Everything was lined up perfectly for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they ended up playing both Lucy and Charlie Brown all in the same afternoon.
All the Bucs needed to do was beat the Saints on Sunday to clinch a third-straight NFC South title and punch a playoff ticket for the fourth consecutive season. None of that happened, as the team instead turned in perhaps its worst performance of the season.
Even in brutal losses to the Colts, Texans, and Lions it felt like the Bucs were at least in the game enough to give fans hope. Even losses to the Eagles and 49ers felt closer than they actually were, but Sunday's loss to the Saints was a total ass kicking that has at the very least delayed a trip to the playoffs and at worst started a chain of events that will prevent such a thing from happening.
Tampa Bay still has an almost 75 percent chance of making the playoffs and simply needs to beat the 2-14 Panthers to get in, but that's easier said than done. Not a single thing that happened on Sunday gives fans faith that next week will be as breezy as it should be, and it doesn't sound like anyone is happy about it.
Todd Bowles rips Buccaneers players and coaches after loss to Saints
Head coach Todd Bowles didn't hold back after the game, blasting both his players and coaches for how they executed against the Saints.
"Coaches have to come up with a better game plan on both sides of the ball, and players gotta play it better. We were off-kilter from the start," Bowles said. "It doesn't matter who we played today, a good team, a bad team, a college team, or a high school team. We wouldn't have won the game."
He's not wrong, although his comments aren't likely going to win him any points with fans already frustrated with how the season has gone. Sunday was a perfect example of how wildly inconsistent the Bucs have been all year, as they chased a dominant four-game winning streak by playing their worst game of the season.
Baker Mayfield and the offense -- which was the talk of every pregame show before kickoff -- managed less than 50 yards before halftime. The Bucs committed four turnovers, including two drive killers by Rachaad White and Trey Palmer, after turning the ball over only twice over the last few weeks.
Take your pick on which type of cheese to compare the defense to, as it played softer than melted brie and had more holes in it than a slice of swiss. Sunday had the making of being an iconic day -- clinching the division with a win over the Saints -- but turned into a nightmare that now has everyone worried that the worst version of this team has returned at the worst possible time.