Bucs fans have a right to be upset with Lovie Smith. But it would be foolish not to keep the guy who coached his team to a 24-0 lead in the first half Sunday against the Redskins.
"That football team that played that first half, we're that team," Smith said Monday.
Then again, you can understand why there's no love for the Lovie who presided over the second-biggest collapse in club history in the second half and walked out of FedEx Field with a stinging 31-30 defeat.
"We're also, unfortunately, that team that played in the second half," Smith said.
Believe it or not, the buzzards aren't circling and Smith's seat is not heating up, even after Sunday's horrific tent folding by the Bucs in the nation's capital.
But putting your players in the best position to succeed is what coaching is all about, and at least when it counted most, by his own admission, Smith and his staff failed miserably at that Sunday. The unraveling included blown coverage, failing to cover an onside kick and a horrendous play call on third and goal that prevented a put away touchdown.
A few examples:
• The Bucs led 24-7 when the Redskins prepared to kick off. But inexplicably, the Bucs were not lined up properly. Linebacker Danny Lansanah stood just inside his 40-yard line, about 5-6 yards further back than the rest of the front line on returns. Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins tapped the ball right in Lansanah's direction and Trenton Robinson recovered for Washington after the ball rolled 13 yards.
"We didn't line up properly on that play, I'll just kind of go on that," Smith said. "We didn't execute the way (we're supposed to). It kind of starts with us first as coaches. … It's a great kick whenever you get it. Big play in the game."
• The Bucs had a chance to make it a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter after a 49-yard run by Doug Martin. But two more carries by Martin failed to get the ball in the end zone.
That's when the Bucs replaced Martin with running back Charles Sims, who had not had a carry in the second half. On third and goal from the 1, Sims ran a stretch play outside left tackle. Quarterback Jameis Winston shifted fullback Jorvorskie Lane from the I-formation to an off-set left position. But the Redskins had the Bucs totally out-flanked in that direction, with two players unaccounted for.
The Bucs ran the play anyway and unblocked safety Dashon Goldson tackled Sims for a 2-yard loss. Smith decided to kick the field goal for a six-point lead, when only a touchdown could beat them.
"We would like to have back that sequence," Smith said. "Ideally, no, you shouldn't run the ball when you have (defenders there). The ball should go a different place."
Should Winston have checked to another play? "It wasn't on Jameis or anything like that," Smith said. "It starts with us as coaches. We didn't put the guys in the best position to be successful in that situation."
• The Bucs are tied with Chicago for most points allowed at 29.8 per game. Death, taxes and a slant for a touchdown against the Bucs' defense are the only things guaranteed in life these days.
The Redskins ran the slant on three consecutive plays in the third quarter, the last one with tight end Jordan Reed beating safety D.J. Swearinger for a touchdown. It was Reed who stepped in front of safety Bradley McDougald on a slant route to haul in the winning TD pass.
Rather than play bump coverage, McDougald was several yards off the ball and playing an outside technique. Smith said in that situation, defenders are taught to take away the inside route and force a fade pass to the back of the end zone.
"The slants weren't supposed to happen," he said. "Bad on our part, starting with the coaches, then to the players."
Smith took Sunday's loss harder than any of the other 17 since he arrived in Tampa Bay.
"Today, hey, it's miserable around here," Smith said. "It's a dark place today. But it won't be for long."
That's because the Bucs did a lot of things right Sunday.
"I think we're more along the lines of what we saw in the first half," he said. He'll hope the coaching is, too.
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] and listen from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow @NFLStroud.