This was by no means a spectacular collapse for this young Bucs team. By the time they were 7-3, they had already more than doubled their win total from last year and made impressive strides at becoming a good team.
However it’s not always what your record is, but how you got there. It is disheartening to lose in surprising fashion. The Bucs had faced 8 teams under .500, and had beaten all 8. This time, a third-string quarterback who took a shot for a separated shoulder suffered in the first half, came out after half time and led Detroit to victory. Forget that the Lions hadn’t won a road game since October 28th, 2007, they are not a bad team. The fact is, Tampa Bay had to win this game.
It’s great to know that your star second-year quarterback who’s on a pace to set a franchise record for fewest INTs, your star running back who’s leading rookies in yards, and your star wide receiver – who leads rookies in yards – are all in place.
All that is nice, but as long as there is hope, the Bucs need to seize the opportunity. Donald Penn is promising a show, asserting “I think our fans have been having treats all year and this is another opportunity for us on another big stage. They’ve got us in the flex schedule and we’re going to put on a show this week.” (Tampa Tribune) This game against the Seahawks is essentially a playoff game between two rebuilding teams.
By losing all 8 of their games by 15 or more points, Seattle does not look like a team that is ready to win a playoff game. Adversely, Tampa Bay is far enough along that they have shown they can compete with the big boys. In each of their games against Atlanta, bad calls have helped decide the outcomes and have proven why in the NFL, you must keep the pedal to the metal. You must account for “stuff happens”. Raheem Morris has second-guessed his team’s mentality of going for the field goal late, rather than a touchdown. “That’s the time you’ve got to fall back and go with your head coach mentality and say, ‘I’ll win this thing with (No.) 5 (Freeman),’ ” Morris said. It’s mistakes like that that will haunt a player or coach’s mind all off-season and might eventually be motivation to do better.
Let’s take a look at the playoff scenarios. For Freeman and company, there is no margin for error. All possibilities start with Tampa winning out. The most logical scenario is them winning out, and Atlanta beating New Orleans. Now, I know New Orleans is the superior team but it’s not by a wide margin and it involves only one thing going the Bucs way.
For the Bucs, they don’t want New Orleans to earn a spot this week, because then they have to hope they don’t climb into a tie at 10-6 with the Giants and Packers, because they would lose the third tiebreaker (passing the first one because they haven’t all played each other, passing the second one because their aren’t enough common opponents), strength of victory.
If New Orleans wins over Atlanta, the Bucs will want to see Green Bay lose at home against the Bears in the last game, and New York to lose both their last games, at Green Bay and Washington.