The Tampa Bay Bucs may be the team of the '90s. Nineteen-ninety's record, that is.
Already wary of duplicating the collapse of two season ago, coach Sam Wyche said Monday that his first Tampa Bay team might fare no better than equaling the 6-10 record of the '90 Bucs in the final year under Ray Perkins.
In that season, Tampa Bay fell to heavy underdog Dallas at home, beginning a six-game losing streak that eventually cost Perkins his job with three weeks left in the season.
Wyche's forecast Monday seemed to lower expectations for a Bucs team that appeared on the verge of its second-best start in franchise history before losing 24-14 to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
"I think we could come out of this thing with a record similar to the '90 season," said Wyche, who was reminded that team went 6-10.
"I don't think it was too bad. We could come out of this thing with a record that parallels something like that and actually be a better football team.
"You can get better and better and better and not quite be a winner yet."
Wyche pointed to seven dropped passes by the Bucs and the big-play arm of Indianapolis quarterback Jeff George to explain Sunday's loss to the Colts.
But despite heading into the open week with two losses in close games Tampa Bay could have won, Wyche said the mood might be more upbeat if the victories had come in another order.
"I think if we'd all looked at the front of the season, we'd have said, "Okay, a pretty good start would be 3-2,'
" Wyche said. "I told the team if you rearrange the order of the wins and loses, we'd still be 3-2. Same deal, same results. You just feel different. Unfortunately, this game is measured by your last outing and we feel like dog do.
"We're going to be in probably eight or nine more just exactly like this game. If we have a lot of mistakes like we did this time or enough mistakes, we'll lose those games. If we don't, it'll be like Detroit _ we'll win them at the end."
The problem that the Bucs can't seem to shake is losing in the third quarter, when they've been outscored 40-17 this season and have yielded three long scoring drives after halftime in each of the last three games.
To try to correct that malady, Wyche came up with a unique idea: The Bucs will practice halftime this week.
Wyche plans to interrupt workouts for 12 minutes each day this week in hopes of learning what makes his team so lethargic to start the second half.
"We're going to rehearse the halftime," Wyche said. "We're going to have stools set up, the coaches are going to say, "Okay, in the first 30 minutes of practice out there, here's what we did.' At the end of 12 minutes, we're going to go right back out and we're going to go for another half hour. But we're actually going to practice what takes place during that break."
Bucs wide receiver Mark Carrier thinks rehearsing halftime may help the club full time.
"I think it may help," Carrier said. "You never know if it'll solve the problem. Some guys have trouble getting cranked up. It's a new experience for me. But whatever it takes."
Against Indianapolis, Wyche thought it would take a faked field goal on fourth-and-10 with the Bucs trailing 24-14 and five minutes left in the game. On Monday, he defended his decision and admitted surprise that it had become a debated coaching call.
"Do you second-guess that after the game knowing exactly what took place following?" Wyche said. "I can second-guess that as fast as anybody. I still think the play would've worked. I know when we faked the punt in Minnesota for the first down at the end of the half and got the field goal going in at halftime, it was a great play. This one was a stupid play because it didn't work, and that's part of the territory."
Instead of pointing fingers, Wyche said Bucs fans should extend a hand of congratulations to the Colts.
"That was no shocker that that team beat us," Wyche said. "If we play them 10 times, we're probably going to be about a .500 ballclub with them because they're a good football team.
"They made good plays. I don't think this is the kind of game that you blame somebody for losing. I think this is the kind of game that you congratulate some tremendous play by the team that happened to win it."