TAMPA, Fla. – The Bucs’ 3-3 record after losing to an undermanned Pittsburgh Steelers team has brought about a more business-like approach this week at One Buc Place. Players and coaches say the blame lies with everyone.
It’s not just one thing. Yes, the Bucs have been hit hard with injuries, but so has just about every other team in the NFL. Sunday the Bucs host the 1-5 Carolina Panthers and wide receiver Mike Evans isn’t sugarcoating their outlook on this game.
“We’re optimistic, I think we’re tied for first in the division,” Evans said. “We’re still optimistic. You can’t stop playing. We’re all professionals. Got a divisional game this week coming up, we’ve got to win it. It’s a must-win.”
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles says it’s still early in the season so there’s no panicking. On offense, last year at this point the Bucs were averaging 30 points a game. this year they’re averaging 20 pts. per game. One big thing missing from this 2022 Bucs offense is the lack of explosive plays.
“It’s up to us coaches to make that happen and design plays to make that happen,” Bowles said. “The players have to play better, but we have to coach them better. Sometimes it’s the (offensive line), sometimes it’s the route progression, and sometimes it’s the quarterback. But we’re changing some things around and we’ll adjust to it.”
Cornerback Jamel Dean says the entire team has to play better. Offense, defense, and special teams. “As a whole we know we are better than we’ve been playing,” Dean said. So we’re just trying to figure out a way to get all three phases playing at the same level.
The Panthers are coming off a 24-10 loss to the Rams. Carolina is using an interim head coach in Steve Wilks after the owner David Tepper fired Matt Ruhle. Running back Christian McCaffrey is on the trading block and wide receiver Robby Anderson forced his way out after getting into an argument on the sidelines Sunday. Davis knows it might not seem like a big game for Tampa bay but he says it is.
“Yeah it’s a must-win game against a divisional opponent,” Dean said. ” We could use this game to seal our division, just sweep the whole division. It’s important just like any other game. But since it’s a division game it’s really important.”