Defeat exposes all of the flaws
Gary Shelton, The St.Petersburg Times, published 10 September 2007

This is no way to start. Not with the quarterback on one knee with his wits scattered on the turf beneath him. This is no way to start. Not with the tailback limping toward the locker room with dented ribs.

This is no way to start. Not with squandered opportunities and not with scattered penalties, not with missed blocks and not with uncovered receivers, not with an offense that cannot find the end zone and not with a defense that cannot stop the big play.

A season began painfully for Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Bucs lost to Seattle 20-6, and the further along the game went, the more it felt like reading the opening chapter of a long, depressing novel. Keep the tissues handy. Also, the gauze.

One game in, and Jeff Garcia is dizzy. One game in, and Cadillac Williams is hurting. One game in, and the heat on Jon Gruden has just been turned up a few more degrees.

For the Bucs, the real concern Sunday was not that they lost the game by two touchdowns. It wasn't that they never crossed the goal line. It wasn't even that the longer the teams played, the more Seattle took over.

For the Bucs, the real concern about Sunday's loss was the manner in which every weakness on the roster was exposed along the way. They do not have enough depth. They do not have enough playmakers. From the looks of it, they do not have enough padding.

If you were a bit concerned about the lack of depth before the game, you were probably scared silly 38 minutes into it. That was when Garcia and Williams were injured, six plays apart, and the B team took over. I don't know what you thought when you saw Luke McCown handing off to Earnest Graham in a four-point game, but it probably wasn't the same gleeful "it's my birthday" Seattle's linebackers had.

Given the house-of-cards-on-a-foundation-of-Styrofoam construction of the roster, how is this team ever going to hold up over a 16-game schedule? Williams is going to absorb a lot of punishment this year. From the looks of it, so is Garcia.

So much of Garcia's game is stretching the play to the last second, dodging in and out of danger, that he's bound to take some hits. That was the case in the third period, when he was knocked wobbly by the Seahawks' Leroy Hill.

At least Garcia was able to come back. Williams didn't, which pretty much shut down the ground game. Williams averaged 5 yards a carry Sunday, which isn't bad until you consider 20 of his 60 yards came on a meaningless play at the end of the first half. To be honest, it wasn't as if the Bucs offense was ripping and snarling even with the two of them. If this was a brand new offense, the first observation is this: It needs more extra points.

Oh, the Bucs started well enough. In the first period, they had Seattle on its heels, and twice, they drove close to the goal line. But once there, the playmaking stopped. On a third and 1 at the 17, Garcia was sacked for a 3-yard loss. Field goal. On the next series, the Bucs had a third and 3 at the 14. Again, Garcia was hurried and threw incomplete. Field goal. And the Bucs were done.

"We need to be better than that," Garcia said. "We need to find ways to put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals."

"If we had scored touchdowns there," guard Davin Joseph said, "it could have been a different story."

Of course, if Ali McGraw had lived, you could say the same thing about Love Story. Six points isn't going to win very often in the NFL. After the field goals, the offense dried up. The Bucs had nine more series. They picked up more than two first downs on only one and didn't make a play longer than 11 yards besides Williams' run.

As a season begins, that seems to be a problem in need of addressing. Besides Joey Galloway and Williams, who scares the opposition on this team? When the question is third and 6, what is the answer? As for the defense? Last year, the biggest problem was that it gave up too many big plays. Sunday? Ditto.

In other words, there are concerns. True, it's only one game, and Seattle is pretty good. On the other hand, the Saints and Rams and Panthers and Colts are pretty good, too, and that's only the schedule for the next month.

It's a tough way to start. Unless the Bucs play better than this, it's going to be an early finish.