By Max Luckan
As the 2012 NFL regular season draws to a close, it’s almost time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reflect on the ups and downs of the entire season. That means that head coach Greg Schiano and his staff will evaluate every minute detail. The season has been sort of a rollercoaster for the Bucs, who were 6-4 and on their way to the playoffs just five weeks ago. But then almost everything went downhill, which led to their current five-game losing streak. The Bucs currently sit at 6-9 and with a loss and a Carolina Panthers win, could finish in last place in the NFC South.
Schiano has pointed out the good things the Bucs have done, but at this point, it’s clear he’s a little frustrated with how things are going. He’s reiterated multiple times that the team has prepared well for opponents, but they aren’t exactly getting the job done on Sunday. “What’s eating me right now is we’re close, but close isn’t what we’re here for,” Schiano said when he spoke to the media on Christmas Eve.
“We’ve got to get where we start getting the five or six plays that determine the game on each side of the ball. Right now we’re coming up two (to) four. At 3-3, you’ve got a chance to win, but at 2-4, you’re not going to win, especially if you do it on both sides. That’s where we’ve kind of been here the last five weeks. That’s what eats me because I know these guys can do it. We had opportunities to do it, and we didn’t coach well enough and we didn’t play well enough to be on the positive side.”
He’s right in that sense, because the Bucs have been competitive in almost every game this season with a few exceptions. But the overall play hasn’t been sufficient to edge opponents in tight games, which is something that Schiano will surely notice in retrospect.
The defense has had significant moments at times this season, despite their struggles in the secondary. Injuries have played a huge role on the defensive side of the ball, but also on the offensive side of the ball.
And that’s where quarterback Josh Freeman comes into play. Just a little while ago, it looked like Freeman was finally turning into the franchise QB that the Bucs imagined him to be.
While the Bucs were in possession of a 6-4 record after 10 weeks, Freeman was playing at a high level and was on his way to a successful season. At one point, Freeman had 25 touchdowns and only eight interceptions to his credit. But then the turnovers started piling on. Freeman has thrown eight interceptions in the past two weeks alone, which has led many to believe that Freeman is pressing too much. But Schiano doesn’t believe Freeman is pressing, though he said there’s a fine line between being aggressive and pressing.
“I do think he’s an aggressive football player,” Schiano said. “He’s got skills and he wants to use them. As I said (Sunday), it is such a fine line between being a great play and pressing, a great play and forcing. And you don’t ever want to get your quarterback afraid.”
Freeman hasn’t played up to his potential and it’s certainly looked like he’s struggled at times, but the Bucs still believe in Freeman, and he’s done some very good things. That’s most evident with wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who has quietly had a great year, catching 69 passes for 1,334 yards.
All of the blame can’t fall on Freeman, however, and as Schiano stated, the Bucs have been very close at times, but haven’t been able to come through at certain times, which is something that they’ll look to chance going forward.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.