1. Archive

Shadows come again for Bucs

Published Oct. 18, 2005

We switch our clocks, from Daylight to Standard, but times never really change for the Bucs. Boooo! It's Halloween, and Tampa Bay is back as a great, orange NFL pumpkin. Fruit of their faults.

Twice-dinged by unimposing Dallas, the Bucs in Sunday's rocky horror show would be physically, mentally and emotionally pulverized by AFC West dungeon dweller San Diego.

They're 4-4, fading and forlorn. Upcoming for Tampa Bay is Chicago's raging Bears, following by road wars against New Orleans, San Francisco and Green Bay.

Will the Bucs win again?

At least, I presume, nobody will blame the San Diego mess on Vinny Testaverde. Tampa Bay's quarterback, resting his turf tootsie, watched from Jack Murphy Stadium sidelines.

Chris Chandler got his big quarterbacking chance, and was a four-quarter flop. Intercepted four times, he also fumbled twice, setting the table for 24 San Diego points.

"Definitely the worst game I ever played at any level," said Chandler, who was but a segment of Tampa Bay's mass ineptitude. "After taking some early hits, I got gun-shy."

An honest if beaten man.

"I'm embarrassed," Ray Perkins said, seeing his Bucs trashed 41-10 by the 2-5 Chargers, "and if they're not, they need to get into another profession."

Post mortems by Tampa Bay's coach were brief, and blistering. "I can't get out there and play physical," said the wiry Mississippian who next week turns 49, "but I can get out there and whip somebody's a--. You know, I might have to do that, too."

Suit him up!

If Sunday was the Bucs' midterm final, they get a gigantic F. After an encouraging 3-1 beginning, Tampa Bay has soured to 4-4 against lukewarm opposition.

Sunday was shameful.

Good teams don't get Dallas-double-dipped. Good teams don't get smothered in San Diego. Something thus becomes obvious. September must've been a mirage. Tampa Bay is not a good team.

Are the Bucs even close?

This one is especially hideous because Perkins' flock approached its manly work with the apparent focus, motivation and discipline of Buster Douglas.

Linebacker Broderick Thomas set an immediate downbeat tone, being flagged for holding to keep San Diego's opening drive afloat. Soon, the Chargers led 7-0, and it would be permanent.

Tampa Bay was allowed but one real smile. Trailing 14-0, the Bucs caught San Diego's defense in a wholesale blitz. Chandler flicked a pass to Mark Carrier running free behind the secondary. It went 68 yards, the Bucs jumped for joy. An emotion to be short-lived.

Gary Anderson, the old Charger thunderbolt, caused San Diego no pain upon returning. Running 10 times for 26 yards, and catching no passes, Anderson was a microcosm of mass Tampa Bay ineptitude.

If the Chargers can bully the If the Chargers can bully the Bucs with such ease, what might the Bears do next Sunday at Tampa Stadium? But, of course, Tampa Bay cannot possibly be as rotten as it appeared.

Otherwise, they'd be 0-8.

Against the NFL's weakest quarterback, pudgy Texas Tech redhead Billy Joe Tolliver, the Bucs generated zilch pass rush.

But, to be honest, Tolliver didn't need to pass. San Diego 300-pounders in the offensive line consistently cut gashes in Tampa Bay's defense, allowing running bulls Marion Butts and Rod Bernstine to combine for 148 yards on their 39 carries, and score four touchdowns.

Chandler's lowest moment, of a terrible afternoon, came in the final minute of the first half. Tampa Bay was clinging to the cliff, as the Chargers led 17-7. Testaverde's understudy threw sickeningly toward the left sideline. Former Tampa Bay defensive back Donnie Elder intercepted. Several missed tackles later, Butts was scoring and it'd become a Chargers picnic.

It's halftime of a critical season for the Perkins Administration. Owner Hugh Culverhouse predicted an 11-5 record. Anything poorer than 8-8 should be cause for Culverhouse to do a stern job review.

Tampa Bay's coach said after the 31-point slaughter, "It's got to be something I did, or something I didn't do." But, of course, the Perkins oratory was brief. "You shouldn't open your mouth when you get your a-- kicked like we did."

The quiet is deafening.