This one might take a while.
Today's autopsy report is extensive, so let's not waste any time. Let's get right to it.
Factors That Led to Losing
1. The Buccaneers would not have sacked Drew Brees if this was touch football. No need to launder that No. 9 jersey. He had all the time he needed most of the day. In the early going, they did make him a little uncomfortable. McCoy tipped that pass, Ronde Barber did what Ronde does and the Bucs were off and running. They went up 21-7, but little did we know that Brees had them exactly where he wanted them.
2. Thirteen awful minutes. Starting in the second quarter, Brees let loose on this defense, and by halftime, he had already put in a great day's effort. He had more than 300 yards passing and four touchdown passes. Fantasy owners everywhere were rejoicing.
The secondary was scorched, but blame it on the three-man rush. The secondary was hung out to dry. It's that simple, and they paid the price.
3. Vincent Jackson's longest yard. V-Jax looked like he was on his way to making the play of the season, going for the longest catch and run in Buccaneers history. It's still hard to believe that Malcolm Jenkins ran him down, yet it happened, and we all saw it happen. Jackson now holds the honor of having the second-longest catch in NFL history that didn't go for a TD. In 1972, Ahmad Rashad went 98 yards for the Vikings and didn't score.
4. LeGarrette Blount reminded us that he is simply a lousy short-yardage back. Blount has all the quickness of a cement truck with a full load. He just doesn't have that burst. Why the heck didn't the fool who insists on hurdling tacklers simply lead up on top of the line and let gravity do its thing? At least he wouldn't have lost a yard.
Blount's sequence went like this: lost a yard, gained a yard, got nothing.
Blount left egg on the faces of his coaches who believed him to be the short-yardage solution. Don't look for him doing this for the rest of the season.
Nothing new for Blount, getting nothing on 3rd-and-2 or 3rd-and-1 or anything short isn't something he does well.
But he does throw a mean sucker-punch.
5. Greg Schiano doesn't know the rules. After the goal-line disaster, the Saints marched all the way to the Buccaneers 33, and the weary defense managed to get a big stop. The Saints lined up for a 50-yard field-goal attempt. Schiano tries some hot-shot, cutesy shift, and Mason Foster had to shout something to enact the shift. The Bucs were hit for 15 yards for simulation of a cadence, the ball moved to the Bucs 18 and Brees was given a second chance. Don't give Brees a second chance.
The Saints scored a touchdown to put the Bucs in a two-score hole.
"I believe I know that rule and I'll leave it at that," Schiano said after the game when pressed for answers. He believes he knows the rule? Really, you mean to tell us you're not sure, coach? Note to fans: Send Schiano copies of the NFL rulebook for Christmas.
6. The "push out-of-bounds rule" needs fixing. This one begs to be fixed. If a runner is forced out, he should be allowed to re-establish himself in the field of play. Too late for Mike Williams. Looked like he made the catch, the cannons were firing, the crowd was in a frenzy, then came the flag.
Factors That Should Have Led to a Win
1. Josh Freeman played his heart out. Freeman threw for more than 400 yards, had the fourth-best day ever by a Bucs quarterback, threw three touchdown passes, moved when he needed to, ran a little when he needed to and showed poise. What more do you expect?
Freeman's gone for more than 300 yards in back-to-back weeks for the first time in his career. He had one of the greatest performances ever by a Buccaneers signal-caller.
This guy is a gamer.
2. The Bucs have multiple receivers. Tiquan Underwood has stepped up as the third receiver, while Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker have shown they can get open and make catches.
3. Doug Martin just keeps getting better. If you think Blount needs more carries, think again. He's not half the player Martin is. Martin just keeps getting better as he goes. Blount's the same old same old. Yeah, he can do some damage once he gets past the first level, but he has trouble getting past the first level when it counts.
4. Vincent Jackson is a player. He set a franchise record of 216 yards. It was the 217th that was really needed. Still, he's better on a bad calf than just about anyone out there. He's making Freeman better, that's for sure, and he's making Mike Williams better in the process.
5. No quit in this team. There was plenty of quit last year, but there's none of that this season, and credit Schiano. Even if he doesn't know the rules, he knows how to change a team's mentality.
6. The Bucs shut down the Saints running game. Maybe that wasn't a good thing, as it put the onus on Brees, and man did he answer the bell.
There you have it.
Another one that could have gone either way, could have been a "W" but it wasn't.
You get what you deserve in the NFL, and the Bucs simply didn't do enough to win.
Most games come down to one, two or even three plays, and that was the case Sunday at Raymond James.
It was the goal-line opportunity squandered followed by the penalty that turned a field-goal attempt into a Saints touchdown.
Yes, it hurts.
All that being said, this is a fun football team to watch. They've been in every game. It's so very much better than last year.
There's one thing this team does provide.