Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Texans hand Bucs third straight loss, 37-9
TAMPA - This one was on the head coach, Raheem Morris. The head coach even said so. And not just to reporters, whom he said it to a dozen times during a four-minute postgame news conference, but to his players. From the 80-yard touchdown pass that started it to the array of missed tackles, dropped passes and interceptions that sealed it, Morris took responsibility for every aspect of the Buccaneers' 37-9 loss to the Texans on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. "You can completely put the blame on me for this one," Morris said. "I take full responsibility for this, because I refuse to believe that our guys are that bad." How bad were the Bucs in this loss, their fourth in the past five games? Bad enough that the questions most players were confronted with during the game's aftermath were about regression."I don't necessarily know that I'd use the word regressed," center Jeff Faine said of a team that went 10-6 last season but stands at 4-5. "But that is what's showing up on the scoreboard." It showed up in places other than the scoreboard on Sunday. It showed up on Houston's 80-yard, opening-play touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, who was left wide open when the Bucs bit hard on a play-action fake while Jones and Texans quarterback Matt Schaub rolled to the right. It showed up on a 78-yard touchdown pass to Arian Foster, who used missed tackles by cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Sean Jones to turn what Morris said should have been a 40-yard gain into a score. It showed up on the three interceptions Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw, even though two of them were off the hands of intended receivers Kellen Winslow and Arrelious Benn. It showed up in the two successive penalties — false start and holding — left guard Jeremy Zuttah took in derailing an early second-quarter drive that reached Houston territory after just three plays. And, finally, it showed up in a failed red-zone opportunity late in the first half when trailing 16-0. On fourth-and-2 from the Texans 5-yard line, Dezmon Briscoe failed to win a jump-ball throw in the back corner of the end zone. Though Tampa Bay got the ball back and cut the lead to 16-3 on Connor Barth's 55-yard field goal on the final play of the half, most saw the missed red-zone opportunity as a game-altering one. "I think it would have been a momentum shifter," Briscoe said. Instead, the Bucs are now closer to last place in the NFC South than first place — two games ahead of Carolina and 21/2 behind New Orleans. A team that began the season talking about winning its division is suddenly struggling to win a game. While Morris took the blame, many in the locker room think the real blame lies elsewhere. "Our head coach came in and said to blame him, but he didn't play a snap of football," said Albert Haynesworth, the veteran defensive tackle the team claimed off waivers on Wednesday to shore up a struggling defense. "We have to execute better and have a greater sense of urgency," Sean Jones said. "If you don't play with passion and play like it's your last play, it's not going to work. We didn't do that today." After converting six of 26 third-down attempts the previous two games, the Bucs struggled again Sunday, converting just three of 13. Freeman, who completed just 15 of 35 passes for 170 yards, was sacked four times while throwing the three interceptions. Freeman, though, doesn't believe he is struggling or regressing. "Nothing's wrong with me," he said. "I feel like I'm a better quarterback this year than I was last year. As crazy as that may sound, looking at the numbers, I feel like I continue to get better in preparation and execution." Meanwhile, penalties continue to plague the Bucs. They were whistled just six times in this one, three below their average, but most derailed Bucs drives or extended Texans drives. There is also the growing inability to stop the run. Tampa Bay allowed an average 186 rushing yards the past two games, and Houston nearly matched that mark in running 44 times for 185 yards. "It's all about the code, our fundamental core beliefs," Morris said. "It goes back to playing fast — we didn't do that — to playing hard — we didn't do that — and to playing consistent — we didn't do any of those things. "And that's all on the head coach." Morris vowed to make fixes. "There will be some changes made in how we do things," he said. "We'll (have) some changes in practice this week. We're not making plays in pads, so that's what we'll work on. "We have to work on making plays in our pads in game situations, and that's what we're going to do this week, because it's my job to fix this and we will fix it. We'll get it fixed this week."