What it means: You can blame it on the long trip across the country. Or you can blame it on the short week after the “Monday Night Football’’ victory against Indianapolis. I’m not taking either route. I’m thinking the Bucs weren’t as good as their record might have indicated. We’d seen some holes even when the Bucs were winning against ordinary or bad teams. The 49ers are pretty good, but it’s not like Joe Montana or Steve Young is leading this team. San Francisco was able to exploit all sorts of Tampa Bay's problems on offense and defense. The Bucs (3-2) fell out of their tie for first place in the NFC South with the New Orleans Saints, who improved to 4-1 with a victory against Carolina.
Injury of note: Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the first half and did not return. That would be a huge loss if McCoy is out for an extended period because the second-year pro recently had been emerging as a force in the middle of the defensive line. Fellow second-year pro Brian Price also has been playing well. The Bucs can fall back on Roy Miller and Frank Okam, but neither of them has McCoy’s potential for explosiveness.
Stat of the week: Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. That gives Freeman six interceptions for the season. That’s the same number of interceptions he threw all of last season.
Stat of the week II: The Bucs had a chance to put together their first four-game winning streak since Raheem Morris took over as coach in 2009. That didn’t happen.
What’s next: The Buccaneers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The schedule doesn’t get any easier after that. The Bucs will leave soon after the Saints’ game to head to London, where they will play a “home’’ game against the Chicago Bears. After that, the Bucs get a bye week, but they have to travel to New Orleans to play the Saints again the following week.