For most of Tampa Bay, Monday dawned a picture-perfect cloudless day. Skies were a brilliant blue. But around One Buc Place, the blues took on a slightly different, darker hue. A day after the Bucs' 41-10 disaster in San Diego, storm warnings were issued wherever Tampa Bay coach Ray Perkins wandered.
Keeping his answers snappy and to the point, Perkins met with the media Monday afternoon, clearly trying to lay to rest his club's worst loss in exactly one year. The Chargers buried the Bucs, but could the Bucs bury the Chargers?
Not exactly. To wit:
"No," said Perkins, when asked to assess his 4-4 Bucs at 1990's midseason. "We're going to get ready for Chicago. I'm not in an assessing mood. I'm in a mad mood. (The loss) is something we've got to forget. Unless we want to get our a-- really creamed this week."
Then, almost in the same breath, Perkins added: "But you don't ever forget you got your a-- kicked. I don't think. Not if it hurts you any. And if it didn't hurt you, then something's wrong. I saw quite a bit (of hurt) in the locker room. Yeah, it's not any fun. At all."
The only ones who had a fun day Sunday were the Chargers, benefactors of seven Bucs turnovers (four interceptions, three fumbles lost). Throw in Tampa Bay's four sacks allowed, 38-yard rushing performance, measly eight first downs, and a season-low 157 total yards, and it was easy to see how San Diego (3-5) handed the Bucs their worst loss since an eighth-week 56-23 pasting at Cincinnati in 1989.
"It was a travesty," Perkins said. "A comedy of errors. Little breakdowns here, little breakdowns there. They're driving me crazy.
"In the first half we couldn't get anything going offensively and we turned the ball over a couple times. Defensively we couldn't stop them on third down. Then I really thought we'd come out in the second half and turn things around. Defensively we started playing better, but offensively we never could muster a drive and get it into the end zone."
As for the man at the wheel of that ineffective offense, Perkins went easy on Bucs backup Chris Chandler, who got his first start in place of injured starter Vinny Testaverde. Hurried or harassed by the
Chargers' ferocious front all day long, Chandler was 13-of-26 for 148 yards and four interceptions. Afterward, he admitted the San Diego rush had rendered him "a little gun-shy."
"Chris Chandler did some things well," Perkins said. "He did some things well under pressure. And he did a few things not so well. It doesn't surprise me him being honest about it either. That's what a lot of players can't be (honest). He can. But still that game doesn't tarnish my confidence in Chris Chandler one iota. He wasn't the only one that didn't play well."
Spurred by three losses in the past four weeks, Perkins hinted at lineup changes Monday but got specific only in the case of a foregone conclusion _ the return of a rested Testaverde in time for the Bears annual visit. For the answers to Tampa Bay's woes, whatever they may be, the Bucs don't have to look far, Perkins said.
"All we can do is keep doing what we've been doing and try to do things better or try to look for ways to help a player that might need a little bit of help," he said. "But not panic by any means. The biggest thing that has got to turn the team around is the team. The staff and the team. It's just a matter of everybody really working and doing their job."