Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Same old Bucs lose winnable game

TAMPA — Can't happen. Just can't happen.

If the Bucs have any designs on doing anything this season, they can't lose like they did Sunday. You can't lose to a team like the Rams. You can't lose a game like this.

I know this is the NFL. Any given Sunday and all that stuff. I get it. Any team is capable of beating any other team.

But, come on, you lose to the Rams? In the home opener? The Rams?

If the Bucs can't win this game, which games will they win?

Same ol' Bucs. You can't help but wonder if that's true, that another lost season is in store. Even the man in charge recognizes something is wrong, something is missing.

"There's something in our culture," coach Dirk Koetter said. "I wish I could grab it. I've been on teams that had it, and you don't want to let it go. When you don't have it, it's hard to figure out what it is."

The Bucs clearly don't have it. Games like Sunday's prove it. That's a game the Bucs should have won, yet no one is surprised they lost it, right? That's kind of what they manage to do: take winnable games and somehow louse them up.

"There's something in our culture," Koetter repeated. "It's my job to fix it."

Give Koetter credit for taking full responsibility, although this goes well beyond the head coach.

"The lesson our team needs to learn is that every week is a battle," he said. "It doesn't matter who the other team is. Our culture is not where it needs to be. That starts with me. I'm the head of that. I'm putting that squarely on my shoulders."

Sunday was a perfect example of a team that still manages to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory. Tampa Bay was up 20-10 at one point. That's when you step on an underdog's throat. That's when you take a team like the Rams and stomp on it, make it quit.

But the Bucs let the Rams hang around and hang around until the Rams finally decided to say, "Okay, you don't want it? We'll take it."

And that's what they did. They took it. All the Bucs could do was watch. Even an hour-plus weather delay couldn't shake the Bucs out of their funk. All the delay did was push back the inevitable.

This one is going to leave a mark.

This was the Rams, for crying out loud. This was a layup. This was a gimme putt. This was a batting practice fastball right down the middle.

And the Bucs blew it. They got the yips. They swung and missed.

The Rams came into the game without a touchdown this season. They had to fly cross-country, which is like kryptonite for most teams. Yet they rolled into Raymond James Stadium and hung 37 points on the Bucs.

37!

One touchdown came on a fumble return. Another was set up by an interception. Still, the rest of the points were the result of a Rams offense that suddenly looked like a throwback to the Greatest Show on Turf days.

The Rams moved the ball up and down on a defense that was supposed to be fixed, a defense that wasn't supposed to give up big plays like it did last season. Turns out, Mike Smith's defense looks a lot like Lovie Smith's.

The Bucs defense turned the great Case Keenum (yes, that's sarcasm you hear) into Kurt Warner.

"If we don't stop teams from scoring," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said, "we're not going to win."

What happened to this new-and-improved defense with a new-and-improved secondary? Keenum, sacked only once all day — and that was after he held the ball for like 20 minutes — torched the Bucs for several big plays.

It wasn't just the Tampa Bay defense. The offense mismanaged the clock about as badly as you can in the final minute. And, oh, until Doug Martin comes back, there likely won't be much of a running game.

Heck, even the kicking continues to be a nightmare as second-round pick Robert Aguayo missed an extra point and an easy field goal that left the Bucs chasing those points all afternoon. He is contributing to losses, and he hasn't even been asked to make a winning kick yet.

Geez Louise, three games in and this already feels like a season on the brink of falling off the cliff.

The lone hope the Bucs have is that the NFL can be downright wacky. Who saw Buffalo blowing out Arizona on Sunday or the Eagles waxing the Steelers by 31 points?

"It's a week-to-week league," McCoy said. "And we've got to be up every week."

Sunday was a bad loss. The Bucs blew a game they should have won and lost to a Rams team that isn't all that good.

Up next? The undefeated and defending Super Bowl champion Broncos.

Good luck with that.

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