Bucs offense misses the points, as usual
Poor Tampa Bay. Here the Buccaneers were, running into all of these Saints in the same place, and not one of them was named Jude. Pity. St. Jude, heaven's hopeless cause coordinator, may be the only guy who can help the Bucs right now. That was obvious, yet again, on Sunday afternoon in the Superdome. The unbeaten Saints handled the thoroughly beaten Bucs 23-7 in a manner as conclusive as it was predictable.

The Bucs lost, and what else is new? The offense smelled like Bourbon Street at dawn, and what else is new? The Saints relied on their defense to stay unbeaten, and what else is new? Everything you thought would happen happened. Except for this: The Bucs scored a touchdown. I mean, yippee.

This is what it has come to. For the Bucs, the season has sunk so low that they score one touchdown, and the sideline all but breaks into a chorus of Happy Days Are Here Again. In the locker room after the game, quarterback Chris Chandler kept talking about the Bucs' offense like it was a points machine. Get extra lights for the scoreboard, Hiram, the Bucs are in town!

"A lot of good things happened "A lot of good things happened on offense," Chandler said. "We took one drive in for a touchdown, and we had three or four others than went 30 or 40 yards. On the sidelines, we were talking about breaking their string of 18 straight quarters (without surrendering a touchdown)."

Excuse me, but did I miss about 20 points? Yes, it was a swell touchdown, Chris, but either your standards are too low or everyone else's are too high. Ask the Bucs' defensive players, who quite frankly are beginning to grumble. I mean, the Saints are a good defense and all, but you don't win much in the NFL when you score touchdowns in mono. After all, the Bucs' offensive players did get paid for this week, right?

"It was 16-7, and we had the ball," Chandler said. Right. And then Chandler threw a down-and-out to Saints cornerback Toi Cook. "On third downs, I thought we were better than we had been doing," Chandler said. Uh-huh. The Bucs were 3-of-12. For the season, they're converting less than 30 percent. "The Saints' players were complimenting us a lot out there," Chandler said. "They said `You guys are a lot better than we thought you would be.' " Gee, the Saints must have thought terrible things about the Bucs.

Oh, I don't mean to knock Chandler (considering the way the Saints treated him, with six sacks and about a dozen knockdowns, that would be redundant). I understand that he must be searching, desperately, for something positive in a 1-6 record. The way things are going, finding positives might be tougher than the Saints' defense. Has there ever been a bigger realization just how futile things are for the Bucs? In the locker room, there was no anger, no frustration, no embarrassment. That stage has passed. Instead, the Bucs seemed tired of it all. Well, aren't we all?

The fact is, this offense is so bad that any day now, you expect the defense to sue for non-support. Except that this week, the defense didn't cover itself with glory, either. There is a tendency to give the defense a pass, on account of it not being quite so aromatic as the offense. But the Saints played without their starting QB (Bobby Hebert) and best running back (Craig Heyward), and the Bucs still treated third down like it was Final Jeopardy.

Just a question: I know the Bucs play a lot of zone defense, but isn't 20 yards over the middle a zone? Still, the Saints didn't do much on offense, either. In fact, the only thing offensive that happened all day was when Louisiana gubernatorial candidate David Duke - campaign slogan: "I sure am white" - popped out into the stands and waved to the crowd. Many of them had the good grace to boo.

But the Saints didn't need much pizazz. They jumped to a quick 13-0 lead, then spent the rest of the game working hard at not getting hurt. And, no doubt, marveling at the Bucs' offensive machine. "We showed," Chandler said, "that we can take the ball right down the field and score against the best defense in the NFL."

Yeah, Chris. Once. Ain't it grand?

Gary Shelton, The St.Petersburg Times 1991