Commentary | Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for real - or just a mirage?

adell@bradenton.comDecember 4, 2013 

Scrap the blueprints to build those Mike Glennon statues outside Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

Sunday's 27-6 road loss to the Carolina Panthers pointed out that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' recent win streak was more a mirage than resurgence.

Take a breath and give the Mike Glennon lovefest a rest. He is a nice kid, polite, intelligent and a hard worker. But a franchise quarterback needs more.

Can he be one?

Perhaps, but do you want to pass on Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater or some of the highly touted athletic quarterbacks if the opportunity presents itself? They can win with less.

Glennon's limitations were exposed the past two weeks. They could be fixed, but you just don't know.

The Bucs have won three games, which is the same as four other teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars. Only the Houston Texans have fewer with two.

It goes to show the best time to win three straight is after losing eight in a row because it's sure to gain attention, with proclamations of turnaround filling the air.

A week before the Carolina game, the Bucs' offense managed 229 yards and barely squeaked by Detroit 24-21, despite Matt Stafford's giveaway program that included four interceptions on top of a blocked punt and a fumble. The Lions are second in the league with 25 giveaways.

The last two weeks have produced season lows for the Bucs' offense.

Glennon was sacked five times, lost a fumble and threw a pick in the loss to Carolina.

Detroit sacked him four times.

There are four games left, and it's anybody's guess if head coach Greg Schiano needs to win any to save his job.

The Glazer family, which owns the team, wants him back, so that makes it easier. If he beats San Francisco in two weeks, you can bet the house he returns.

Schiano's offense is predicated on running the ball, but he needs his offensive line to cooperate, and a little creativity wouldn't hurt.

Those trench-eaters were nowhere to be seen on Sunday with high-priced Donald Penn being fingered for allowing two of the Glennon takedowns.

The Bucs ran for 22 and 66 yards, respectively, in their past two games after running for 205, 140 and 186 in their previous three. In those games, Glennon was sacked a combined seven times.

Schiano said he had some stuff at his disposal to counteract what the Panthers were doing but never felt right about calling it.

"I just never came to run it, but I do think that those things do sometimes energize your team," Schiano said. "But the other thing we have to do is we have to continue to throw the ball down the field because when we do it, we're successful. We've got to be able to protect it, and at times we did and other times we weren't quite as good."

If the Bucs decide Glennon is their guy, they need to beef up their offensive line. If they go with Bridgewater or a lookalike, there is less a sense of urgency.

The Panthers are second in the NFL with 39 sacks.

Buffalo, Tampa's opponent Sunday in a game that looks like the Bucs' best chance for a win, leads the league with 43 sacks. The Panthers ran for 163 yards despite missing leading rusher DeAngelo Williams, and the Bucs couldn't contain self-proclaimed fat guy Mike Tolbert, who barreled his way for a combined 89 yards running and receiving.

The Bucs have become incomplete opportunists.

Tampa Bay (plus-10) is one of four NFL teams with a double-digit plus turnover ratio but the only one in the group to have a losing record.

Seattle and Dallas are plus-12, and Carolina is plus-10. The Bucs lead the league with 17 interceptions and have seven fumble recoveries to go along with eight thrown interceptions and six lost fumbles, but are 3-9. The Bucs are fourth overall with 24 takeaways.

Among the 11 teams in the NFL with 12 or more interceptions, Tampa Bay has the worst record, beating out St. Louis and the New York Giants, both at 5-7.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reachedat 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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