Bucs’ loss to Bears is the kind of game that can break a team’s will

Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) lands on Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) and Chicago Bears defensive back Kevin Toliver (22) after making a catch during the second half. [Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS]
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) lands on Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) and Chicago Bears defensive back Kevin Toliver (22) after making a catch during the second half. [Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS]
Published September 30 2018
Updated September 30 2018

CHICAGO — This was bad. Really bad. Like so bad that you wonder just how, or even if, a team can recover from something this bad.

The Bucs were beaten so convincingly, so embarrassingly and so thoroughly Sunday that the aftershocks from this kind of loss might be felt for weeks, if not the rest of the season.

This is the kind of game that can break a team's will and leave its confidence shattered into a thousand pieces.

And to think, just seven days ago the Bucs were floating above the clouds as the toast of the NFL.

From cloud nine to 6 feet under.

They Bucs have lost two in a row, and Sunday's 48-10 loss to the Bears — which seemed even worse than the score, if that's possible — makes you question everything you might have thought about them.

Who knows what to make of this game? Was it just a clunker or a sign of things to come? A bad day at the office or a bad football team?

Even coach Dirk Koetter isn't sure.

"We don't know that right now, unfortunately,'' he said. "I'm sure there will be plenty of speculation about that.''

Okay, so let's speculate.

This is not a good football team.

It's a football team with a few really good players, and almost all of them are on the offensive side of the ball. It has a couple of quarterbacks who can sling the ball pretty well, and few guys who are really good at catching those throws. When they are in synch, the Bucs can chew up some yards and put up some points.

But regardless of whether it's Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick playing quarterback, it's apparent that this offense can't do enough to overcome the worst defense in the NFL. And because that defense is awful, that makes for a team that is not very good.

"That's not us,'' guard Demar Dotson said in a somber locker room. "We're a better football team than we showed.''

But are they? It is hard to explain how a team could look so promising beating the Saints and Eagles, and then look so dreadful against the Steelers and Bears. The Bucs didn't even give themselves a chance in their two losses. Add up the past two first halves and the Bucs were outscored 68-13.

Sunday it was Mitchell Trubisky, not Big Ben or Drew Brees or Tom Brady, shredding them for six touchdowns. Mitchell Stinkin' Trubisky, for crying out loud. The last time a Bears quarterback looked this good, George Halas was the coach.

"Right now, yeah, of course,'' Koetter said when asked if this could shake a team's mojo. "There's nothing that anybody can say right now that's going to make me feel too good about anything we're doing. … We have to stew with this for two weeks. It's two weeks till we get to get this taste out of our mouth and see if we can even play with an NFL team.''

He's right. Until the Bucs get back out there and prove it, you have to wonder if they can even stay close to another NFL team, let alone beat one. Their next game is against Atlanta on Oct. 14. If Trubisky can light up the Bucs like that, what the heck is Matt Ryan going to do to them?

Doesn't that make this gut-check time for the Bucs?

"It got to be something,'' receiver DeSean Jackson said. "You can't leave the field with that kind of taste in your mouth. We got to figure it out. The last two weeks definitely don't define us as a team.''

If you're looking for any sliver of hope, here it is: This isn't the first time in the Koetter era that the Bucs have gone on the road early in the season and been pummeled. It happened in 2016 when they lost to Arizona 40-7, and they rallied to go 9-7, including victories against Kansas City, Seattle and Carolina.

Then again, the Bucs got annihilated at Minnesota in Week 3 last season and ended up going 5-11.

We shall see what this loss means, but man, this has an ominous feel to it. Defenses this bad don't fix themselves overnight. And I don't care how good your offense is, you can't expect to put up 30 or 40 points every week.
Koetter used the word "horrific'' several times to describe his team's performance. But, he added, "it is one of 16,'' meaning it's just one game.

It was one really bad game. Bad enough to make you think there are plenty more where that came from.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones.

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