Martin Fennelly Columns
Fennelly: Bucs' nightmare might have just begun
TAMPA - Is there any way to black out the road games, too? They were horrible. They weren't ready, again. They were mightily outplayed and outcoached. They quit. And now it might get ugly for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It goes beyond next week's trip into the shadow of the valley of defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay.You're looking at a Bucs team racing headlong in reverse. Most of didn't us expect another 10-6 season. Some of us thought the Bucs could be better and have a worse record to show for it. The schedule said so. So did the ridiculously unending parade of youth, a conscious decision by management. We expected fall-off. But not a death drop. Not this. Not Sunday's 37-9, highly convincing loss to the Houston Texans. Not 4-5 after a 3-1 start. Not the specter of something so bad. Anything looks possible right now – personnel changes, coaching changes, the whole thing getting blown up – after the Bucs' third consecutive loss and fourth in five games. By the end, there was next to no one at Raymond James Mausoleum. Get used to it. I still say people tune in to the Packers game this Sunday, but in the same way traffic would slow when a propane truck broadsides a pet shop delivery van – you know, you just have to see what happens … Now, we see if it all flies off the rails. Bucs coach Raheem Morris has a bona fide crisis on his hands. His guys aren't buying in at the moment. This team has always played hard for him. They didn't Sunday. If that happens anymore, anything, and by that we mean anything bad, can happen. And now a message from Mars: "I think I'm a better quarterback than I was last year," Josh Freeman said. What, really, do you say about a team that has been rightly accused of not being ready to play … and it goes out and gives up an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first snap of the game, and it isn't even to Andre Johnson, Texans star receiver, who was out with an injury, as if it mattered? What, really, do you say when the Bucs' offense, The Thing That Wouldn't Move, goes another first quarter without scoring a touchdown for nine games in a row, then throws in the second quarter and third quarter for good measure? What, really, do you say when the defense stops the run, then allows Texans runner Arian Foster to go 78 yards on a touchdown pass, who faked and completely denuded Aqib Talib along the way. Just lie there, 25, and think about it. What, really, is there to say when the best thing the Bucs offer on fourth-and-2 from the Houston 5-yard line down 16-0 is Freeman's fruitless jump ball in the end zone for Dezmon Briscoe? Albert Haynesworth update: The Big Man emerged from the tunnel for Sunday's game with his shirt already untucked. You Da Man, Albert! Morris took it all on his shoulders, a nice, winning gesture, but explained it in a world-is-flat way: "I refuse to believe that our guys are that bad." Anybody got a stone tablet handy? I wasn't expecting the Bucs to be a playoff team this season. But not this. Not a team that looked clueless Sunday, bordering on laughable. Not a step back. Not this. It was just as bad as it smelled. Freeman threw three more picks. Freeman wasn't good, and neither was anyone around him or in front of him. It was unwatchable. Add an insult-to-injury touchdown run by Texans running back … Derrick Ward, who once upon a team quit on the Bucs. Who's quitting now? We expected the defense to be a work in progress … not this. It's awful right now, beyond awful. We expected Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams to power the way … not this. We expected Morris and his staff to make this young team better, not worse … not this. Not this. There are seven games left. Blackouts Now!