Lovie Smith believes Bucs will be among teams pushing for playoff bid

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith didn't come right out and say it, but he believes his team still can make a run for the playoffs in the NFC.

"There is no margin for error as we see it now," Smith said. "Yes, this is the final stage of our growth, rebirth, whatever you want to call it, is to finish [undefeated] on this back stretch. If you look at our season, we went 1-3 the first quarter, 2-2 the second. It's a must we go 3-1 this third quarter and finish it up with 4-0 the last.

"Yes, the final phase is doing this," Smith said. "We're in position. In November you want to get in position. Then it's who gets hot at the end. We think we're going to be one of those teams."

The Bucs lost their room for error with a 25-12 loss at Indianapolis. During that game, the team had 12 penalties, allowed five sacks and gave up 309 passing yards.

The Bucs are 5-6 and are tied for eighth in the NFC, one game behind sixth-seed Seattle (6-5) and two games behind fifth-seed Green Bay (7-4) for the wild-card spots. Undefeated Carolina (11-0) is a win or an Atlanta loss away from clinching the NFC South.

Tampa Bay plays division foe Atlanta (6-5) on Sunday at home. The Bucs already have defeated Atlanta on the road.

Cornerback Alterraun Verner said the Bucs have to look at the rest of the season like they're already in the playoffs.

"We've got to win every game," Verner said. "A loss is like an elimination for us. We all sense the sense of urgency on it. If we can win out, chances are really, really good we can make the playoffs."

Smith agreed and said that while the team is disappointed with the loss to Indianapolis, he expressed the utmost confidence that his squad will bounce back.

"We're 5-6, we're right in the mix," Smith said. "There's disappointment but it's not like we're 10 games out. We're not. We're right in the mix right now. We haven't been in a position where we can sweep a division opponent in a while. Again there's disappointment for yesterday, but not going forward. We're going to be one of those teams that will get it taken care of at the end."