s last hurrah, the Buccaneers managed their best possible tease. All season long they’ve made believers out of fans who saw a win as a longshot before gametime, only to muck it up right at the end. For a multitude of (offensive) reasons, the Buccaneers entered the fourth quarter with a 20-7 lead and still managed to lose in the end.
I’m well aware that tons of Buccaneers fans wanted the team to lose. Word is that a Saints touchdown was cheered in Raymond James Stadium. I get the big picture, and I’m excited about the prospect of having the #1 Pick in the 2015 Draft. Cheering a division rival for scoring on your own team? That’ll never be okay in my book. If you spend your hard earned money for a ticket to a Bucs game, you have the right to voice your opinion. In the same vein, everyone has a right to voice their opinion on Twitter. I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong, but it’s not something I can support. To me, your team should always receive your support.
In the first half, the Buccaneers looked entirely unlike the team that played during the first sixteen weeks of the season. In two simple quarters, the two-headed rushing attack nearly managed a season-high in total rushing. While there were other bright spots, it all rode on the back of the running game. Doug Martin and Charles Sims led the way to 148 rushing yards, and Sims scored the first touchdown of his NFL career. The offensive line found a groove and Demar Dotson continuously created lanes that were used with deadly effectiveness. Meanwhile, Josh McCown stayed mostly mistake free and made the important throws.
The Buccaneers earned their lead, but they just sort of sat there and waved goodbye to it in the second half. Well, let me clarify that. The offense sat there and waved goodbye to it. The defense played hard in the second half and came up with two very key redzone interceptions, but the offense couldn’t make anything of them. The question of coaching has to come to mind because of the minuscule amount of passes that were called in the second half, but the running game had been producing prior to then. The Bucs finished the first half with 100 net passing yards, but finished the game with only 97. That’s completely indicative of how disappointing the offense has been this season.
There was tons of speculation after the game if it was intentionally “tanked,” but I just can’t ever believe that the coaches or men on that field would lose on purpose. It’s not in their nature. Backups were played, but some of Tampa Bay’s backups have outperformed starters all season long. The defense played hard all game long, and holding an explosive (although flawed) Saints team to 23 points on top of forcing three turnovers should win you the game. If you go into the second half with 20 points, you should leave the game with more than 20 points. All these things should have happened, but they didn’t.
It sucks. Regardless of the consolation prize or silver lining, the Buccaneers went 2-14 and went winless at home for the first time since going 0-14 in 1976. That’s the kind of Old School that none of us want, including Derek. In the end, the pain is over. The heartache has settled, and it’s time to move forward from a failure of a season. This year has shown us studs and soon-to-be diamonds that’ll hopefully be calling Tampa Bay home for many years to come. Mike Evans and Pat Murray should be the 2014 Buccaneers’ Co-Offensive MVPs. Close behind them would be Charles Sims, who will be a threat on the ground and in the passing game.
Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy will continue to be the cornerstones of the defense, but names like Bradley McDougald and Danny Lansanah have become equally as important to a constantly improving defense. There is hope for the future. There are important, not to mention inexpensive, pieces of the puzzle that are already in place. There will be turnover, and Black Monday will be a sad day for many lower tier parts of Lovie Smith’s coaching staff. It’s time to lick our wounds and move forward. It’s only a few days until 2015, and we’ll start the year by watching Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston dueling for a spot in the College Football Championship. You can bet your bottom dollar that Bucs fans, myself included, will be watching that game very closely. Let’s say goodbye to 2014, and listen to this quirky girl sing with about as much pitch and harmony as the Buccaneers offense. At least they’re both worth a laugh.