For floundering Buccaneers, no relief appears to be coming

TAMPA, Fla. — There is little enjoyment in watching something decay, something split at the seams with no correction in sight.

Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium came and went with the opponent changing — this time, Chip Kelly’s fast-break Philadelphia Eagles took their swing at the piñata — but the troubled Tampa Bay Buccaneers found more ways to stumble over themselves, more ways to lose.

When will this end?

The act is stale. When will the mental gaffes, the sloppy mistakes, the inability to turn back offenses when it matters most stop? When will these Bucs, who were supposed to be disciplined with head coach Greg Schiano’s tight ship, be competent and play like a team with eight Pro Bowlers? When will they stop bungling this fall with embarrassing headlines on and off the field?

When will they win again?

Frankly, it’s hard to find any spot on the schedule to come. These bruised Bucs fell to 0-5 with a 31-20 loss to the Eagles. They committed eight penalties for 72 yards. They were outscored 17-3 in the second half.

Even by Tampa Bay’s standards, however, this game looked winnable. The Bucs were coming off a bye. The Eagles, meanwhile, arrived with a porous defense and fielded backup quarterback Nick Foles with Michael Vick out because of a strained left hamstring.

By now, everyone should know better. There are no easy victories for the pewter and red, which looks more black and blue by the day. That’s because they have become everyone else’s W, everyone else’s soft spot in the schedule.

“We need to play our way and coach our way out of it, one day at a time, one meeting at a time, one practice at a time, one walk-through at a time,” Schiano said. “That’s how we do it. There’s no magical answer.”

The intent sounds nice. But results are a different beast. Right now, Schiano’s record is the white mammoth in the room: He’s 1-10 after starting 6-4.

Take a moment and ask yourself this: Can you see him turning it around?

Anything is possible. But so is snow in June. This feels like a freight train that has blown its breaks, racing down a track of sordid tales — the Josh Freeman saga, the MRSA problems, rumblings about Schiano’s style, etc. — straight for a long fall. Buckle in.

Perhaps, somehow, Schiano will turn this around. Perhaps, somehow, the Bucs will cobble together a few victories over current cellar-dwellers (Buffalo Bills? Carolina Panthers?) and spring a few upsets (Detroit Lions? Seattle Seahawks?) to change the perception about this team. Perhaps, somehow, things will change after a sorry September has crept into October.

Even if you squint hard enough, it’s hard to see how. Mike Glennon is still learning. The running lanes for Doug Martin are difficult to unclog because teams are loading the box against him. The defense is the team’s best unit, but mistakes are made in key moments, including Sunday, when the Bucs were called for offsides on fourth-and-1 at their 17-yard line before Alex Henery made a 24-yard field goal with less than three minutes left to clinch the victory.

Each week, it’s the same story, same plot, same characters. Sadly, it’s the same ending too.

“This is going to be tough,” Bucs linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “We’re going to be tested character-wise this week.”

Thing is, the Bucs’ character has been placed under a flood light since August. This week, MRSA returned for guard Carl Nicks, and he was inactive Sunday. Friday, it was revealed that cornerback Johnthan Banks was the franchise’s third player to be diagnosed with the serious staph infection. This news followed the Freeman divorce, which deserved its own daytime TV slot.

The developments are like a snowball that keeps rolling … growing … building with each day, each headline, each loss.

When will this end?

“We keep falling short,” Bucs offensive tackle Donald Penn said. “We aren’t catching any breaks. I’m just stuck, to tell you the truth. I’m really stuck.”

He’s not the only one. This whole season, only five games old, feels locked in neutral, and other times, in reverse.

When will they win again?

It’s hard to tell. And that’s the most distressing thing of all.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at