Bucs fall to 0-5 with loss to Eagles
The large, boisterous crowd of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans that gathered around the tunnel that leads from the Raymond James Stadium field to the Bucs locker room was still showing its support late Sunday afternoon. Even in the wake of the Bucs’ 31-20 loss to the Eagles, their fifth straight game without a win this season, the fans applauded and cheered as one player after another approached and slowly disappeared into the tunnel. Then the mob caught sight of Bucs coach Greg Schiano and turned angry.
“Fire the coach,’’ screamed one. “Get rid of Schiano,’’ shouted another. “You stink, Schiano,’’ hollered a third.
And those were just the insults fit for print in a family newspaper. Less than an hour after running through that gauntlet of harangues, Schiano claimed to have not heard any of the condemnations thrown his way, though he says he understands the fans’ frustration. “We’ll get this done in one game and we’ll get that done in another game, but we’re not getting it all together in any one game, and that may frustrate some,’’ Schiano said. “But we’ll get over this hump. We’ll start winning.’’
It’s quite a hump the Bucs are trying to clear. Going back to last season, they have lost 10 of their past 11 games under Schiano. And Sunday there were signs of regression on what has been the most consistent side of the ball. After allowing a total of 15 “big plays” (defined as passes of 20 yards or more and runs of 10 yards or more) through four games this year, the Bucs defense gave up six big plays to the Eagles.
The way those big plays developed was even more disconcerting. The Bucs spend an entire period of each practice working on tackling fundamentals, but lapses in that area helped turn several small plays into back-breakers. “Missing tackles, that’s not what we do,’’ Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We do a tackle circuit every day to prevent stuff like that from happening, so those circuits are going to get a little more serious now. We haven’t given up many big plays like we did today. And the crazy thing about it is, most of their big plays came on screens. Just screens. So, we definitely have to tackle better.’’
They have to cover better, too. And that includes cornerback Darrelle Revis. The four-time Pro Bowler let Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson get away from him on what proved to be a 12-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Revis also allowed a red-zone score on what proved to be the winning touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald two weeks ago in a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals. “I own up to my touchdowns, which usually a lot of them aren’t scored on me,’’ Revis said. “But in the past two weeks I have let up some touchdowns, and that’s on me. I have to do a better job.’’
Revis isn’t alone, of course. With the Bucs holding a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter, rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks let Eagles wideout Riley Cooper get behind him for a 47-yard touchdown catch. “We were letting balls go over our heads today, and that’s something we didn’t do the first four games,’’ Schiano said. “They’re a good offense, they’re going to get their yards. But you have to avoid giving up the explosive plays. And like I said, we’ve been doing that. What we’ve been able to do is make people go the long, hard way by playing sound and solid (defense), but today we had a couple go over our head and it changed the whole complexion of the game.’’
Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles, starting for injured Michael Vick, threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns while posting a 133.3 passer rating. Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, in his second pro start, completed 26 of 43 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, but for the second time in as many starts had a game-altering interception. Three plays into the second half, after the Bucs gained 42 yards on their first two plays, Glennon tried to drill a pass into the arms of Tiquan Underwood. But Underwood cut the route short and cornerback Bradley Fletcher snatched it away.
That gave the Eagles the ball at their 34-yard line, and from there they quickly drove downfield, traversing the remaining 66 yards in five plays, the last of which was Cooper’s 47-yard touchdown that gave Philadelphia a 21-17 lead. The Bucs also were whistled for four holding penalties, and by adding the 40 penalty yards to the 36 yards of gains that were wiped out by the flags, the Bucs lost 76 yards on those plays.
“That’s a big swing there, and it’s hard to have that and still win games,’’ Schiano said. “If you do it once, maybe, but if you do it four times ... And that’s on me, because for some reason it either hasn’t gotten through or it hasn’t been coached well enough or the defense was in an advantageous position against our player. What it was I don’t know, but I know we have to examine the video and we have to get it corrected and we have to do it quickly.’’
Time is of the essence. The season is more than a quarter gone, and any hope of making the playoffs, which is something the Bucs had visions of when this season began, has just about faded away. And while the fans have clearly become frustrated with the disappointing results, most of the players in the Bucs locker room remain resolute and hopeful a turnaround is on the horizon.
“We’re in the spot that we’re in right now for a reason, and we just have to figure out a way to dig ourselves out of the hole,’’ Revis said. “The hole is deep, but we can climb back up out of it. It’s still the first half of the season, so there’s still a lot of football to be played this year, and that means there are still a lot of things that we can accomplish and a lot more things we can still achieve.’’
At this point, winning a game would be an achievement.