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Lovie Smith: Tampa Bay’s defense “isn’t a finished product” yet

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The Tampa Bay Bucs couldn’t finish down the stretch of the NFL season.

Perhaps it’s because the Bucs are not a finished product.

Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith, in his day-after news conference, suggested that a weak pass rush and poor coverage might be partly because of the players he has.

“It’s not a finished product,” Smith said. “When I say it’s not a finished product, the way you get a finished product is, first off, you have to have the type of player that you are looking for in every position. We’re not there yet. When I talk about not being able to rush one-on-one and beat someone or cover, it’s that. You can’t put that with all the other defenses we’ve had.

“It’s just not as simple as that. You continue to build, and you strengthen some positions and we need to strengthen more. After 15 weeks that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.”

Against the Bears, the run defense struggled as well.

“We didn’t get off blocks; we had a couple that broke out that we didn’t play it right,” Smith said. “Normally that’s the case. We haven’t given up a lot of big explosive plays in the running game, had a couple more — quarterback scramble one time, they caught us in a blitz. That happens from time to time, but it was some of the 7-yard gains where we were in situations where we should be able to knock out the run. It’s not like it was a two-back power running game going after us. That wasn’t the case. Again, we haven’t played that way against the run.”

Lately, the Bucs’ struggles have included the offense.

“We just haven’t been able to finish, as much as anything,” Smith said. “We’ve moved the ball, as you mentioned, running. We’ve had our moments in the passing game, but, like the interception in the red zone yesterday, we haven’t been able to finish drives. I think if you look at the last three games that would be the story of what has happened to us offensively.”

The Bucs finish their season Sunday in Carolina.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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