Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Bucs play like pretenders in 30-24 overtime loss

TAMPA — And this is why the Bucs remain pretenders instead of contenders.

This was an awful loss. Just awful. Pathetic.

Talk all you want about how hard they played and how close they came and bad calls and unlucky breaks and how good the other guy is — and the Bucs dug deep into their bag of excuses to say all of those things Sunday.

This was a loss that announces to everyone that you're not ready to be taken seriously.

Want to know the real reason for the Bucs' 30-24 overtime loss to Oakland on Sunday? They aren't good enough.

Forget that it was a close game. Forget that it was entertaining in a so-bad-that-it's-good, like-watching-the-movie-Cocktail kind of way. Don't start with how the Bucs took a Raiders team that is now 6-2 to overtime.

Save the glass-half-full junk for peewee football where they hand out snow cones for effort. Here where the big boys play — the National Football League — all that counts are actual victories. Failure to get them, especially when they are there for the taking, can only be viewed as failure.

On Sunday, the Bucs failed.

They are a mediocre, at best, football team. Their 3-4 record says so. So does their play.

They can't stop a decent offense. They have no pass rush. They have no depth. They need to check the warranty on their second-round kicker because he might be a lemon. And, most troubling, the so-called franchise quarterback played like dog dirt Sunday.

As you read this, Jameis Winston just overthrew another open receiver.

"Not precise," Winston said.

Not precise? If Winston grilled burgers like he throws football, we'd all be ordering pizzas right now.

He deserves a good chunk of the blame for Sunday's loss. On three crucial possessions — one at the end of regulation and two in overtime — all he had to do was get the team close enough to kick a field goal. The Bucs couldn't muster a first down.

At times it felt like the Raiders wanted Tampa Bay to win. The Raiders had an NFL-record 23 penalties for 200 yards. Their all-world kicker, stunningly, missed two makeable field goals that would've won the game.

How do you lose a game like that? Ask the Bucs, because they found a way.

"We had a chance," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We were right there against a good team. … (But) there's plenty there that we got to fix."

Plenty to fix and little time to fix it. This is a short week. The first-place Falcons come to Raymond James Stadium on Thursday in what should have been a showdown for the lead in the NFC South.

That's right. The Bucs should be 4-3, coming off three straight victories and their first home victory of the season.

Instead? They are 3-4, still winless at home.

"We're a long way from being done," Koetter said. "I'm hurting right now, but we're not even to the halfway point. I'm disappointed that we lost, but I'm proud of how we competed."

Competed hard but still didn't win. Still couldn't stop the other quarterback from throwing for 513 yards. Still having trouble having their quarterback put together meaningful drives at crucial times on a consistent basis.

Still playing like a pretender.

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