Close losses adding up for inconsistent Bucs


Close losses adding up for inconsistent Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are running out of explanations for their inability to win close games.

The Bucs (2-4) fell short again Sunday, falling 35-28 to the New Orleans Saints after nearly scoring the tying touchdown on the final two plays of the game.

Josh Freeman had a career day passing, however his effort to get his team into overtime ended in disappointment when his third-down throw was grabbed by a leaping receiver who landed out of bounds and a fourth-down attempt was caught in the end zone only to be nullified by a penalty for illegal touching.

After four losses by a total of 22 points, coach Greg Schiano and his players are growing weary of questions about what it'll take to get over the hump.

Mistakes on offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the latest setback. New Orleans rallied from an early 14-point deficit, with Drew Brees throwing for four touchdowns and a porous Saints defense limiting the Bucs to seven points after yielding touchdowns on Tampa Bay's first three possessions of the game.

``If you look back on all of the games we lost, they were all pretty close. This is just another one that is sickening. We beat ourselves in situations, and it's just frustrating,'' defensive tackle Roy Miller said.

``We've got to do our jobs better. A lot of those plays weren't (Saints quarterback Drew) Brees, they were us,'' cornerback Ronde Barber added. ``They're correctable, but in the immediacy of them it's very disappointing on our part.''

Freeman threw for a career-best 420 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The Bucs amassed 513 yards total offense, the second-highest in franchise history, and Vincent Jackson had seven receptions for a team-record 216 yards.

Yet after the game, Schiano found himself trying to explain why the offense failed to score after Jackson's 95-yard catch-and-run - the longest play in club history - gave Tampa Bay a first down at the New Orleans 1 with the Bucs trailing by a touchdown in the third quarter.

The defense yielded TD drives of 80, 80, 79 and 72 yards on four consecutive possessions in the opening half to allow the Saints to turn a 14-point deficit into a 28-21 lead.

Then after New Orleans' goal-line stand preserved the edge, Brees marched the Saints 95 yards for what turned out to be the decisive touchdown.

``We made too many critical errors that we haven't made,'' Schiano said. ``You may whup us one-on-one, and that's fine. That's part of the game. But we made errors where we turned some guys loose. You can't do that at this level, especially with a quarterback like Drew. He's not going to miss the open man.''

Special teams miscues included a missed field goal at the end of a drive lasting nearly seven minutes, as well as a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that helped the Saints get into the end zone rather than settle for a field goal on their final scoring drive.

Only one of Tampa Bay's six games has been decided by more than seven points, a 38-10 victory over struggling Kansas City two weeks ago.

Schiano doesn't take solace in having a resilient team that's still learning how to win close games.

``Again, we're sitting here, what are we, 2-4 now? And we're saying this old song and dance. That's the way it is,'' the first-year coach said. ``Until we get it changed, until we find a way to change it, close but no cigar.''

Tampa Bay's resiliency will be tested again this week, when a short turnaround sends the Bucs to Minnesota to face the Vikings on Thursday night.

Not only do they not have much time to correct mistakes from the latest loss, there won't be much time to prepare for the next opponent.

``We are maturing and understand that we can't hang our heads too long,'' tight end Dallas Clark said.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy echoed that sentiment.

``That's the NFL. You just have to take it with a grain of salt and move on to the next one,'' he said, adding New Orleans ``played well enough to get the `W.' It's over, we're moving on to the Vikings.''


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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 27, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Here is my sunrise view from this morning:

Looking at next year’s free agents

This post was originally published on March 18. 

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens. 

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard). 

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility. 

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon. 

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup. 

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight. 

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler