The Buccaneers played another thriller on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. That has been pretty much a constant during the first quarter of the season, in which all four of Tampa Bay’s games have been decided by seven points or less, and all four have come down to plays made (or not made) in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, the Bucs have lost three of those four games. The latest one, a 24-22 defeat at the hands of the Washington Redskins, might have been the most painful, not only because the Bucs were at home but because they had the lead with a little less than two minutes to play. As it turned out, the defense was unable to stop Robert Griffin III from rallying Washington to a last-second victory, but Head Coach Greg Schiano’s concerns with the outcome actually had more to do with how his team got itself in that precarious position.
“We’re a team – and I don’t know any team in the National Football League that isn’t – that’s going to be in the fourth quarter, tight ballgames, and we need to find a way to win,” said Schiano, noting that the Bucs went to double digits in penalties for the second straight week and was responsible for the game’s only giveaway, a second-quarter interception. “This one, if you don’t make all those errors…I don’t know. I don’t know what the game’s going to look like. But it doesn’t matter, we did make the errors. We have to stop playing that way. My hat’s off to Washington – they made the plays when they had to make them.”
The Bucs’ series of close calls has led some to believe that the young team with the new coaching staff has yet to figure out how to finish. Schiano’s view, at least in regards to Sunday’s game, is that the team played quite well in the second half but early mistakes made the hole too big to overcome in the end.
“Because you lose at the end, you failed to finish,” he said. “But we really didn’t do a bunch of stuff before that to put us in a position [to win]. We didn’t play what I envision as Buccaneer football, smart football. There are certain penalties I can live with. There are others that are inexcusable and we had a few of those today. We had them in the kicking game. When you get penalties in the kicking game and you get backed up inside your own 15 or 10-yard line, that’s a tough road to hoe. Those things that we did not do – we didn’t play smart, we didn’t create takeaways – we have to do a better job of coaching. For whatever reason, it hasn’t gotten done the last couple weeks.
“As a team, we just need to play more consistently. We need to coach more consistently. It starts with me. I need to do a better job of getting an organization to play the game and approach it consistently. And we will.”
Schiano’s players understand that they need to start just as well as they finish – again, consistency.
“That field goal at the end, we thought we had it won,” said WR Mike Williams. “They put on a good drive and kicked a field goal for the win; I give all the credit to them. It goes back to the beginning that we have to start faster. If we start faster, we win that game. Credit to them, they stopped us from starting fast. We had to try to finish strong, which we did, (but) they just kicked a field goal for the win.”