Slumping Bucs still headed in right direction, Smith says
It’s been a tough five days with the Bucs suffering two disappointing defeats and virtually falling from the playoff picture. But not all is lost, coach Lovie Smith said.
Despite back-to-back setbacks to the Saints and Rams, the Bucs (6-8) still could finish with a .500 record with victories over the Chicago Bears and at Carolina the next two weeks.
Following the 31-23 defeat to the Rams, Smith said his team has to look at the big picture.
“We lost two games. It’s no more than that,’’ Smith said. “You look at the big picture. Tonight, disappointment for this game. But overall, we’re headed in the right direction. We have a couple spots, we are short-handed. We’re not as well as we need to. That can affect a lot of things. Big picture is what you have to look forward to. Disappointment tonight. But we’re still headed in the right direction.’’
The Bucs trailed 28-6 in the fourth quarter, thanks to a slow start by quarterback Jameis Winston, who only went 6 of 12 for 49 yards in the first half. But he finished 29 of 50 passes for a career-high 363 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Running back Doug Martin rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries until the Bucs had to throw to try and get back in the game. Receiver Mike Evans caught nine passes for 157 yards.
“It was one of them days,’’ Winston said. “We had plenty of opportunities. The good things is, our offense, Doug Martin still did what he does. Mike Evans showed up to play. Adam Humphries showed up to play. In these situations, the quarterback has to show up to play. That’s what happened.’’
The Bucs actually outgained the Rams in total yards 509-319 total yards and the Rams converted only two of 10 third downs.
"I think overall, there were times we were moving the ball,’’ Smith said. “Throughout the game, we at least were able to have some semblance of a running game. Whenever you have over 500 yards, there’s some things you’ve done fairly well moving the ball, moving the sticks. But we didn’t finish as much as anything.
“Being close doesn’t do it on a night like tonight. I would sum it up we Just didn’t play consistent football. And it’s hard to win on the road when you don’t play consistent football.’’
It was the second straight week the Bucs started slow. They fell behind 14-0 to the Saints last Sunday.
“It’s one thing we’ve tried to emphasize is starting fast but the last two weeks, there’s no way that can happen,’’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “It’s the NFL. I don’t care how good of a team you are, when you get behind like that, it’s tough to see teams fight back.’’
Smith said the Bucs still have a lot to play for.
“It’s very important how we finish,’’ Smith said. “We have a long break in between to heal up. But we still haven’t played our best ball. We get an opportunity to come back home against the Bears and play our best ball. So there’s a lot for us to still accomplish. As we finish up, we want to talk about the progress we’ve made and all the good things. Came up a little short in the end as we trend and go forward. So there’s a lot at stake still.’’