Ugly or not, the win is all that matters
The Buccaneers haven't had a lot of days like this one. I can't think of many games where they made enough mistakes to lose twice and looked essentially hopeless, only to have head coach Raheem Morris proclaim at the victorious end, "We're the best team in the NFC. Yeah, I said it."
Yeah, he did. And no, they're not.
The Bucs are 4-2, though, after beating the St. Louis Rams 18-17 here Sunday, so they have an effective comeback for anything harpies like me might say about how they got there. That's more wins than they had all last season and even if you think it's a mirage, you have to give them a nod for overcoming adversity.
Even if it often is self-inflicted. They had 92 yards in penalties but it didn't matter. The fact they were gouged again on the ground – 110 yards by Steven Jackson, 161 overall by the Rams – didn't matter.
They fell behind by two touchdowns. So what?
And in an extraordinary pratfall, they turned a first down at the Rams' 6 yard line into second-and-goal at the 35. "It's like, what happened here?" quarterback Josh Freeman said.
Here's what happened: offensive pass interference, then offensive holding, and then a sack of Freeman. Didn't matter.
"That speaks to our resiliency," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "There are a lot of variables in this game that you can't control and throwing yellow flags is one of them. All you can do is deal with the situation and make the best of it. I'm not surprised. We have a lot of guys who don't like to lose, a lot of guys who like coming to work and competing to be great. It shows in (receiver) Mike Williams, it definitely shows in 5 (Freeman)."
They wouldn't have won this game a year ago, probably wouldn't have even been close. Of course, at this point last season they hadn't beaten anyone. How they've gotten to four wins now is the least of their concerns. "There's no pressure on this team, ever," Barber said. "You guys have no expectations for us."
Guilty as charged. I stumble to proclaim them a playoff contender, but as we near the midpoint of the season they have a better record than most anyone would have dreamed and you have to hand them that much. Teams are judged by how many games they win.
These Bucs have some moxie. Freeman was in charge of another fourth-quarter comeback, his fifth in seven wins as a starter.
Williams, the rookie receiver, made a huge catch-and-run late in the game to put the Bucs at the Rams 1-yard line. Another rookie, running back LeGarrette Blount, was an eye-opener with 72 on 11 carries, mostly in the second half. He would have been over 100 yards, but a 46-yard pickup in the fourth quarter was wiped out by a penalty on tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
Add to that a defense that shut out the Rams in the final two quarters. Pretty good stuff. "It always boils down to execution," Morris said. "We have to play smart. We didn't play (smart) in the first half and got all the penalties. We still got penalties in the second half but we were able to overcome some of them.
"We have to play fast, we have to play hard, and that's the two things you always get from us. You always get that. And then you have to play consistent."
You don't always get that. We didn't get it Sunday. For two quarters the Bucs were about as bad as can be as they fell behind 17-3. Actually, they were boring and that's worse than bad.
We've seen it before with this team, though. They hang around, grind out a little something, make a play or two, and the next thing you know Freeman has the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win.
If we have to keep talking about how they won a game that logic says they shouldn't have, maybe it's time to shift the focus somewhere else.
So with that, we reprise what Morris said. Their record isn't the best in the NFC, or even the NFC South, but there are three teams in the conference with only two losses and they are one of them. We get his point.
So, on the subject of what Raheem proclaimed, how say you, Ronde Barber? "Our record speaks to that, doesn't it?" he said.
Yeah it does. And with November coming up fast, the record is all that matters.
|About the writer|
Joe Henderson writes a regular Sunday column for The Tampa Tribune for many years although during the NFL season, turns his attentions to the Buccaneers and often writes gameday features for the paper and TBO.com.