Troubling Effort Has Everyone Sick To Stomach
Word is the Bucs made one stop on their way to the airport Sunday. They swung through the Centers for Disease Control to drop off the game film. And not a moment too soon. It's spreading, you see. That's 0-2.

An ever-deepening virus devoured more humanity in Sunday's woeful 14-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. If this keeps up, they'll be dusting the season for fingerprints after next Sunday's game with the Panthers.

This was so wretched in excess, so not to be believed, that it wasn't even completely about Chris Simms and the offense, though Simms (four more tips, three more picks) and friends continue to amaze, with the fewest points to start a Bucs season since the 0-14 Bucs of 1976. Talk about dancing with the stars.

But you looked up and watched the defense unable to pull Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn before they had 306 yards rushing, an all-time Bucs worst. So none of this the-defense-played-well guff. You looked up and Matt Bryant, who won both Atlanta games last season with field goals, missing twice in the swirling winds inside the Georgia Dome.

Hey, kids, the blood work on the offense just came in. They found traces of Jeff Bowden.

Jon Gruden was asked if he was contemplating a quarterback change. "I'm not contemplating anything right now except whether or not I should never mind," Gruden said.

Who knows what the man was thinking? Is Brett Favre really available? What about Major Applewhite? Whenever Gruden looked up, his team was doing something wrong, just the wrong thing at the wrong time.

We're sure there's some grousing out there about that penalty called on Ryan Nece that negated Derrick Brooks' interception return for a touchdown. Here's a better idea: Score an offensive touchdown.

Cadillac Williams had 276 yards two games into his rookie season. He has 59 yards this morning. He's a rumor at this point, a spectator who watches as Simms fails to bring the Bucs out of the holes he digs. Simms' quarterback rating is 39.99, but round it off to 40. We like the kid. He threw for 313 yards Sunday, but you wouldn't have known it by the look on his face. Or Gruden's.

The protection wasn't bad. Simms threw some very nice balls. And he made some very bad mistakes. He thinks fate piled on. Simms says he tried to make a "safe" throw, safe and low, to tight end Alex Smith from the Atlanta 3-yard-line early in the second half. Safe and low.

Safe and Low hit off an Atlanta ankle, in the end zone, popped up and was intercepted by Jason Webster. Chris Simms is a great guy, and it's hard not to pull for him, but he might be the only man on the planet right now who can throw a ball into the ground and get it tipped. This thing should have been 35-0 Falcons or something.

It wasn't because the Falcons still have a little Falcons in them and because nutty Falcons coach Jim Mora, in a typical nutty move, decided to start the season with punter Michael Koenen kicking the field goals, too. And his mom would make the costumes and they could use the old barn out back Koenen missed three, had one blocked. Matt Bryant was lightin' his cigars with Koenen's stat sheet.

Bucs still couldn't win. And that gets you 0-2 in this league. It has Jon Gruden contemplating whether or not Never mind. "I think we need to get that first touchdown," Simms said. "That first touchdown will take a big load off our whole offense."

The defense, when it regained consciousness, patted the offense on the head. "They'll do it. They have to do it, or we'll be a bad football team," Ronde Barber said.

That's the Bucs until further notice. And now, just for fun, the 0-2 Panthers come to town. Will the loser next week please turn the light out at the end of the tunnel?

Imagine that, the defending division winner and wild card, on the ropes. Keyshawn won't know whether to laugh or cry. Yup, a couple of 0-2s. "I wouldn't have believed it," Chris Simms said.

There's a lot of that going around.

Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune 18 September 2006