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Lunch Break: Bucs better than their record?
The Buccaneers have lost three of their four games by a combined six points. (USA Today Images)
Things have not gone well in Tampa Bay. Not on any front.
“We struggled to start the season,” Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano admitted during his conference call this week. It was a gross understatement.
The Bucs are last in the NFL in passing yards per game and points per game. They’re second-to-last in total yards per game. They recently cut quarterback Josh Freeman – a former first-round draft pick – in a messy, dramatic, public divorce. Then they replaced Freeman with a rookie, Mike Glennon. Their best defensive player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, was reportedly “irritated” with Schiano’s approach. And they’ve yet to win a game.
Not surprisingly, there has been speculation about whether Schiano’s job is in danger. Schiano left Rutgers to take the Tampa gig last year after the Buccaneers initially showed interest in Chip Kelly.
That’s the situation in Tampa. It’s not good. But if you think the 2-3, first-place Eagles will win in a walk this weekend, Kelly would disagree and urge caution over confidence.
“Put the tape on,” Kelly said, when asked how he guards against potential complacency heading into the Bucs matchup. “That team plays extremely hard. Defensively, they fly around. They haven’t given up many points. And when you look at it – the Saints are undefeated, and they [beat the Bucs] with a field goal right at the end of the game. Every team they’ve played has a winning record. It was a last-second field goal in the Cardinals game. Jets game was a last second-field goal. Look at the tape and see how hard they play.”
You might generally be inclined to dismiss Kelly’s comments as nothing more than a coach using coach speak to laud the opposing team even though the opposing team is 0-4. (Lou Holtz was a master of pumping up competition like No Chance State and Hopeless University when he coached Notre Dame.) In this situation, though, Kelly has a point – particularly about how close the Bucs have come to winning a game. Or several.
Tampa got smacked by 20 points in Week 3 against New England. That was an ugly performance from beginning to end. The Bucs' other three outings (they were on bye last week) were the opposite. They lost by one point to the Saints, two to the Jets and three to the Cardinals – all, as Kelly noted, on late fourth-quarter field goals and all, as Kelly noted, to teams with winning records.
After the Arizona clash, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer looked drained while describing the Bucs as “a very good 0-4 football team.”
“The running back, [Doug] Martin, is outstanding,” Kelly said. “They have some really good receivers. I think Mike Glennon is a good quarterback; we looked at him coming out last year. They have an outstanding offensive line. Defense is good. Special teams is good. You don’t really get caught up when you’re evaluating who’s playing in what’s written, what’s said, all that other stuff. You look at the tape. And when you look at the tape, there’s some really good football players over there."
The Buccaneers' defense has been pretty solid, holding three of their four opponents to 18 points or fewer. Tampa is ninth in rush defense, 13th in points per game allowed and 15th in pass defense. And while the offense has struggled overall – Vincent Jackson, Tampa’s best receiver, is 27th in the NFL in receiving yards per game and he’s yet to find the end zone -- Martin remains a powerful and talented running back. Martin is ninth in the league in rushing, and he factors heavily into the Buccaneers’ offensive plans.
“It helps to have Doug Martin regardless of who’s quarterbacking," Schiano said. "Doug is an excellent player. We’re a team that believes in the run. We’re going to run the football. It’s important we have Doug Martin.”