TAMPA — It was football weather, cool, crisp, a day for the Bucs and their fans. That explains the crowd. Stow the zinc oxide. Where's my muff?
Oh, and break out the record book.
For the 28th time in their 42-year history, the Bucs are losers. They secured their ninth loss of 2017 by dropping one to the Lions, 24-21. Hard Knocks was long ago replaced by harder reality, and the ninth loss clinched it, despite a roaring comeback, despite Leonard Wester, touchdown machine, plus five turnovers and rumors of a troubled relationship between quarterback Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter.
Welcome to Ice Station Glazer.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on GameDay Morning that the relationship between quarterback Winston and Koetter is "not in a good place." Who knows where this one came from, but the guess is that it has legs, only we don't know whose legs.
It's par for the course in disaster seasons. Is someone trying to save his job? Wouldn't it be great if they were all angry at the offense, which has been awful most of the season? Winston led a tying drive, but also threw two picks and fumbled. Koetter constructed a two-minute offense, only there were two minutes left when he was done. Can we just forget the final three games and just have rumors the rest of the way? Grade: F
YOU CAN'T STOP LEONARD WESTER. YOU CAN ONLY HOPE TO CONTAIN HIM.
Here's to Bucs offensive tackle (eligible) Leonard Wester, who made his first NFL catch and touchdown to help tie the game at 21-21. Winston found Wester alone in the end zone. Wester looked every bit the hero. The Bucs defense, motivated beyond belief, then gave up the winning Detroit drive. Grade: A
ILLEGAL USE OF 10 MINUTES OUT OF ALL OUR LIVES
Really? It took all that time to figure out that O.J. Howard caught the ball and was not defenseless when he fumbled after being hit by Detroit's Quandre Diggs? People at home saw the replay 106 more times than anyone in the stands at Raymond James, which was an abomination. Those rascal zebras eventually corrected themselves and gave Detroit the ball. Meanwhile, you finished your Christmas shopping. And I know who gets the binoculars. Grade: F
YOU'RE OUT, JAMEIS
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David, not Winston, delivered the pregame speech. Fingers never touched his mouth. Well done. Grade: B
IMAGINE IF HE'D REALLY BEEN HURT
Lions quarterback Matt Stafford came into Sunday's game with a bruised hand from last week's game at Baltimore. Stafford threw two interceptions and was limited to 36-44 passing for 381 yards. Never overestimate the world's most overwhelmed secondary, even with Brent Grimes and Robert McClain picking off passes. Grade: F.
Howard is a silver lining for this Bucs season. He caught another touchdown Sunday. I don't know who'll be here next season, except for him. He's a keeper. Grade: A
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY SEWER
Here, back together on stage for the first time, let's have a big hand for all the other losing Bucs seasons: 0-14, 2-12, 5-11, 5-10-1, 2-14, 6-10, 2-14, 2-14, 4-11, 5-11, 5-11, 6-10, 3-13, 5-11, 5-11, 6-10, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9, 5-11, 4-12, 3-13, 4-12, 7-9, 4-12, 2-14, 6-10. Grade: F
FACE OF A SEASON
That roughing the passer the passer penalty, for no good reason, shows just how undisciplined these Bucs are. It's just the kind of clown move that reflects on coaching. No discipline on the field. Grade: F
FACE OF A SEASON, II
You couldn't miss the emotions on the face of Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy when he left the game in the second quarter because of a shoulder/biceps injury. McCoy has done all he could this season, and might yet make another Pro Bowl. He will miss the playoffs again. It has been eight seasons. That might McCoy's ultimate legacy in the game: Didn't make playoffs. But watching him being consoled by teammates and coaches, with him nearly in tears, made you realize that no matter what, the man cares. A lot of these men do. Grade: A