TAMPA, Fla. - The losses are mounting and the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers are running out of explanations for why their season has gone sour and what they can to do to turn it around.
A 31-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles dropped the Bucs to 0-5, and the team has dropped 10 of 11 dating to last year.
The offence has struggled to score points, and an improved defence has been unable to protect second-half leads in four of the team's five losses.
Coach Greg Schiano was jeered as he left the field at Raymond James Stadium. He says he understands fans are frustrated, but remains confident he can get the Bucs headed in the right direction — soon.
"It doesn't matter if you lose by one or you lose by 21, a loss is a loss," Schiano said Monday.
"But when you say, 'What makes you feel like you're going to win?' it is that we had plenty of opportunities to win every football game we've been in this year and we have found ways to lose them," the second-year coach added. "I am accustomed to being on the team that finds ways to win them. So, I'm not doing my job — and I've done it before and need to do it again, where we expect it and we go do those little things that allow you to win."
Schiano is 7-14 since leaving Rutgers to take over a team that lost the final 10 games of 2011. The Bucs have spent generously to upgrade talent, bringing in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson on offence and Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks on defence, but have gotten little for their investment in terms of victories.
Players say it's a time to stick together instead of pointing fingers. And Schiano said the team cannot allow distractions on- and off-the-field to disrupt its focus.
In addition to dealing with a messy split with quarterback Josh Freeman, who was benched and later released, the Bucs have also been coping with three members of the team being diagnosed with MRSA, a staph infection that's difficult to treat because it is resistant to many common antibiotics.
"This is the most competitive sports league in the world and we have to find a way to win," Schiano said.
"Whatever the distractions are, we collectively have to push them to the side," the coach added. "It doesn't mean you don't care about them. It doesn't mean you don't do the things that are needed to be done. But we're here for a reason. To win football games. We need to do that. We haven't, but we're going to."
It won't be easy with a rookie quarterback.
Mike Glennon, a third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State, made his second pro start against Philadelphia. He threw for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but was unable to generate more than a fourth quarter field goal after halftime.
Tampa Bay has failed to score an offensive touchdown in the third or fourth quarter this season, and have been outscored 48-13 overall in the second half.
Rian Lindell's 27-yard field goal finished a 16-play, 90-yard drive that lasted nearly eight minutes and enabled the Bucs to pull within 21-20 on Sunday.
The defence, however, couldn't do its part to keep it close.
The Eagles needed just 76 seconds to move 80 yards in three plays, pulling away on Nick Foles' second TD pass to DeSean Jackson.
"It's the little things that we are not focusing on that we need to focus on. We've got to be consistent throughout the whole game," Revis said. "I don't think we've yet this year played a consistent game, where everybody is really in-synch playing from the first quarter to the fourth quarter."
While he remains confident he can get the Bucs turned around, Schiano declined to discuss specifics of the message he gave to players when they gathered Monday.
"My belief, just in general, is to keep it real. This is where we are. This is what we did. Not they or us, we. And this is what we need to do," Schiano said.
"Knute Rockne stuff. There's a time and a place for it, but they're grown men that are busting their guts to win," Schiano added. "They're as disappointed as I am. Our job as coaches is to decipher, look at and then give them constructive feedback, and help them move forward. That's what we're going to do."
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