TAMPA — If you were expecting a blowout, you were surprised to the max on Monday as the Bucs, favored by 10, forced themselves into a dogfight with the Indianapolis Colts. The only sold out Bucs crowd in the last season was treated to the very example of why they save their money and stay out of the stadium.
The Bucs fell behind early to the Colts, as something called Curtis Painter looked a lot better than he is and lead Indy to a 10-0 lead. Tampa countered and looked like they were going to even the score, but a 12-men on the field penalty nullified a Connor Barth field goal and made it the third time this season Tampa headed into the half trailing.
The Bucs eventually evened the score but the penalty theme didn’t end in the first half. A total of 20 flags were thrown (at pretty much a play-a-flag ratio) and it killed Bucs drive after drive. The Bucs lost 106 yards to penalties on Monday.
The defense looked impressive and gave the offense continuous scoring chances but some how Josh Freeman showed his mortal side on national television and failed to lead many successful drives.
Tampa got burned twice by Pierre Garcon who had two touchdowns of 60 yards-plus and single handedly accounted for 14 Colts points.
The Bucs eventually got it together in the fourth quarter and took the lead back for good, but if anyone want to call this a win for the Bucs is only technically right.
Arrelious Benn had a 62-yard touchdown catch nullified by a penalty, the Bucs had a field goal nullified by a penalty and Connor Barth missed a field goal at the beginning of the game. All of these instances are examples of the Bucs leaving points on the field. This was the theme for the Monday Night showcase which was supposed to show the NFL how real and scary the Bucs are. But instead all they proved is they are easily stifled by a win-less, quarterback-less team that gave them a run for their money at home. Win or not, this game couldn’t have been more of a psychological loss for the Bucs and it was, in every other aspect other than the score, a loss for the Bucs. They didn’t arrive until the final five minutes of the game and if you allow teams like the Saints and Packers to pile on points they won’t let you back into the game the way the win-less Colts and win-less Vikings did.
But let’s not take away from 3-1 which is where the Bucs are at and let’s not dwell on a missed opportunity. Let’s face it, it could have been worse. It could have been the playoffs. A win is a win and the chances Tampa is 4-1 against the Saints is one step closer and at the end of the day, a shot at sole possession of the NFC South is all that matters, no matter how you get there.