They had enough first downs. Thirty of them, in fact.
They had enough yards. Five-hundred and nine of them.
But, given that, shouldn’t there have been more points for the Bucs in their 31-23 loss to the St. Louis Rams Thursday night? Count Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith among those who think so. The Bucs scored 17 of their points in the fourth quarter, including their last score with 1:34 to play.
“When you have almost 30 first downs and over 500 yards you expect to have more points than that,” Smith said. “Defensively, just didn’t play well enough early on. [We] let them get their passing game going. Going into the game you would assume we would have more trouble with their running game than their passing game.”
Part of the reason is that the Bucs allowed Rams’ quarterback Case Keenum to hit 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards. Opposing quarterbacks have played well against the Bucs this season.
“We’ve tried a lot of different combinations,” Smith said. “You try a lot of different combinations because you don’t like something that is happening. During the course of the year you look at all your options. You try to go with all of your options, which we feel like we’ve done. Yeah, it’s a combination of our rush hasn’t been exactly what it needed to be, the back-end definitely hasn’t been as good as it needed to be, third-and-long situations, early downs. That has been one of the story lines from our season of not being able to play the pass better than we have.”
Smith conceded that rookie quarterback Jameis Winston might have been too excited to play early in the game.
“Fair to say Jameis and some others were a little bit more (emotional),” Smith said. “Everybody wants to play well. It’s a different setting. Jameis would probably tell you that. We can take care of those type of things right there. The least of our problems are our quarterback being a little bit too excited.”
The Bucs continue to be the NFL’s most-penalized team, which hurt at times.
“What we’re going to see from this is when we correct those things, we’ll become a championship team,” Smith said. “Until then, we’re going to continue to talk about them. We’ll continue to try to eliminate them, but before we can really get to where we want to go, we’re going to have to take care of these things. We’ve gone [over] that a few times, but we haven’t gone over it enough. When you’re with a young football team, you have to keep pounding it. But eventually, we’ll get it.”
In the meantime, a lot of Bucs’ fans are frustrated. This will be the sixth of seven seasons the team has not had a winning record.
“I understand the fans’ frustration — and ours, I might add — on us losing the last two games,” Smith said. “And there is so much more that goes into it than just a start. It’s the overall play throughout. And, believe me, we understand their frustration and we’re working to get it right. Truth of the matter, though, a lot of people are working to get it right, we’re not there yet. We’re making progress, but we’re not there yet. But we have another opportunity to get there. This [next] home game, what we can do to help people get a better taste in their mouth is to play better next time.”
The Bucs are off Sunday, then play their home finale on Dec. 27th against the Bears.