Believe or not, I’m not as upset about this game as you might think. Part of that is because, certain the Bucs were about to get buried once the Saints scored 28 unanswered points, I sort of tuned out of the game and played Diablo III. Last year, this team would have rolled over and died once the momentum shifted like that. But they hung in there, and had a chance to send the game to overtime on the final play. Granted, a complete defensive breakdown and a maddening inability to score from the one-yard line put the Bucs in that position, but there’s definitely no quit in this team. Through six games, they’ve only been outscored by a total of twelve points. I was used to seeing them give that up in the first quarter. So while the record may not indicate it, the team is improving. They’re not the easy W they were a year ago.
And the breakdowns all seem correctable. I don’t think we’ll see LeGarrette Blount dive up the middle on three straight plays at the goal line anymore, for instance. I’m hoping the next time the Bucs play the Saints, any formations calling for a three-man rush are thrown away. And I doubt the opposition can count on that fluke of a touchdown that Joe Morgan scored (although he did burn the coverage pretty badly). Bottom line is, there’s not that air of futile ineptitude that tarnished so many games last season. I’m not going into games expecting a loss. I’m not any happier when they do lose, but it doesn’t feel hopeless.
I also think Greg Schiano is learning along with his team. I know some people are giving him grief for his style, but I’m willing to cut him a little slack. There’s no definitive handbook for how to make the transition from college to the pros. As long as he’s willing to adapt — and there’s been no indication he’s not — he can keep that hard-nosed attitude while getting used to coaching in the NFL. He’s been worth it solely for the completely reversal in demeanor in this team. They give a damn, something you couldn’t say last year.
Now there’s a really short turnaround for the Thursday night game in Minnesota. The Bucs put in a lot of effort on Sunday, and I have a feeling the short week and this being an away game might be setting them up for a letdown. I hope Schiano kicks them in the ass a little to keep that from happening, but if it does, I won’t be too inclined to panic. This is a season of learning to walk again after the Bucs could barely even crawl their way through the 2011 season. I’m prepared for some stumbles.