Flynn's Focus: Bucs Far From Super

October 1 – It's still early, but the Buccaneers' loss in a winnable game against Minnesota on Sunday could be the start of things to come for the Pewter Pirates. Tampa Bay has started the last three seasons with a 3-4 record under head coach Tony Dungy, and with Green Bay, Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the Bucs forecast, things will have to change in a hurry if they are going to avoid a similar start this season.

This isn't something we haven't seen before. The Buccaneers go into a game which they should win, and have their chances to win, but don't. Tampa Bay's offense moved the ball when they were on the field against Minnesota, but couldn't finish off drives with more than field goals. Why is this so disappointing and surprising? After all, Tampa Bay has never been a bunch of juggernauts on offense.

Perhaps the fact that Tony Dungy's, err, Clyde Christensen's offense is made up of six Pro Bowl players convinced us that things might be different this year. Instead, Tampa Bay's offense is finding out there were reasons, perhaps good reasons, why Christensen was passed over last season for the vacant offensive coordinator job and was put off while Dungy interviewed a handful of other candidates before eventually settling on Christensen this offseason.

Yes, Christensen's play calling has been somewhat improved from last season's, but the Bucs offense is still having the same old problems. Maybe Dungy is not telling us something. Maybe he knows about an invisible force field in front of the end zone, which has only allowed the Pewter Pirates to score two touchdowns in two games. Dungy will probably give us the same old blanket statements as to how the team needs to execute better, improve, etc.., but the bottom line is this team will continue to lose games they should win if they play to not lose.

Dungy handcuffed his two previous starting quarterbacks in Trent Dilfer and Shaun King, but isn't that why he brought in an experienced veteran talent like Brad Johnson? Johnson hasn't necessarily been handcuffed. After all, he's thrown 69 passes in two games. But why do the Bucs refuse to stretch the field against defenses? Johnson's longest completion this season went for 35-yards. Why hasn't their $28 million guy thrown his first touchdown pass as a Buccaneer yet?

By the way, Bucs TE Dave Moore has been missing from Tampa Bay's offense for the past two regular season games. If you have seen or have any idea of his whereabouts, please call Christensen at One Buccaneers Place and give him a clue. At one time, Moore was considered to have the best hands on the team. Now, Moore is apparently one of the best magicians on the team since he has miraculously disappeared from the Bucs offense.

Does anyone know what exactly Pro Bowl FB Mike Alstott's role is on this offense? The Bucs apparently don't. The A-Train has proved he can be a very dangerous weapon in the past, but he has only carried the ball eight times for 36 yards and caught six balls for 22 yards this season. Alstott's cap value this season is $4.666 million and his average salary is $3.397 million. The more I watch Alstott, the more I think of him as a tourist. He's a tourist that is lost in the Bucs' theme park and although he is under contract through the 2003 season, I question whether he will be a Buccaneer after this year.

So, what's in store for the Buccaneers? Well, it certainly doesn't look good. Seasons are not won or lost in Week 3 of 4, but the Bucs loss to the Vikings on Sunday could be a sign of things to come.

The Buccaneers have started the last three seasons off 3-4. Yes, they typically rebound and make mid-to-late season runs, but with the second hardest home schedule in the NFL, everyone knows Tampa Bay cannot afford to start off slow, again.

If the offense thought it was tough to get into the end zone against Dallas and Minnesota, then they are in for a real treat against Green Bay this Sunday. The Packers have only allowed 13 points (1 touchdown) in three games and arguably have one of the best defenses in the NFL this season. The Packers offense has outscored their opponents 93-13 this year. If it didn't already seem hopeless enough, Green Bay's defense held Carolina's potentially explosive offense to just 169 total yards.

How can anyone make a case for the Buccaneers winning what appears to be a mismatch against the Packers on Sunday? At this point, Tampa Bay could very well be 0-2, but rookie QB Quincy Carter was bad enough to lose the game for Dallas. The Bucs escaped Dallas with an unimpressive 10-6 win. Has anyone seen what Dallas has done since? Their defense has allowed 72 points in their last two games to San Diego and Philadelphia. Why could the Bucs only manage to put up 10?

Minnesota's defense was missing their best player in S Robert Griffith, but Tampa Bay's offense could still only score one touchdown. Should this be acceptable? Make no mistake about it, folks. The Vikings are not that good of a football team. They just made plays and the Bucs didn't.

Where does all of this leave the defense? All offseason, the Tampa Bay defense, which is made up of four first-round defensive linemen and four Pro Bowl players, has talked the talk, but didn't walk the walk on Sunday. The defense allowed the Vikings to accumulate 390 total yards and allowed Minnesota to drive 96-yards on 11 plays to score the game-winning touchdown. The defense killed themselves by allowing Minnesota to convert 9-of-12 third downs into first downs.

What do the Bucs have to show for their front four? They have only recorded two sacks, but have contained the likes of Emmitt Smith and rookie Michael Bennett in the rushing game. With another inconsistent offense, the Bucs defense must find their 1999 form and in a hurry. They must regain the killer instinct they had that season in order for Tampa Bay to be considered a serious playoff contender, never mind Super Bowl contender.

After two games, the Bucs offense has 26 points and the defense has allowed 26 points. If Dungy doesn't already realize it, the offense has to score more points than the defense allows in order for Tampa Bay to win. Is this brain surgery? Is it rocket science? Absolutely not.

The Buccaneers are sadly mistaken if they think this is championship football. With Tampa Bay's upcoming schedule, the likelihood of another poor start is increasing.

With the possibility of two of the three Wild Card spots being eliminated this season, Tampa Bay cannot afford to start 3-4, again.

But even if the Wild Card spots remain intact, what good will it do the Buccaneers, who were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders this season? What good would a Wild Card spot do a team that didn't bother to show up for their Wild Card game against the Eagles last season?

Nothing gets any easier for the Buccaneers this Sunday when they host the Packers. In order for Tampa Bay to win, their defense must play great and their offense must score touchdowns. A win against the Packers could be a big confidence builder on both sides of the ball for the Buccaneers. But until they defeat the teams that should be defeated and find out how to be consistent, the word, "Super Bowl" should not be mentioned in the same breath as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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