Ouch!

The similarities between last year's home opening loss to New Orleans and Sunday's loss to Carolina are eerily similar. The punt debacle in the end zone last year had fans worried about what the future would hold. That future was extremely bright as it turns out.

Last year's loss was also marred by penalties, and fans tried to blame the officials. Officials don't lose the game for a team, but they can make it harder for that team to win. Special teams coach Richard Bisaccia has his hands full this week trying to fix what seems to be a broken special teams unit.

The buzz among fans has been centered on the zebras. Some fans are acting as if they were parents to the team and cannot believe they would do something so bad. The Bucs were called for some ticky-tack penalties, but the ref's did not force the offense to average at least one illegal procedure call per drive. Nor did they force some of our more experienced players to lose their cool to the point that they incurred personal fouls. When the dust settled the Bucs hade committed 17 penalties, one more than the Panthers. This does not appear to be as grossly one-sided as disappointed fans looking for an excuse would think.

When trouble looms fingers get pointed like daggers. Keyshawn Johnson had a tough day; he lost a friend in a shooting in California. A terrible thing to have happen, but people go to work every day with these kinds of problems and perform their job without missing a beat. He managed to make 9 catches for 102 yards, but the ones he dropped were the result of emotional distraction?

The line opened up like the Red Sea when the field goal unit was on the field, leading to three blocks. The explanation from kicker Martin Gramatica is "it's something that happens". Actually it's not, until now. There has never been an occasion where an NFL team has been behind after having two field goals blocked, and then tied the game with a touchdown as time expired, and then had the PAT blocked. Buccaneer historians can put that stat in their dubious distinction scrapbook next to their granddaddy multiple season 26-game losing streak.

The punt team will have to wait another year to play well on a home opener. Last year was worse being that the ball never made it out of the end zone. This year's kick in the pants hurts a little worse because the Panthers were on the ropes until Steve Smith returned Tupa's punt from his own ten to the Buccaneer 40.

The Bucs will look to travel the same road they did last year by trailing in the division after their home opener. The Panthers are more consistent than the Saints were last year, and pose a greater threat than the Saints do this year. Don't rely on Carolina to end their season in week 12 the way the Saints did for some reason last year.

Atlanta just became a huge game, bigger than it would have been otherwise. Do not lose faith. The NFL is full of good teams, and it is nearly impossible to win every game. Maybe that is the reason only one team has gone undefeated… ever. The Bucs are still in good shape, the early bye week will give Joe Jurevicius' wounded right knee time to mend. Coach Bisaccia will square away the special teams, and the veteran leadership in the locker room will make sure the Bucs are ready next week when they travel to Atlanta. Reveille has been sounded in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs will definitely be awake next week when they square off against the Falcons.

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