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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs optimistic they can turn season around

TAMPA - No moral victories. No excuses. No margin for error. Despite making the Super Bowl champion Packers squirm a bit during Sunday's 35-26 setback, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned home from Green Bay knowing their season is on the line Sunday. And the Sunday after that … "We're 4-6 and I know we still have a chance,'' said LeGarrette Blount, who gashed the Packers for 107 rushing yards, including a dazzling 54-yard touchdown run. "We split with the Saints and we beat Atlanta. We have to win out the rest of the way and that's our plan. We still have a chance of going 10-6.''
After a 3-1 getaway, the Bucs have lost five of their past six to fall three games behind New Orleans in the NFC South and three games back of Chicago and Detroit in the wild-card chase. "Our goal was to win the division,'' coach Raheem Morris said Monday. "We came out hot, hit a little sinkhole right here and now it's time to come running out of that thing. I've got a lot of confidence in the guys in that locker room. They're upbeat and they want to win.'' Considering the strength of the NFC this season, the Bucs need to finish 10-6 just to have any realistic shot at their first playoff berth since the 2007 season. "I told them yesterday we've still got six more games and we've got to go out there and knock them off one at a time,'' Morris said. "There's still time to get hot. We can still finish with the same record we had last year if we get our minds right and play hard, fast, physical and smart. For us, it's about playing one game at a time for six more weeks. That's all we're guaranteed.'' Tampa Bay's schedule appears to soften the rest of the way. After a brutal six-game stretch against teams with a cumulative 47-13 record, the Bucs face Tennessee (5-5), Carolina (2-8) and Jacksonville (3-7) in the next three weeks. "After four straight losses, we've got nowhere to go but up,'' veteran safety Sean Jones said. "We have to think about one game at a time and at the end of the year, we're going to count it all up. We had a terrible loss against Houston, but we felt like we had a great chance to win (Sunday's) game, even in the fourth quarter. I felt the effort was there and we grew up a little bit.'' Morris coached aggressively throughout Sunday's game, attempting a pair of onside kicks that were not successful. "You have to coach to win in this league,'' cornerback E.J. Biggers said. "I wouldn't want to be around any coach that's not coaching to win. We played hard, but those guys made more plays. That's what Green Bay does – they make plays when they have to.'' After going 6-2 on the road last year, matching a franchise record, the Bucs are 1-3 away from Raymond James Stadium as they head into Nashville, Tenn., to face the Titans and their new middle linebacker, ex-Buc Barrett Ruud. This current tailspin has left the Bucs with no choice but to treat each of the final six matchups as an elimination game. "We just have to keep working and it'll come,'' said tight end Kellen Winslow, who leads Tampa Bay with 47 receptions. "Who knows, maybe we can win 'em all.''
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