Finding some silver lining in the Bucs embarrassing loss to Saints

Believe it or not, there might be some positives to take away from the disaster we all watched.
New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Well, the year didn't exactly end on a high note for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The good news is that while 2023 is coming to a close the Bucs season is still alive and relatively stable.

Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints might have fans thinking otherwise, though.

Tampa Bay had a chance to clinch the NFC South for the third straight season -- something that has never happened in franchise history -- and punch a ticket to the playoffs. After going 12 seasons without a trip to the postseason, the Bucs were on the verge of making it four consecutive seasons of making the playoffs.

That's still the case, even if things feel a little icky right now.

With a win next weekend in Carolina the Bucs will win the division and host a playoff game in the Wild Card round. If they play anything like they did on Sunday against the Saints, it'll be pink slips getting handed out rather than playoff tickets. A collapse of this magnitude would all but seal the fate of head coach Todd Bowles, which could thrust the entire future of the franchise into chaos as a result.

Firing Bowles would mean a new head coach, which would likely mean a new offensive coordinator which might lower the incentive Baker Mayfield has to re-sign in free agency. Losing would get the Bucs closer to drafting a top quarterback prospect but not high enough to land Caleb Williams.

We're not here to focus on the negative, though. Believe it or not, as bad things went against the Saints there is some silver lining heading into next week and beyond.

Buccaneers loss to Saints could be a blessing in disguise

Bare with me here, because being positive at a time like this is understandably difficult. Chasing a four-game losing streak by getting throttled at home in a division-clinching game is not anyone's idea of fun but it could be a blessing in disguise in the long run.

It's not hard to imagine what happened on Sunday having happened in a Wild Card game. If the Bucs had won out, it would have meant the season ended on a six-game winning streak, which given how inconsistent the team has been this year is almost unbelievable. What is believable is the team finishing the season strong only to lay the kind of dud they laid against the Saints in a Wild Card game against Dallas or Philly.

Losing the way the Bucs did on Sunday might have been a necessary humbling. It's sort of like rock climbing, where the higher you get the scarier it is to psych yourself out and look down. On Sunday the Bucs looked down and promptly froze; everyone reverted to the worst version of themselves despite how high the team had climbed the last four weeks.

Todd Bowles was overthinking his play calls while Dave Canales was making the wrong ones and once again ignoring Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Rachaad White has been a league-wide revelation as a dual-threat pass-catching running back but it took multiple drives before he saw his first reception. Beyond that, the law of averages caught up with the team, as good players like Lavonte David, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Jake Camarda all had uncharacteristically bad games.

It's the type of game we can all easily imagine the team having turned in during Wild Card Weekend, but it happened in Week 17 instead. After riding high the Bucs got punched in the mouth and dragged back down to earth, but that doesn't mean they need to stay in the dirt.

We watched this team pull itself out of a 1-6 slump to rip off four very convincing wins in a row. It's much better to have this kind of game now than in two weeks when there's no safety net to fall into.

A lot of what happened is understandably concerning, but the Bucs have figured things out once before. There's no longer a safety net under them this season and jobs are on the line. This may be the start of another cold streak, but the team earned enough credit over its winning streak to prove itself before fans sell on the season.

Losing to the Saints on Sunday was a terrible way to end the year, but it could be the splash of cold water that wakes the Bucs up in time to do something special.

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