Bucs Offense Looks Like A Bloody Mess
Focus on Jeff Garcia's blood-caked face as he trudged from the field three minutes from the finish of a 41-24 loss to San Diego on Sunday. When the eulogy is written for what could be an epic collapse by the Buccaneers, it will at least be easy to choose the iconic image.

"I've had better days," Garcia said slowly when he emerged afterward, the gash on the bridge of his nose covered by a wide bandage. Ugly as that looked, the game looked worse.

There were many pewter culprits in the Bucs' third consecutive loss, starting with a defense that was scorched by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers for four touchdown passes. As the afternoon unfolded, though, it looked like Rivers was using the whole field while Garcia appeared to only use whatever piece of turf Antonio Bryant occupied at that particular moment.

The limits of this team become more apparent every week. More and more, the Bucs have become a two-man team on offense. They have no ground game to speak of since Earnest Graham got hurt, and it seems that the Bucs go nowhere at all unless Bryant winds up with the ball.

He caught six more passes Sunday for 127 yards and a 71-yard touchdown. It is the third consecutive week he has passed 100 receiving yards, which you'd think would open things up for the rest of the offense. It hasn't. No other receiver has stepped up, and Garcia - operating on a bad wheel - was the Bucs' leading rusher. "It just didn't feel like we had enough spunk to outlast the Chargers today," Bryant said.

They don't lack spunk. They do lack weapons and balance. Even if they make the playoffs, does anyone think this team is capable of going on the road and winning? Jon Gruden even figured out a way to get Joey Galloway on the field with Bryant at the same time Sunday and it didn't make a bit of difference.

You can argue they scored 24 points (against a porous San Diego defense) and that should be enough. It would have been in years gone by. With the defense in free fall though, it puts more pressure on the offense to keep pace. We saw what happened.

After San Diego went ahead 28-24 on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bucs managed just four first downs the rest of the way in four possessions - one by penalty - and Antoine Cason's 59-yard touchdown return of a Garcia interception put the game away.

"It was one of those games where offensively we needed to maintain the pressure, maintain drives," Garcia said glumly. "Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter we killed ourselves with a couple of turnovers and not doing enough to help this team win."

Maybe they didn't do enough because on offense they don't have enough. They've got a top receiver, a quarterback who tries to make plays on 38-year-old legs, and precious little else. They look like a shell of a team that three games ago was 9-3. Garcia's bloody face told the tale. A bloody mess.

Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune 22 December 2008