JR: Gary, I don't want to say the Bucs have had tough luck, but they're tearing muscles I don't even have anymore. Is a Faine-less, Talib-less, Joseph-less and Grimm-less team capable of a playoff drive?
GS: Priceless. I don't mean your comment. I mean they're also without Brian Price. As for your question about the playoffs, I think I'm going to channel Jim Mora and shriek "playoffs?" nine times like a parrot then say, "They just have to win a game." Right now, it feels like a very long time since the Bucs have won.
JR: Is this the point where you start singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot? Dang, you sound morose. The Bucs lost two games by a combined 11 points to teams heading to the postseason. Granted, it'd be nice if the Bucs could beat someone bigger than a welterweight, but I still think they have a little fight left.
GS: Hey, I've said all along that you have to beat the other guy in the ring. It doesn't matter what he weighs. But if this team has improved, and it has, then it ought to be disappointed in losing back-to-back games. Especially when it had a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in one of them.
JR: I'll grant you that. I still think Atlanta is a better team than Tampa Bay, but the Bucs should have won that game. And they would have if their quarterback had played better. Which, unfortunately, is the second game in a row that you could say that. Josh Freeman looked so good earlier this season, I think we sometimes forget that he's still a work in progress.
GS: We also forget he's 22 years old, and he's playing behind a patchwork offensive line and throwing to rookie receivers who don't always run the sharpest of patterns. But like his team, Freeman has shown enough progress that it isn't too much to expect more of it. And for the player and the team, it's unwise to try to think of the next four games as one entity. The Bucs need to beat the Redskins and forget about the playoffs. After all, if they lose this one, they're pretty much done.
JR: When you go all one-game-at-a-time on me, you sort of remind me of Mike Holmgren. Minus a few million dollars.
GS: That's a shame, because the money really is Mike's best feature. And speaking of a silly amount of money, here's a question for you. If the Bucs had been successful in their pursuit of Fat Albert Haynesworth, would it have worked out any better here than it did in Washington?
JR: Can't imagine that it would have. I know a lot of people are jumping Mike Shanahan, and maybe he could have handled things better. But Haynesworth has proved he has no character or integrity. He feels no responsibility to his employer, his teammates or his own dignity. And that would be just as true in Tampa Bay as it is in Washington.
GS: If I were a Glazer, I would certainly exhale loudly. But circumstances do make a difference, and I wonder if Raheem Morris and Todd Wash might have made a difference. A lot of fruit seems to rot in Washington, as they say. This isn't the first time a big contract has ruined a guy. Heck, you used to be a much funnier guy before you made $12.75 a week.
JR: We all have our price. So tell me: Do the Bucs stop the bleeding today? Or do they lose because of all the blood already shed in the starting lineup?
GS: They win. They win because they have impact players such as Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams. They win because they have played well on the road. They win because the defensive front is playing better. Mostly, they win to ruin Bruce Allen's day.
JR: If that's the battle cry, they're going to have to suspend that "no cheering in the press box" rule.
GS: You don't miss those glorious days of Bucco Bruce?
JR: I'd be lying if I said I did. And Bruce is a man who can appreciate that.