Buccaneers: Bye week coming at a good time
TAMPA, Fla. -- The struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcome some extra time to work on their flaws.
Despite playing well at times, the Bucs (1-3) have lost three straight games by a touchdown or less, and first-year coach Greg Schiano plans to use the team's bye week to try to straighten out the sloppy play that's contributing to the inconsistency.
They've lost one game in which they blew a 14 second-half lead, and another in which they wasted a solid defensive effort because of a subpar performance by the offense.
In Sunday's 24-22 loss to the Washington Redskins, it was a little bit of both.
The offense overcame a slow start to wipe out an 18-point deficit to take a 22-21 lead with less than two minutes remaining, only to watch Robert Griffin III calmly move the Redskins down the field to kick a winning field goal with three seconds left.
"You look at us on tape, and you say: `Wow.' It's a play here or a play there," offensive tackle Donald Penn said. "It's going to come ... because it's right there."
Starting fast hasn't been a problem. The Bucs have scored on their opening possession three times, and they took a 3-0 lead on their second possession on Sunday.
Josh Freeman, however, has had difficulty putting together a complete game. The offense sputtered until the middle of the third quarter against the Redskins, when the quarterback teamed with Mike Williams on a 65-yard pass play that put the Bucs into position to pull within one score.
The team has struggled every week to finish strong.
The offense bogged down after taking early leads on Carolina and Dallas, and the defense didn't get the job done late against Washington and the New York Giants.
"The fact of the matter is we have to finish," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "It doesn't matter whether we lose by a hundred or we lose by two, we've got to finish. It's as simple as that."
The Bucs will practice twice this week before being off Thursday through Sunday.
Without being specific, Schiano said he and his staff to would use the next couple of days to make corrections and adjustments. The Bucs were flagged for 10 penalties against the Redskins, and the coach cited sloppy tackling as a factor in falling behind by 18 points in the first half.
"We missed two many tackles, made too many mental errors defensively," Schiano said. "Later on we played better, but we put ourselves in a hole."
The coach conceded that offensively, he and coordinator Mike Sullivan are still getting to know Freeman and what's he is most comfortable doing. The fourth-year pro sparked Sunday's comeback with his long completion to Williams late in the third quarter, then hit a 54-yarder to Vincent Jackson early in the fourth to set up another TD.
In retrospect, Schiano said the Bucs probably should have thrown the ball down the field a little more in the first half. Freeman's had two completions over 10 yards -- both to Williams before halftime.
"You step back with a bye week. ... What we're doing now is we're looking at our first four games, then we'll be attacking some things in the next two days," the coach said.
A week after throwing for 110 yards in a six-point loss to the Cowboys, Freeman threw for 299 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Williams finished with four receptions for 115 yards and Jackson had six catches for 100 yards, giving a pair of 100-yard receivers in the same game for the first time since 1992.
"We've got to build on what we've done, fix the mistakes and keep building," Penn said. "Luckily, it's still early."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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