Martin Fennelly Columns
Zero hour simply embarrassing for Bucs and fans
TAMPA - Bucs coach Raheem Morris was adamant. "We don't use words like 'embarrassed' around here." Well, we do. Go outside right now. Go into the street.Then walk 57 feet - 19 yards. That's basically sewer to sewer. That's how much ground the Bucs offense covered in the first half Sunday. Or just walk 30 feet - 10 measly yards. Eleven Bucs working together couldn't manage one first down for the first 40 minutes of this modern-art masterpiece. It is time to throw police tape around this growing scene after a methodical 24-0 beatdown at the hands of the New York Giants. It was G men against boys. "We made zero plays," Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich said. Welcome to zero hour. One day, they might build a stone obelisk to this season, and those might be the only four words on it. You couldn't blame just the defense Sunday, though it was its usual lousy self. You couldn't just blame the offense, though it was near-record awful. You couldn't blame just the passing game, or the pass rush, or the running game, or the pass coverage. You couldn't blame just players, or just coaches. "It was spread throughout the team today like a plague," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. The plague year is only three games old, but already the new Bucs head coach is acquiring that faraway stare that comes when worst fears come into view. It's like the look on Jonny Voight and Ned Beatty's faces when they get out of their canoe in "Deliverance" and realize those guys with the bad teeth aren't with the convention and visitors Bureau. There was no excuse for this game. Yes, it was one of the best teams in the NFL playing what is surely one of the worst teams in the NFL, but nothing excuses 19 yards of offense in the first half. Nothing excuses only five first downs, which tied an all-time Bucs worst. At one point, the Giants had 24 first downs and the Bucs had one. We don't even know if the Giants played well. We couldn't tell. The key to victory was their plane touching down safely in Tampa. The Bucs gained 86 yards. In fact, the club's single-game low yardage mark of 65 yards, set 24 years ago in the snows at Green Bay, seemed in great danger until Leftwich (7-for-16, 22 yards) was replaced by Josh Johnson. Johnson went wild. He had 51 yards of offense on his only series. He took 12 snaps. He was his team's leading passer and rusher. If he had thought to throw the ball to himself, he would have been the leading receiver, too. Never mind that the Giants were bigger, better, faster and tougher. They showed more heart. There is no excuse for this abomination. Bucs running back and former Giant Derrick Ward, after rumbling for 2 yards on five carries, left the locker room quickly when it was over. He said something. We didn't hear him. Ward repeated himself. "I said I'm not talking today," he said. He and his teammates already had done their talking in zero hour. The Redskins come next, and if the Bucs somehow lose to a team that just snapped the Lions' 19-game losing streak, it might be the old flying coffin to 0-7 and on into Game 8, where the Bucs will wear orange throwback jerseys to honor the '79 team. So far, this season honors the '76 team. Bucs receiver Michael Clayton (no catches, no yards) said, "It was disappointing, a little embarrassing." Did he say "embarrassing?" Guess he didn't read the memo.