The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their ninth straight game on Saturday afternoon in Charlotte, NC. The game was competitive at halftime with the Panthers taking a 20-10 into the third quarter. Three Panther touchdowns in the 3rd quarter put the game out of reach as Carolina led 41-10 going into the 4th quarter. The Panthers made it 48-10 just seconds into the 4th quarter. The Bucs scored a few minutes later to make it 48-16, but failed on a two point conversion. That is exactly how the game finished as neither team scored the last 11 minutes of the game. It was too little too late anyway as Cam Newton broke the passing yards mark for rookie quarterbacks breaking the record Peyton Manning set in 1998 as a rookie QB with the Indianapolis Colts.
The only bright spot for the Bucs was when Ronde Barber started another game for the Bucs on Saturday afternoon. Barber tied former LB Derrick Brooks for the most games played in Buccaneer history when he lined up against the Carolina Panthers on Christmas Eve in Charlotte, NC. Ronde Barber played in his 224th game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer on Saturday. This season was supposed to be a season of promise after the Bucs finished the season 10-6 last season and started this season 4-2. Nine straight losses have turned 2011 into a season of pain as Tampa Bay struggles to find answers on how things went so wrong so quickly.
There are many factors that have contributed to this current losing streak, but the absence of Running back Earnest Graham should not be overlooked. The Bucs were 4-2 coming off an emotional 26-20 win against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on October 16 and prepared for a trip across the Atlantic to play the Chicago Bears. Graham suffered a season ending injury in the Bucs/Bears game played in London on October 23. The Bucs lost that game and have not won since.
Head Coach Raheem Morris has been on the hot seat recently because of this losing streak. The Glazers and GM Mark Dominick are remaining quiet during this difficult time leading to speculation that Morris may be fired before the last game in Atlanta. The Bucs need to win against the Atlanta Falcons on New Year’s Day at the Georgia Dome to stop the bleeding. While a win in the season finale in Atlanta the Falcons would help the Bucs gain momentum going into 2012, that will be a tough task for any team much less the Bucs. The Falcons play very well at home and will be motivated to win as Atlanta heads into the playoffs. The Bucs cannot do anything about the last nine losses but can certainly go into the game on New Year’s Day ready to play. 2011 is behind us and now it is time to look forward to 2012.