Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10 Things We Think We Learned From the Debacle Against Carolina

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 04: Head coach Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs his team against the Carolina Panthers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

SBNation Tampa Bay looks at the things we think we learned from the 38-19 spanking of the Bucs by the Carolina Panthers.

There are losses - then there's what happened on Sunday yesterday at Raymond James Stadium. You can't come home - on throwback/Ring of Honor induction Sunday - and get "debacled" by a 3-8 football team. You just can't. Especially by a team you refer to as your biggest rival - the one you hate the most.

It's one thing to get humiliated in front of the home crowd by Houston - a good football team with a lot of weapons. It's another to get throttled by one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Yes, the Panthers needle is definitely pointing up but the fact remains - the Bucs were blown out by a last place team.

Another fact - the Bucs have replaced that last place team at the bottom of the NFC South.

Here's what else we learned from yesterday's disaster:

1. You can't preach discipline when you've let the inmates run the asylum all season.

Coach Raheem Morris got tough yesterday, kicking defensive tackle Brian Price off the field after a stupid personal foul penalty continued a Panthers drive.

We guess Raheem was trying to make a point - but let's face it, that train left the station a long time ago. You can't expect a team that is so used to no consequences for making stupid penalties to suddenly turn that muscle memory off now that it might be costing you your job.

The time to install that mentality was at the very beginning of the season - not when it's already been lost.

Before, you excused the idiotic mistakes as being "youngry". Instead of covering for your players and expecting things to change - you should have made your point then and there that this kind of play is not going to be tolerated.

Doing it in the fourth quarter of the eighth loss of the season when your team is down by three touchdowns just looks weak.

2. Now he wants their respect?

He began his coaching career by allowing his players to call him "Rah". Not "Coach", not "Coach Morris", nor even "Coach Rah" but just "Rah". Now he's demanding their respect?

Look, we understand that after the iron fist and perceived beguiling of Jon Gruden that the Glazers wanted a coach that would relate well to the players.

I don't think he wanted someone that would be their best buds.

Morris' act with Brian Price smacked of a coach that not only wants to change the perception that he's soft on his team to the media and fans but that he's quickly realizing that he's beginning to lose control of the team - if he hasn't already.

3.  Is it coaching or is it talent?

The Buccaneers mantra during the Dominik-Morris era is to build through the draft. Yet when most of your 53 man roster is comprised of practice squad players and 7th round draft picks - it's difficult to compete unless your top picks pan out. How has it gone for the top three picks under this regime?

Well, the jury is certainly out on the 2011 class but we've seen some good things from Adrian Clayborn, DaQuan Bowers and Mason Foster

2010 hasn't been as promising. Gerald McCoy hasn't made much impact in two years. Brian Price can't stay healthy and is now apparently in Rah's Chateau De Bow Wow. Regus Benn has shown flashes but can't seem to get on the field and Myron Lewis can't beat out journeyman Elbert Mack or former 7th round pick EJ Biggers.

2009 hasn't been that great either. Freeman has significantly regressed after a Pro Bowl worthy 2010 season. Roy Miller has been an issue against the run and a non-factor against the pass. Kyle Moore isn't even on the team.

Even 2010's 4th round "steal" Mike Williams, who exploded onto the scene last year, has significantly regressed.

Of the 23 players drafted under Dominik-Morris, 16 are on the active roster and only seven are full time starters (if you consider EJ Biggers the starter over Ronde Barber).  None have made the Pro Bowl (although Freeman was an alternate) and none are anywhere near qualifying this season/

With absolutely no free agency activity during the same time frame - it's not difficult to see how this team has fallen apart.

So the chick-and-egg question rises once more - is the talent there and the coaching staff simply can't bring it out of them or have they drafted so poorly their strategy has had no chance of working?

4. A good 4-8 versus a bad 4-8?

There was a stark contrast between two football teams that now have identical 4-8 records. Carolina is without question a terrible football team. Yet the needle is pointing upward because of a few things - first Cam Newton appears to be the real deal. They have a new direction under head coach Ron Rivera and they seem to be building toward something successful. They need significant help on the defensive side of the ball - but Rome wasn't built in a day. Despite they're deficiencies, their players are still giving everything they've got for four quarters of football.

Now, flip the page to your Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Have the Bucs played 4 quarters all season? Even in their four victories they've started slow having to rally late or finished poorly barely holding on to the wins they do have. One of the most disappointing things we've seen during the Bucs' six game collapse are the loafs.

What are loafs? Players not running hard to the ball, not staying in their proper gaps, or taking care of their coverage responsibilities. Its very disturbing that DaQuan Bowers can cross the field and beat every defender on the opposite side to the ball carrier. It may display an amazing skillset for the Bucs' 2011 second round pick but it also exposes everyone on that side of the defense who didn't put the effort in to get a hat on the runner.

