Tampa Bay Buccaneers Have a Way Back Sunday, Don’t Crash and Burn

Re-entry is the worst, isn’t it?

One second, the Bucs and Tom Brady were kings of the world, 6-2 and poised for a runaway NFC South title and a top seed in the NFL playoff jamboree.

Crash. Burn.

QB Tom Brady Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They are reeling after the Saints disemboweled them 38-3 on a prime-time Sunday night massacre that was not as close as the score indicated. After all the buildup to this season, all the Tom Brady, seeming all the pieces for a righteous run, with a good week of practice to boot, the Bucs rolled out the worst loss in franchise history.

“It was shocking,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said.

“It was a collapse, a total team collapse,” Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett said.

From 1 seed to 5 seed, just like that. The bounce back, or not, comes Sunday at Carolina. Was last Sunday night an aberration or the new reality? Is this going to make the Bucs reset and get back at it?

We’ll know soon enough

“It’s not the end of the season,” Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead said after the embarrassment. “It’s not the end of the world.”

No, but you can see it from here.

That’s what happens when the bottom falls out. When your dream quarterback looks just as lousy as

All you have is finger pointing.

“Everyone’s got to do a lot better, and it starts with me,” Brady said after the most lopsided loss of his 20-year career.

True, Brady was bad enough, with three picks, bringing back memories of his awful season-opening performance against those same Saints, who now hold all sorts of division tiebreakers if the teams finish with the same records, which remains entirely possible. I say Saints go 12-4. I say the Bucs go 11-5.

No, it is not the end of the world, but it’s hard not to put last Sunday behind us.

I still have no idea why Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich chose to run the ball only five times, an NFL record low, blowout, or no. I still have no idea why Brady was still in this game when the outcome was certain, and the Saints pass rush was teeing off on 12, taking a chance that could have torpedoed the entire season if Brady got hit and didn’t get up. That is on Arians.

I have no idea why defensive coordinator Todd Bowles played so much zone against the Saints. Drew Brees feasted on it so much he should have worked a lobster bib. And I certainly have no clue as to why Arians, down 38-0, chose to kick a meaningless field goal. Felt like a face-saver, as if there was face left to save.

Last Sunday was the kind of game where you erase the video, where you flush second-guessing and third guessing down the toilet before this season breaks the other way, meaning badly.

Then again, let’s look back quickly at other Bucs losses that didn’t mean the end of the world.

There was late in the 1999 season when the on-the-rise Bucs were annihilated 45-0 at Oakland. They ended up barely losing the NFC title game to eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis.

Then there was 2002. Remember? The Bucs were trounced 17-7 late in the season by Pittsburgh, before a Monday night national television audience no less. First-year wonder boy, Jon Gruden’s team, seemed in trouble. It went on to capture the first and only Super Bowl in Bucs history.

And let’s remember that the Bucs have not made the playoffs since 2007. They’ve gone through five head coaches during that time; Arians is No. 60. This football team is attempting to come out of one of the deepest holes in its history. This is a major reclamation. There are worse things than being 6-3 through nine games.

But that wasn’t the trajectory before last Sunday night. It was about Super dreams. Now there are only nightmares.

Their way back begins this Sunday.

Or it doesn’t.

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