I only managed to watch about two and a half quarters of the Buccaneers’ game against the Giants. But that really told me all I needed to know. Our offense wasn’t going to score in the red zone, and our defense wasn’t going to stop the Giants enough to make field goals worth a damn.
But I wasn’t all that worked up over it. This wasn’t a game where we kept making stupid mistakes. And it wasn’t a game where we were so clearly outmatched it was over by the second quarter. This was simply a matter of us playing a team that was just better than we were. Not enough to kill us, but enough to handle us. The NFL likes to say “any given Sunday.” Well, this Sunday was not given to us.
This team looked like what it is : a developing team that’s still learning how to deal with opportunity. You get turnovers, you need to score touchdowns. You get in the red zone, you need to score touchdowns. You get perfect passes floated to you, you need to catch them. This wasn’t a team that couldn’t play. It was a team that doubted it was good enough to be in the game.
Oh, there are problems. Gerald McCoy needs to get off that milk carton he’s found himself on and right quick for the paycheck he’s earning. The running game kind of vanished. And Mike Evans dropped way too many of those perfect passes lobbed his way. I also feel like the team still gets kind of conservative in the red zone, like they don’t want to screw up the sure three, or, maybe more so, they don’t want to put Jameis Winston in a position to make a mistake. Well, the first part only works if you have the defense to make field goals stand, and this ain’t the 1999 Bucs out there. And the second part, well, Winston’s a rookie. Let him make mistakes. Let him learn. And he just might surprise you by not making those mistakes at all.
It’s funny, last week I wasn’t as excited about a win as I should have been, and now this week I’m not as ticked about a loss. It could just be the final dashing of any lingering hopes with our record dipping to 3-5. There’s a certain serenity that comes with knowing what you are by the midpoint of the season. No jangled nerves of a playoff race. Granted, it does mean eight more games that don’t mean much, but, after the angst of the first half of the season, I kind of feel like this is us working on a rough draft of a team that might actually be good one day.
Just not this Sunday.