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Bucs’ disappointing loss to Saints threatens playoff chances

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Perhaps the Bucs were just fooling themselves for a while.

Perhaps, they are not good enough to make the NFL playoffs.

The Bucs fell to role of chaser Sunday, losing a 24-17 decision to the New Orleans Saints in a game that left Tampa Bay two games out with three to play. The Bucs are 6-7, but they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record all season.

They’ve lost to the three worst defenses – the Saints, the Colts and the Giants – this season – scoring 47 points in the three losses.

“We kind of knew what was at stake today,” Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith said. “Normally, you play your best ball when this much is on the line. The things we did, you just can’t win football games like that. Defensively, third downs killed us. We didn’t make any plays, no takeaways. Offensively, you have to score more points. It’s as simple as that. Things that cause you to lose football games, we did it all.”

The Bucs made only three of 11 third downs. They committed eight penalties.

The biggest problem for the Bucs is that the Saints’ strength is still throwing the ball. The Bucs weakness is stopping the pass. Still, it was disappointing for a team that had won three of four.

“That’s as bad a job as I’ve done,” Smith said.

Perhaps, then, a game such as Sunday’s should have been expected. Quarterback Drew Brees, who has beaten the Bucs more than any other quarterback, hit 31 of 41 passes for 312 yards and two scores.

Meanwhile, Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston had one of his worst days, completing 18 of 32 for only 182 yards. Still, the Bucs had a chance in the fourth quarter before Donteea Dye dropped a ball at the 35-yard line. Tampa Bay punted the ball away on the next play and never got it back.

The Bucs have not made the playoffs since the 2007 season.

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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