Do not be fooled by the scoreboard, where things were prettied up by the end.
Do not be tricked by the final statistics, which urge you to think that maybe this loss wasn't that bad.
Do not be swindled by the wackiness of the final play, which suggests that the Bucs were closer to victory than they were.
This was ugly, and this was lopsided and this was a disappointing way to start a football season. For most of the afternoon, it was like watching an opponent stuff Tampa Bay's hope into a pinata, hoist it up the crossbar and then spend 60 minutes whacking at it. Whatever you thought of the Bucs' prospects before this game, it is doubtful you feel the same resolve about it today.
Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20. And anyone who says this was a close competition is trying to sell you a ticket.
That's the disappointment here. It was not so much that the Bucs lost because as the losers in Week 1 always remind us, half of the teams in the NFL start 0-1. For the Bucs, the bigger jolt is the manner in which it happened. They didn't tackle, they didn't block, they didn't show a lot of imagination.
In particular, they didn't show enough offense.
After all, that was supposed to be the hope around here, wasn't it? Despite an unimpressive preseason, the great equalizer was supposed to be Josh Franchise and the boys, flinging it around, dancing in the end zone, making the opposing defense play chase all over the field.
Instead, you may sum up the Bucs' opening statement this way:
And furthermore, thud.
Look, you knew the game was blacked out. You didn't think the offensive game plan was going to be, too.
For most of the day, the Bucs were a misfiring engine, spewing and sputtering and spinning its wheels. They looked slow, they looked out of synch, and they looked as if short yardage was a long distance call.
Remember how dangerous the Bucs looked last year when Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount were charging down the field? Well, they didn't look like that Sunday. For most of the day, they looked like stalled traffic.
"I didn't feel like we were in rhythm all day long," said center Jeff Faine.
"We weren't us today," said tight end Kellen Winslow.
• In the first quarter, the Bucs gained all of 4 yards. Even that total was inflated when, on the final play of the quarter, Freeman hit Earnest Graham for a 3-yard pass on third and 10.
• You could say the Lions stopped Blount, but the Bucs helped. Blount, fresh off of his 1,000-yard season, was a spectator for most of the second half. He had five carries all afternoon, gaining 15 yards, because the Bucs spent much of the second half in the two-minute offense. Why they cannot incorporate one of their best players into their offense remains a mystery.
• The Bucs scored one offensive touchdown all afternoon, and that came with 1:35 left in the game.
• The Bucs started their day offensively on the Lions 21-yard line. Four plays later, they had moved all the way to the 20, a full 36 inches. They kicked a field goal.
• Their running backs combined for 28 yards on 11 carries. Whee.
• Early in the second half, the Bucs ran on second and one. They didn't make it. They ran it again on third and one. They didn't make it.
• Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Bucs went for it on fourth and one at the Detroit 11. They didn't make it.
• As Freeman pointed out, the Bucs didn't get the ball enough. On the other hand, they didn't keep it enough. They had 11 offensive possessions. In six of them, they failed to get a first down.
It's hard to blame the Bucs for trying to put the best possible spin on the disappointment. Hey, you lay an egg, you talk about how great omelettes are, you know. No one expects Tampa Bay to surrender.
But this wasn't a matter of running out of time. This was a matter of running in place.
Here's a number for you. The Bucs ended up with 313 yards. That doesn't sound that bad, does it? On the other hand, more than a third came on drives when Detroit had a two-score lead. The Bucs went 67 yards for a field goal when Detroit led 20-10, and they went 59 when Detroit was ahead 27-13. It is fair to wonder how much softer the Lions' secondary might have been playing.
If this season is going to be successful, if the Bucs are going to be contenders, they cannot play this way. They need a little more imagination. They need a little more explosion. A first down in a first quarter shouldn't be too much to ask. Nor should a second touchdown.
Granted, it was only one loss. You are going to hear that a few dozen times this week. And it's true. A bad day doesn't always mean a bad season is going to follow.
On the other hand, it's hard to see the Bucs as a team on the move as long as the offense is standing still.