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Buccaneers Morning After, Week 14: It’s all over. For real this time.

Here’s what happened Sunday and what we’ll be talking about in the week ahead.
The Saints sacked Jameis Winston four times Sunday and hit him 10 times. [Associated Press]
The Saints sacked Jameis Winston four times Sunday and hit him 10 times. [Associated Press]
Published Dec. 10, 2018
Updated Dec. 10, 2018

Good morning.

The Bucs blew an 11-point lead Sunday and lost to the Saints 28-14, meaning we can now return to our regularly scheduled programming. Job speculation, draft talk, self-loathing — ahhhh, it must be Christmastime in Tampa Bay.

It’s time to accept what had been obvious for weeks: The Bucs aren’t going anywhere. They’re 5-8, worse after 13 games than they were in 2015. Ask Lovie Smith how that ended.

Need to take a break from the Bucs? You’re in luck. The best team in hockey has a game in Tampa tonight. Follow Diana C. Nearhos and Nick Kelly for updates on the Lightning, who takes on the Rangers at 7:30.

Storylines

• Jameis Winston’s performance Sunday was about as remarkable as wheat toast. He completed 18 of 38 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns and one meaningless interception in the final seconds of the game. He didn’t play particularly well — he overthrew receivers a handful of times — but he also was under siege for much of the game.

“Jameis was under duress all day,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “Jameis got hit too many times today. You can’t have your quarterback getting hit that many times, whether it’s scrambling, running, four sacks. We can’t get him hit that much.”

• The offensive line remains one of the team’s greatest flaws. Whose fault is that? The general manager? The head coach? The offensive line coach? If I’m ownership, I want to know.

• Speaking of problems that haven’t gone away, the Bucs special teams continue to be below average, and I’m not just talking about the missed field goals and blocked punt Sunday. Special teams might not have as much influence on games as offense and defense, but the fact that we’ve seen little improvement and consistency from these units over the years is unsettling.

• The Saints gained only 3 rushing yards on nine carries in the first half. They gained 97 yards on 21 carries in the second half. The difference? Tackling. The Bucs didn’t miss any in the first half but missed several in the second.

• Bucs rookie running back Ronald Jones played four total snaps on offense. In a league where it’s not uncommon for rookie running backs to contribute right away, even if they went undrafted, Jones’ lack of snaps this deep into the season is troubling. Either Bucs scouts vastly overrated Jones or coaches have failed to develop him. It makes you wonder whether Tampa Bay committed to drafting a running back at No. 38 rather than the best player available.

• With Tampa Bay all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, I doubt we see DeSean Jackson again. Jackson has missed the past two games because of a thumb injury.

• In the past, the Bucs could bemoan the difficulty of the playing in the NFC South. Not so this season. While the Saints are a Super Bowl contender, the Panthers are 6-7 and the Falcons are 4-9.

• The Browns, who went 0-16 last season, have a better record than the Bucs. Inexcusable.

• The Bucs are back on track to land a top 10 pick in the 2019 NFL draft. If the season ended today, they would be picking eighth. The 49ers, Cardinals, Raiders, Falcons and Jets would be picking in the top five.

On tap

• Lunchtime: My weekly AfterMath analysis. tampabay.com/sports

• 2:30 p.m.: Koetter news conference. buccaneers.com

Hard-to-believe stat

14-144

The Saints' all-time win percentage, entering Sunday, when they've trailed at halftime by at least 11 points.

More mind-boggling numbers from the game here.

Things we said

The finger-pointing begins

After watching Ryan Jensen commit two penalties that cost the Bucs 25 yards on one drive in the second quarter, Jameis Winston engaged in a sideline scuffle with his veteran center. Offensive line coach George Warhop then did a better job of protecting the Bucs quarterback than his line did Sunday, stepping in between them. By Rick Stroud.

Thanks for coming. Drive safely. See ya next year.

The Saints’ blocked punt in the third quarter snuffed out all the feel-good vibes of the past couple of weeks. It all but officially eliminated the Bucs from playoff contention. And it put the future of the organization very much in doubt. By Tom Jones.

Three kicks that cost the Bucs

While the Bucs' 28-14 loss to the Saints was one of two very different halves, the momentum changed after three key special teams plays went wrong for Tampa Bay. Cairo Santos, who entered the day with a perfect kicking record in his three games, missed two field-goal attempts. But it was the Saints’ punt block that really turned the game. By Eduardo Encina.

Saints-Bucs report card

A nationwide manhunt is on for the guy who let New Orleans' backup quarterback in clean to block that Bryan Anger punt. But it took more than that for the floodgates to open. There would be no stunner like in the opener in New Orleans. The Bucs fell off the cliff for good in a 28-14 lose-from-ahead embarrassment. By Martin Fennelly.

Newspaper reporters make another low-budget video

Starring Rick Stroud and Eduardo Encina.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.