Carolina has shown the heart and desire to get better. That's a good 4-8 (if there is such a thing). Many of the Buccaneer players appear to have checked out for 2011 - that's a bad 4-8.

5. Has the team quit on Raheem?

During the disaster that was the 2009 season - the one thing you could always say about Raheem Morris' undermanned club was they were all playing very hard for their coach. As this promising season has unraveled before our eyes, its been more and more evident that several players on this squad are simply collecting paychecks and waiting for the end of the season.

For a coach that is so far on the hot seat his backside is getting scorched, this is not a good sign. 

6. The bright side.

There were a few positive glimmers in the debacle at Ray Jay on Sunday. DaQuan Bowers was simply unstoppable and finally flashed some of that top pick ability we all believed he had. Had Bowers not had questions surface about his knee, some believe he might have been the top draft pick - ahead of Cam Newton.

He was all over Newton on Sunday, harassing the quarterback with two QB hits and sacking him 1.5 times. He also had an eye popping 5 tackles for losses. Bowers also had one sack called back by a penalty.

First round pick Adrian Clayborn also made his presence felt, sharing a sack with Bowers and getting two QB hits.

Mike Williams hauled in 5 passes for 93 yards - an 18.6 average. Slowly but surely, Williams is starting to put up numbers we were accustom to seeing from him last season.

7. The web of excuses

There's been a significant amount of excuses pouring out of One Buc Palace about the season. From Freeman's hand to the harder schedule (as if that should matter) to the lockout hurting the "youngry" team's preparation for 2011 it seems the Bucs' brass is better at excuse making than winning right now.

For a coach who's fond of saying "no excuses, no explanations" there's plenty of it fertilizing the practice field over there.

Raheem's fond of saying "stats are for losers" but you know what's more identified with losing? Excuses.  

Yes, the lockout probably hurt the Buccaneers more than most. But it certainly didn't hurt the Lions - another youngry team. It didn't hurt the 49ers and their new coaching staff.

We saw yesterday how much its hurt the Panthers.

Did Freeman hurt his hand in Week One? If not, how do you explain his 10 interceptions from September-October?

And yes, the schedule is much tougher than 2010 - is that telling us that what happened in 2010 was a mirage brought on by the benefit of a weak schedule and your team really hasn't progressed in the three years you've been the head coach? You don't see the Falcons or Saints whining about the schedule.

8. Tackling is want to.

In the hey-day of the Tampa Two, the one thing you could always count on is that the Buccaneers would be as sure a tackling team as any in the NFL. The 2011 version under Morris may be arguably the worst tackling team in the history of the franchise.

In the end, tackling is about desire to make the play and not fearing the collision. Its about 11 men seeking and destroying the football carrier. 

When Monte was coordinator, if all 11 guys didn't at least touch the pile he ruled it a loaf. When was the last time you saw the Buccaneer defense rally to the football.

Bucs color commentator Dave Moore made an excellent point during yesterday's post game on the Bucs' radio network. In Tony Dungy's first season, the Bucs were mired in an 0-5 start.

To illustrate to his football team that it was execution not the scheme that was failing them - Dungy put up film of the Minnesota Viking running the same defense. He showed that when played correctly not only is the scheme effective but dominant. He did the same thing with the offensive plays - showing the screen pass to the wideout that the Bucs ran were the same as the one the Packers ran - only the Packers' receivers made their blocks while the Bucs' receivers missed theirs.

Its why Dungy's "we have to execute better" drove fans crazy but was the God's honest truth. "We have to execute better" is not the same as Raheem's "We have to play better."

Unlike Dungy, Raheem's team doesn't seem to have the understanding of what they need to do to get better or the "want to" to make it happen.

9. You Play How you Practice

Both Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden strongly believed in you play how you practice. During the post game show, former Buccaneer Ryan Nece made an excellent observation. Perhaps the reason why the Buccaneers are struggling at the beginning of games is because they start their practices slowly with a walkthrough. 

Now, many teams begin practice with a walkthrough and don't have the same issues Tampa Bay has - but Gruden's teams would never have those types of issues. They would start practice at a high tempo and it seemed to carry over in ballgames.

Perhaps the slow start to practices has ingrained in their muscle memory to ease themselves into physical activity and it carries over to Sunday.

Or maybe it has no impact at all. Regardless - when you're searching for answers every stone should be upturned.

10. 3rd Down Defense is just pitiful.

Tampa Bay's defense wouldn't be so bad if they could get off on third down. The Bucs have tumbled to 20th on third down percentage.  They've given up the booty 39% of the time. The Bucs seem at the worst when it's third and long. How many times have we seem teams sustain drives after facing 3rd and 10 or more?

So many times we've seen the Bucs surrender a third and long play, allow the opponent to extend the drive and it eventually ended in their end zone.

Until the Bucs' defense figures out how to get off the field on third down, they'll never become a top notch defense.

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