If you area a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, Sunday's game represented the entire 2004 season in 60 minutes.
With a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Bucs finished the season with a record of 5-11, the worse since the Sam Wyche days of 1993. There were a lot of reasons for the struggles of 2004, but they included too many turnovers at the wrong times, untimely penalties and lack of direction on offense.
To be kind, they also included a stingy defense that was tough to break, holding the Cardinals to just four field goals. But behind quarterback Chris Simms, the offense never got started and only a spectacular catch-and-run by Mark Clayton for a 75-yard touchdown got the Bucs on the board. It also marked Simms' first touchdown pass in the NFL. Simms was an erratic 16-of-32 for 224 yards, but turned the ball over three times.
The Clayton score and the strong, inspired defensive play were the high points, but the low points on offense far outnumbered them. The running game stalled. Fullback Mike Alstott, playing in probably his last game as a Buccaneer, carried the ball only one time.
Following the game, Bucs coach Jon Gruden repeatedly criticized his team's efforts and vowed there would be wholesale changes for 2005. Among the Buccaneers who will be facing contract situations are Brian Griese, Alstott, Michael Pittman, and Joey Galloway. Other Buccaneers including key defensive players may be asked to restructure their salaries in order to return for 2005.
The loss guaranteed the Bucs the fifth pick overall in the 2005 NFL Draft.
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