Bucs show no signs of salvaging season against Saints, drop fifth straight

NEW ORLEANS -- The pressure on Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was suffocating. The missed tackles on defense were nauseating, almost as much as hearing "When the Saints Go Marching In" on loop must have been to Bucs fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in a humiliating 30-10 loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs' defense forced a turnover and got a sack-forced fumble, too. But there's really no atoning for the number of explosive plays surrendered, the lack of pressure and the lack of on-field awareness.

The offense nearly laid another goose egg. If it wasn't for Chris Godwin recovering a muffed punt at the New Orleans 19-yard line, setting up an 8-yard touchdown catch by Luke Stocker, there's a good chance the Bucs wouldn't have scored.

"I know I'm not doing my job," said Winston, who was pulled after taking too many hits in the first half. "Everyone needs to do a better job. Everyone needs to take ownership and start playing. Our coaches, they're doing their job. Coaches coach and players play. We've gotta play. I know I have to play. I'm not playing good enough."

It didn't matter if Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick was at quarterback, healthy shoulder or not. There was no protection. No ground game, either. This is the offense that the Glazer family and general manager Jason Licht felt was too important to lose two years ago in parting ways with former head coach Lovie Smith.

Winston said earlier this week that this team was still in search of an identity. They found it, all right, and it's an ugly one. This isn't a team that's going to climb out of a five-game skid. It doesn't look as if it's going on another five-game win streak this year, either.

How do you justify scoring just one offensive touchdown in eight quarters of football? It's unjustifiable with more talent on one roster than they've had in the past 10 years. Its unjustifiable that this team, favored by many to win the NFC South in 2017, has lost five straight and is now 2-6. Nobody expected this team to go from 9-7 and take so many steps backwards.

"Nobody thought that," said offensive tackle Demar Dotson, who expressed concern that guys would start "shutting down" as the losses continued to mount. "It's not getting done. When it's not getting done, we look miserable."

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, one of the league's most highly-touted free agents this offseason, chose to come to Tampa Bay because he saw an inspired team. Despite narrowly missing the playoffs, they competed hard. He believed they were a contender.

"I definitely didn't see this coming," Jackson said. "These dudes in this locker room, before I got here, just to see what they did last year, to fight -- a good group of guys here."

Jackson wound up leading the Bucs Sunday with just two catches for 25 receiving yards -- the deep passes that made him one of the most dangerous receiving threats in the league have been missing all season.

"I'm not going to be a quitter," Jackson said. "I'm going to go out there and keep working hard, do everything in my ability [to be] a spark, anything I can with the opportunities I get. But sometimes those opportunities don't present themselves."

Robert Ayers got a sack-forced fumble on Drew Brees. But on the next play, Brees hit Coby Fleener for a 33-yard catch, followed by a 33-yard touchdown by Alvin Kamara in which four defenders missed tackles. Those plays are a microcosm of the Bucs' season -- promise and then disaster.

"To have them stopped and then that happens, that's just kind of what we're dealing with right now and that has to change," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, acknowledging that this has been one of the most disappointing seasons of his career. "It's one of the toughest...it's up at the top. It is. What are we, 2-6 now? We're not a 2-6 team. We have all the pieces. All the talent. I don't know. I don't know."

The Bucs were gifted with such a late start to divisional play, but the performances of these past two weeks show that they deserve their last-place standing in the NFC South. The Atlanta Falcons' offensive woes under Steve Sarkisian, and the Carolina Panthers' offensive inconsistencies, have nothing on these Bucs.

Kicker Patrick Murray did his job, nailing a 50-yard field goal set up by a Lavonte David forced fumble that was recovered by safety T.J. Ward. So they've gotten that issue solved. If only they could figure out the rest.