Originally posted on Chicks in the Huddle  |  Last updated 11/8/11

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 27: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs to pass the ball during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 27, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Will the real Josh Freeman please stand up?

It was early in third quarter. The Bucs faced a second and 10 at the Saints’ 22-yard line. They picked up one yard on the play.

And then the ref threw his yellow flag.

Unsportsmanlike conduct. LeGarrette Blount. 15 yards.

The Bucs now faced a third and 24, instead of a third and 9. But worse than that was the reason for the penalty. Blount, who spent his year and a half as a Buccaneer attempting to prove the that he doesn’t have an anger problem, knocked a player for the Saints upside the head.

And just like that, it all came rushing back. The punch, said the announcers. The punch, said the sideline reporter. The punch, the punch, the punch.

There he was, one of the Bucs’ best players, once again reduced to “that guy with a character problem.” And, chicks, he kinda brought it on himself.

But that wasn’t all.

Josh Freeman, the unflappable-est of the unflappable, at another point in the game charged after a Saint who was messing with him.  I won’t even speak to the fact that said Saint was acting like a total dumbass, because Freeman is supposed to be above all that. I mean, sure, you want your QB to have a strong competitive spirit, and if that Saint had gone after one of Freeman’s linemen or something, sure, you’d want him to be ready to attack. But the guy was just being a douche, and it’s the job of the QB to be all, “What?  I didn’t hear you? You said something?” and then casually walk away. Because everyone knows the best way to annoy your aggressor is to ignore him.

The Blount incident. The Freeman incident. This is all just to say that there is trouble a’brewing in Tampa town, and it’s not coming from the opposing teams.

The Buccaneers are the youngest team in the league for the second year. Last year, the team played decent football and had a healthy dose of luck on their sides. They managed to eke out 10 wins, barely missing the playoffs.

For a young team, that was the best case scenario. They won early, they got a few bounces, and suddenly they felt like winners. And the winning mindset is a powerful thing. When a team doesn’t realize they have inferior talent and that they should be losing, well, they don’t lose.

This year’s Bucs, after a sound thrashing by the Saints, seem to be all too aware of their weaknesses. And they are losing.

As they wrack up the humiliating losses (San Francisco was brutal, and the Bears and Saints losses were way more lopsided than the scores show), the team seems to be coming unglued. They are coming out of the gate flat and playing out of control. In this week’s game alone, the Bucs had nine penalties for 80 yards. And, as former Buc/announcer John Lynch repeated endlessly during the game, youth is not an experience for sloppiness. (Though as he also noted that the Saints were benefiting from their more advanced age and experience, I’d say that youth is a fair excuse, just not one that does much for the ol’ win/loss record.)

Point is, things are looking grim for this season’s Bucs. Unless they can pull out of the steep nose-dive of frustration, it could be a long eight weeks ahead.

A few game notes:

  • Josh Freeman, savior of the Bucs’ 2010-11 season, has had only one of his trademark 4th quarter wins this season. Against the Saints, Freeman threw 1 touchdown in the final minutes of the game–though he threw no interceptions–and finished 27/37 for 281 yards.  But the Saints put pressure on Freeman early and often, and he seemed to always be throwing on the run.
  • Receiver Preston Parker had another strong game with 3 catches for 56 yards.
  • Running back Blount managed 72 yards on his paltry 13 carries, but the Bucs only rushed for a total of 84 yards compared to the Saints’ 195.
  • The Bucs defense allowed 453 total yards and did not sack Drew Brees once.
  • DT Gerald McCoy tore his bicep during the game (not the same one he tore last year) and was later placed on the injured reserve.
  • On the bright side, Ronde Barber recorded his 42nd career interception. There, that was the bright side. Hope you enjoyed it.
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