Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith heard the calls for his job after his lowest-ranked scoring defense was blasted, 48-10, on Sept. 30 at Chicago, allowing six touchdown passes to quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
But on Wednesday, he delivered a message of perspective and promise.
"The sky is not falling," Smith said. "I can assure you, it felt like it was frickin' crumpling on top of us when we walked off that field in Chicago. But that's an anomaly that's one of one. And as a defense, we are committed together to right that ship and not play defensive football like we played there."
As the former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Smith said he is used to the criticism.
"I've got tracks on my back through the years," Smith said. "That's part of it. You're in this business, hey, it's a week-to-week business. And the great thing about it is you get to go out and do it again. It doesn't hurt my feelings that anybody has their own opinion. That's just the way this world is. That's what makes it go around.
"You just go out and do your job. You try to be focused on the task at hand. And the task at hand is real simple in the NFL. It's to have one more point than the other team. And we've been able to do that 50 percent of the time in the first quarter of the season, and I just want to say there's a lot of football to be played."
The Bucs have been hurt by injuries, particularly in the secondary. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and safety Chris Conte are on injured reserve. Three rookies — cornerbacks Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and safety Jordan Whitehead have been counted on as starters while battling injury.
But Smith believes the experience will benefit the Bucs young players in the long run.
"We're all the biggest critics," Smith said. "I know sometimes it might feel like you guys (in the media) are the biggest critics. But let me tell you, we're more critical on ourselves than anything we do as coaches. That's just the way coaches are made up. This is a production business, as we all know. When you don't get the production that you like, hey, there's going to be self-criticism that's a lot tougher than we get from you folks.
"Going through these growing pains, and being 2-2, it's helping us down the road."