Somehow, defense plays even worse
Gary Shelton, The St.Petersburg Times, published 5 December 2011

Keith McCants played here. Twenty years ago, he lined up alongside Broderick Thomas and Dexter Manley as one of the most forgettable band of bumblers the Bucs have ever had. And they were better than this.

Keith Browner slept here. Back in 1984, he played with Booker Reese and John Holt, and the Bucs didn't recover for years. And those guys were better than this.

Sort through them all, all of the bad defenses and all of the bad players in all of the bad seasons. Sift through the tapes of Eric Curry and Toast Jones and Mike Stensrud and Sabby Piscitelli. And you know what you will find?

Well, this. The bad is turning worse for what is purported to be the defense of the Tampa Bay Bucs, which spent another day chasing another team across the goal line Sunday. It is approaching historic. It is approaching catastrophic.

This time, the Bucs were stampeded by a bad Carolina team 38-19. It didn't matter that the Bucs were playing at home, in a division game, against a rookie quarterback leading a team that won all of two games last year. You could have scattered five speed bumps and three flashing yellow lights and a yield sign, and you could have done a better job slowing down the three-win Panthers.

The Bucs defense is getting worse. Before your eyes, the defense is shrinking and slowing and withering away. The way it is going and this may be crazy talk even the Bucs offense might be able to score on it.

For a quarter of a century, it has not been this bad. Think about that for a minute. The Bucs are on pace to surrender more points per game (27.4) than any Bucs defense since Leeman Bennett left town.

Ray Perkins' teams never gave up this many. Richard Williamson's defense never gave up this much. Sam Wyche's teams never gave up this much. At this pace, the Bucs will give up 438 points this season. Only twice ('85 and '86) have they given up more. Just wondering here, but shouldn't it have been Brian Price who sent Raheem Morris home?

This performance should be below any level of acceptance and beyond any attempt at rational. Three years into a coach's tenure, this should be intolerable. The Bucs cannot tackle, cannot cover and cannot remain disciplined. Yes, they are young. But five minutes ago, wasn't that a good thing? Weren't they young when they jumped to a 3-1 start? Why, yes. Yes, they were.

And yet the Panthers turned Sunday afternoon's game into a track meet. Yeah, yeah, you can talk all you want about Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman missing Sunday's game. But unless Freeman could play linebacker, it wasn't going to help. Not when the Panthers had 11 plays of 19 yards or more. Not when they drove 80 yards or more for a touchdown three times. Not when they rushed for 163 yards.

Now that you mention it, yeah, this was the team that the Bucs beat twice last season. Remember then? "This is a different team," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "We are being reminded of how young we are."

Still, shouldn't the Bucs be better than this? When you add up Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers and Mason Foster and the rest, shouldn't the Bucs be at least mediocre? Put it this way: The last time the Bucs were this bad this late into a season was, well, 2009. After 10 games that year, the Bucs were giving up 29.4 points per game and then they fired Jim Bates as coordinator.

Two years later, perhaps it is time to think about another defensive coordinator other than Morris. Because frankly, it isn't working. Even Morris suggested his team "isn't listening."

Now this assumes that Morris is back as coach, a conversation getting livelier with each loss. Morris says he liked what he is doing, but as bad as the results have been, should it be his choice? Think of it like this: Most head coaches have a defensive coordinator, and most of them are above the Bucs' rating of 30th in the NFL.

To be fair, the defense did respond to Morris down the stretch in 2009, and it had its moments last year. But this isn't working. The tackling isn't getting better. The focus isn't getting better. Ah, let's face it, the defense isn't getting better.

Given the circumstances, it's hard to blame Morris for getting exasperated with Price. It's time for exasperation. And frankly, for explanation. This defense should not be this bad. Once, back in 1986, a Bucs defensive coordinator named Jim Stanley probably said that, too. Then he got fired.