Winless Bucs face uphill battle to make playoffs
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are winless and have scored one touchdown in the past two games, yet coach Greg Schiano remains confident the team has what it takes to be successful.
Schiano reiterated Monday that Josh Freeman is his starting quarterback and that he also has the ''utmost confidence'' in offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
The Bucs (0-3) have lost eight of nine games dating to last season, when they failed to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
History says it will be difficult to snap the streak this year. Since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978, just five of 161 teams that have started 0-3 have gone on to earn a postseason berth.
That includes the 1982 Bucs, who finished 5-4 in a strike-shortened season. The 1998 Buffalo Bills, who went 10-6 before losing in the wild-card round, were the last team to do it.
''The NFL has a lot of ups and downs, and starting off 0-3 is not one of the downs you want to get caught in,'' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. ''It's definitely difficult, but we have 100 percent confidence that we can bounce back from this.''
The have scored 34 points in three games, 27 by the offense. The team's last offensive touchdown - a 5-yard pass from Freeman to Kevin Ogletree came during the opening quarter of a 16-14 loss to New Orleans, and the scoring drive covered just 35 yards.
Schiano said the team's offensive woes aren't solely related to the play of the struggling Freeman, who was 19 of 41 passing for 236 yards, no touchdowns and one interception during Sunday's 23-3 loss at New England.
The Bucs are tied with Jacksonville for fewest offensive TDs in the league with three. Oakland also had three entering its game Monday night against Denver.
''He's done some good things, and he's done some things he'd like to change and we'd like to,'' said Schiano, who didn't fly home with the team Sunday, remaining behind to check on his dad, who became ill during the game.
''But it's the whole offensive unit. We need to be more precise,'' added Schiano, who returned to Tampa on a later flight. ''We need to coach more precisely. It's everybody involved. ... If we just do our jobs, we'll score a lot of points.''
Freeman threw for more than 4,000 yards and 27 TDs a year ago, helping the Bucs set a franchise record for points scored. So, the slow start to this season was unexpected.
Schiano said little ''details,'' which he declined to be specific about, are stopping the offense from performing like it's capable. Penalties, dropped passes and other mistakes have been a factor.
''Nothing surprises me in this game, ever,'' the coach added of the struggles. ''Disappointed, yes - not discouraged. We'll get it.''
This is the 12th time the Bucs have started 0-3, and the 1982 strike-shortened season was the only time they've rebounded to finish with a winning record.
Schiano feels the team has ''good players, proven methods, good schemes and good coaches'' and can turn the season around by sticking with the plan he brought to Tampa Bay from Rutgers in 2012.
And for at least the time being, that still includes Freeman at quarterback - not rookie Mike Glennon.
The coach said despite the offense's problems, there are things Freeman has been doing well.
''I think he understands what we're trying to do with our offense. I think when he's in the pocket and feels comfortable, he's delivering the ball. It's when things break down a little bit that it hasn't been as good as it's been before. And it will be again,'' Schiano said.
''One of his strengths is extending plays. But again, when you have variables, where we're not sharp enough on the details, it's hard to be the trigger man when some things aren't going the way they're supposed to,'' Schiano said. ''There are 10 other guys out there. Without going into specifics, certainly everybody has some of the responsibility for us not scoring points right now, starting with me.''
Safety Mark Barron said the team still believes in themselves.
''I don't think we have a problem with confidence,'' the second-year pro said. ''We know what type of players we have on this team. ... We just have to put it all together.''
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