It was the best of games and the worst of games.
It was the best of the Buccaneers and the worst of the Buccaneers.
It was A Tale of Two Halves, the best of halves and the worst of halves.
It was A Tale of Two Freemans, the good Josh and the Josh a lot of people want to get rid of.
What this fourth Buccaneers game was on Sunday was not only a fist-pounding, last-second 24-22 loss to Washington, it was a microcosm of the the first quarter of this National Football League season for the Bucs. They have been good and bad.
This team has teased its fans, then let them down.
This one was pure heartbreak in every sense of the word because it took so much heart for this team to scratch and claw its way back from a 21-6 halftime deficit, one that made the home folks boo coach Greg Schiano and his team all the way to the locker room.
They deserved it. They let rookie-wonder Robert Griffin III lead the Redskins for 30 minutes of football that made the defense look bad while the offense looked like it has too often. The only hero was Connor Barth, who did his share with field goals of 50 and 57 yards. Does this guy ever miss?
It was 30 minutes to gripe about, the worst of the Bucs.
RGIII left his footprints all over the defense. Surely the "RGIII" moniker stands for "Real Good, three times over."
When the second half began, it was as though the team was transformed, turned into the Good Bucs, the ones everyone loves, and there was Freeman, finally set free from the bonds of Schiano's "WE MUST RUN THE FOOTBALL" mentality. And there was Free, airing it out, hitting big bombs to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, the way you want him to, 54 yards to V-Jax, 65 to Williams, longest of his young career.
There was Free, leading his team from behind while the defense was shutting down "Real Good" and the Skins' offense.
What looked impossible at the half was happening. The Bucs were coming back. They came back well enough to have Barth lining up a 47-yarder, the go-ahead kick with just 1:42 to play. Did we mention that this guy never misses? He nailed that one, and the Bucs took an improbable 22-21 lead.
It was the best of halves, at least for a shade over 27 minutes.
Then "Real Good" worked his magic, as he had done the entire first half. He got Baltimore Ravens reject Billy Cundiff, who had missed on three prior attempts, close enough for a 41-yarder.
It was then, with three second left, that Cundiff proved once again that even the blind pig finds an acorn if he gets enough tries at it.
Heartbreak, pure and simple.
It was the worst of moments from this first four-game stretch.
The defense came up one series short, and the Bucs came up a few points short.
"It's the National Football League," a grim Schiano said afterward. "We could be 4-0 or we could be 0-4. Every game has been decided by seven points or less. None of that matters. We need to get better."
He's right, this team needs to get better. We need more of the second-half Bucs and less of the first-half Bucs. We need more of the second-half Josh Freeman and less of the first-half Josh Freeman, more of the second-half defense, less of the first-half defense. And Connor Barth just needs to keep on doing what he's doing.
Surely it would have been exciting to know before this season started that after the first four games, the Bucs would be a game in front of the New Orleans Saints.
The good news is that the Bucs ARE a game in front of New Orleans.
The bad news is that New Orleans is 0-4.
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