Buccaneers observations: Homecoming for McCown, Smith turns into nightmare

BY foxsports • November 23, 2014

Homecoming ruined.

What began as an anticipated return to Chicago for Lovie Smith and Josh McCown turned into a nightmare third quarter. A 10-0 halftime lead became a 21-10 deficit in stunning speed, and McCown looked far from the composed quarterback who enjoyed so much success at Soldier Field last season.

Credit the Bears' defense for scrambling an overmatched Bucs line in the third quarter. But McCown didn't play near the level required to win Sunday.

He missed targets. He made curious overthrows. He looked bad, bad, bad.

Without help from a legitimate running threat, that's a formula for defeat.

Bears 21, Bucs 13.

Welcome to 2-9.

Here are a few thoughts from the Bucs' Week 12 loss to the Bears ...

1. Bad McCown returned.

Whatever poise McCown had last Sunday in Washington never translated to Chicago.

After a decent first half, the third quarter was a disaster. His touch was missing. There were the overthrows. A blindside sack and fumble deep in Tampa Bay territory in the third quarter was a large momentum play for the wrong sideline.

McCown finished 25-of-48 passing for 341 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He looked like the same player who lived so much struggle before his right thumb injury in Week 3.

It's somewhat surprising Mike Glennon wasn't inserted when things turned south, when the Bears enjoyed momentum-building play after momentum-building play.

Talk about a cold Windy City welcome.

2. A lack of a running game hurt the Bucs.

Doug Martin has been given enough chances to show that he can be a valuable part of this offense. He hasn't delivered. So the Bucs should move on and concentrate on developing Charles Sims.

Also, Bobby Rainey deserves more carries. If the Bucs' running-back pecking order were based on merit alone, Rainey would be Tampa Bay's top option at the position. For whatever reason it isn't. The Bucs favored Martin and Sims on Sunday, with Martin earning 27 yards on 11 carries and Sims having 22 yards on six carries.

Rainey, meanwhile, had 3 yards on one carry. That's right, one carry.

Many of McCown's problems were due to the lack of a running game. The Bears had no reason to respect that part of the Bucs' offensive plans. This has to change.

Obviously, there's no clear answer. Even when Rainey is used often, the Bucs aren't world beaters in the area. But the approach Sunday was far from the right one.

3. At times, the Bucs' defense was dominant again.

Give it up for this defense. Another week, another display of strength was shown in the first half.

Chicago was shut down before halftime, earning just 68 yards and three first downs as Tampa Bay built a 10-0 lead. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler was sacked three times in the first half. Bears' wide receivers turned visibly frustrated.

The 68 yards allowed were the fewest in a first half by a Bucs defense since surrendering 64 at the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 21, 2010.

Unfortunately for them, two halves are required.

It's hard to blame the defense for the awful position in which four turnovers placed them. Especially in the third quarter, the unit faced terrible situations.

A strong first half was squandered.

4. Jacquies Smith is a find.

Give a raise to whoever said, "Hey, signing Jacquies Smith would be a good idea." He received a well-deserved start Sunday and rewarded the coaching staff for the trust placed in him.

He finished with two tackles, one sack and a pass deflection. Call it like it is: He's the Bucs' highest-impact defensive end right now.

Yes, he's better than Michael Johnson. Yes, he's better than William Gholston.

Make him a permanent addition as a top option at the position.

5. The offensive line remains an issue.

After decent protection against the Washington Redskins last Sunday, the Bucs' offensive line was exposed against the Bears, especially in the second half. The running game was nonexistent (again). Chicago's blitz was effective far too often, with McCown being sacked five times for a loss of 40 yards.

There were too many penalties. There was too much pressure allowed. There was poor play from a veteran group that should be better.

Sure, McCown was far from sharp. But many of his faults were found in lackadaisical line play. More should be expected from a group that includes Logan Mankins and Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Another day, another disappointment.

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