When going got tough, Bucs got tight
It was going to be the most improbable win in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. It ended at the wrong end of a comeback. It ended with more of the same, more of the broken record that is 2013, so much that it actually crossed your mind that it bordered on cruelty, that Greg Schiano and his perpetually winless team didn't deserve this.
The Bucs lost to the Seattle Seahawks. They trailed but once, when the winning field goal split the uprights in overtime. For the longest time, they did so very many things right, with such great effort, even as 17-point underdogs, even into the fourth quarter. Out of all that, you get 0-8. Out of all that, you get the Bucs losing, despite being up 21-0 in the first half, 24-7 in the third quarter, and up by 10 in the fourth quarter.
For a good deal of Sunday, this was in no way, shape or form a team that had deserted its head coach. It was a team out to win its first game. They were beating the team with the best record in the NFC, they were beating a team that just doesn't lose at home. They were beating that raucous Seattle crowd, stunning it into silence, or even booing its team.
And then it hit the Bucs that it was really there for the taking — and they curled into a fetal ball. Out of all that, all that good stuff, it was another brick in the wall for Schiano's sputtering tenure, 13 losses in the past 14 games, another one by three points or less — he's 0-7 at those. Bucs rookie Mike James ran for 158 yards, his first 100-yard game since high school. Mike Glennon handled the crowd and completed 17 of 23 passes, two for touchdowns, no turnovers, for a 123.1 quarterback rating.
The Bucs went for it — Schiano went for it. I give him credit for that. How could you not love that onside kick? How do you not fall head over heels for James' Timmy Tebow jump-ball touchdown throw to Tom Crabtree (Tom Crabtree! — from Michael James). Out of all that ... “This is definitely a tough one to swallow,” Glennon said.
For a time, the Bucs were next to perfect on third down. They won the turnover battle, decisively, with two red-zone interceptions off Seattle's Russell Wilson, including a spectacular goal-line play by Keith Tandy (Keith Tandy!) that snuffed a late Seattle drive. Could it be? No, it couldn't.
Out of all that, the Bucs finished as another historical footnote for another team. The Seahawks, in all their history, a history as long as Bucs history, had never come back to win a game after falling behind by more than 20 points. “We lost the game. I'm tired of losing,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We have to stop finding ways to beat ourselves. We just somehow find a way just to not win.”
Out of all that ... “We've got to close out,” Bucs cornerback Darrell Revis said. “... When you have a team down like that, you've got to choke them out. You've got to choke them out. Because great teams come back. Great teams do fight back and they did.”
But it was as if the Bucs came face to face with the enormity of it all — that they could actually win a game — and it was too much for them. They scored three second-half points. Three. With each successive drive in the fourth quarter, it seemed less and less likely they'd do anything at all (no more third-down magic) or even take a chance.
I'm not talking about not going for it on fourth-and-short at midfield late in regulation. I wouldn't have done that, either. That's idiotic. But there's no way around the fact that when the going got tough, the Bucs got tight. Why, for example, is James not in the game on the first play of overtime so the Bucs can try some trickery with Skye Dawson? (Skye Dawson!)
Golden Tate's long punt return was a dagger. So was the inability for them to chase down Wilson. They couldn't choke the other guys out. “Seahawks, man, they just came back and won,” McCoy said. “They showed why they are who they are. Simple as that.” So did the Bucs.