TAMPA — Has a weather delay ever been so welcome? You could almost hear what was left of the crowd at Raymond James Stadium saying, "Does this mean we don't have to watch anymore?"
I think some Bucs said that, too.
I mean, coach Dirk Koetter, down 27-7 to the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos but with more than seven minutes left in the game, chose to punt on fourth down just inside the Denver side of the field.
Yes, the Broncos were better, just as the Cardinals were better. But the Bucs made it look even worse.
A couple of Jameis Winston interceptions? On the way. Lousy clock management? Koetter again to the rescue. Mindless decisions that took possible points off the board? Charles Sims, come on down! And a Gerald McCoy injury to boot. Health is becoming an issue for this team. When it rains …
F Yes, the Broncos have a great defense, but it's quite clear that the Bucs are sputtering on offense at all the wrong times. And they don't know how to take care of the football. They are a turnover machine. Two more interceptions from Jameis Winston, who is killing the Bucs with his mistakes. He is pressing. He is trying to do too much. And someone needs to tell him when to go down. Say, when the Broncos have you around the ankles. That's a sure ticket to IR.
The land of general murmurs
B (Half-semester grade) This might have been the best effort of the season from the Bucs pass rush, at least for 30 minutes. They got after Broncos QB Trevor Siemian, sacking him three times in the first 30 minutes, even with DT Gerald McCoy going down with a calf injury in the second quarter. But the rush went way quiet after halftime.
We hear he even cabbed it to the game!
A It's for Aqib. Broncos CB Aqib Talib can't keep his name out of the papers. Jameis Winston and the Bucs were pretty good about getting him in there, too. They failed miserably as the prodigal problem child — and Super Bowl winner — returned to Tampa for his first game since the Bucs gave up on him. He made them pay. Talib picked off two lost Winston passes in the first half. Both led to Denver touchdowns. Police were not called to either scene.
Odyssey of the mind
F We would love to have traveled inside the head of Bucs RB Charles Sims at the moment in the first half that he seemingly decided to try to lateral the football while his ankles were locked up by Broncos LB Von Miller after being stuffed on third down. We would, but we do not own a Hazmat suit. Maybe Jameis Winston was calling to Sims for a lateral. "I just lost it," Sims said. Sims and Winston said they thought the play was over. Good postgame teamwork there. Denver's T.J. Ward popped Sims and the ball popped out and Denver recovered. The Bucs were down just 14-7, and they were already in field-goal range.
Nightmare on Koetter Street 3
D First came a 17-second drive that led to an Arizona touchdown before halftime of the Debacle in the Desert. A week later the Bucs were left deep inside Rams territory with a five-point loss, with a timeout left in Dirk Koetter's pocket. Then came the late first half Sunday. Three and out. An incompletion, WR Vincent Jackson shoved out of bounds after a short reception, then another incompletion. Only 16 seconds used. Punt. Broncos come down, kick a field goal for a 17-7 lead. And why was Winston in there at the end, taking hits? This has to stop.
Tangled up in Red, White and Blue
C First things first: It was not a protest. Flag unfurling is apparently a lost art. And it's like playing defensive back. Someone notices only when you get burned. By the way, you don't have to burn a flag when it touches the ground. We learned that Sunday. An oversized American flag got all turned around and upside down for a moment as it was handled by a well-meaning volunteer crew before the national anthem. No worries. Eventually we counted 50 stars and all 13 stripes. One more thing: WE WON THE RYDER CUP. Everybody is a straight U.S.-A! U.S.-A! student this morning.