The distance to the end zone was so close.
The time on the clock was so fast.
And, for the Tampa Bay Bucs, the mistakes were too plentiful.
The Bucs fell to 1-2 Sunday, losing 37-32 to a Los Angeles Rams team that had scored only nine points all season long. The defeat came despite 405 yards passing by Jameis Winston.
But Tampa Bay doomed itself with its own mistakes. Winston had a sack-fumble-touchdown-return play. Roberto Aguayo missed a field goal and an extra point. Chris Conti was beaten for one touchdown and Keith Tandy missed a tackle for another. Coach Dirk Koetter didn’t call a time out in the dying seconds – he’ll take it home. Charles Sims deflected another pass for an interception. And Winston, on the last play of the game, strolled downfield, pump-faking even while he was several yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
“Our culture is not where it needs to be,” said Koetter. “That starts with me. I’m the head of that. I’m putting that squarely on my shoulders. There’s something about our culture…that lets games like this get away. We’ve got to get over that hump and we’re not there.”
Winston took as much of the blame as he could. Asked what was missing, he said:
“Just quarterback play,” Winston said. “I’ve got to complete the football. I had Vincent Jackson wide open for a touchdown in the corner. That’s pitch and catch. I overthrew him. But I’m going to get better. I guarantee you.”
The Bucs now have back-to-back games against last year’s Super Bowl teams (Denver and Carolina). That means Tampa Bay could be staring at a 1-4 beginning. From there, Tampa Bay would go have to go 6-5 to show even one game’s improvement.