Last year, the Bucs won 3 of their 16 games. They were a terrible team, and it was easy as Bucs fans to know our role. We lamented the losses, we looked forward to the draft, and we prayed for the miraculous rebuilding fantasy to become a reality.
This offseason, we Bucs fans grew cautiously optimistic about the rise of Josh Freeman, we nervously praised the draft, and we kept our fingers crossed, wishing and hoping for a respectable 5- or 6-win season.
But this week the Bucs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in California, and the team is now 7-3-meaning they've earned more than twice as many wins as they did last year, and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.
As a fan, the season has been exciting, invigorating, and hopelessly confusing.
Because though the young Bucs are being successfully coached by Raheem Morris to believe that stats are for losers and that they are winners, I can't help but wait for the other shoe to drop.
After months of mentally preparing myself for the miserable season to come, after accepting that the young team wouldn't turn things around until 2011, all this winning makes no sense. And the more games the team wins, the more I've found myself bracing for a fall.
For instance, this weekend, as I watched the waning moments of the game next to a 49ers fan at a Brooklyn bar, I found myself dismissing the team's accomplishments:
49ers Fan: Wow, the Bucs look good.
Bucs Chick: Nah, they seem kind of lethargic.
49ers Fan: I don't know. What's their record now?
Bucs Chick: 6-3 going into the game. But they've only beaten teams with losing records. And their defense is usually terrible.
49ers Fan: Well, but the defense hasn't allowed a score today. And you're up by 21 points.
Bucs Chick: Yeah, but the play calling has been so conservative. Freeman hasn't been throwing deep much at all.
49ers Fan: Yeah, uh, I'll trade your 21 points for our 0 points.
Bucs Chick: What? No, I mean I'll take the win...
Two things occurred to me after that conversation.
One, I am lucky the 49ers fan didn't slap me upside the head Richard Seymour-style.
And two, I and any other Buc cynics out there need to quit whining and start thinking like Coach Raheem.
Because this Sunday, the Bucs shut out the 49ers in Candlestick Park-a feat that had not been accomplished since 1977. The Bucs' much-maligned defensive line held running back Frank Gore to a paltry 23 yards on 12 carries. The Bucs also entered the game with only 8 total sacks over the first 9 games but earned 6 against 49ers QB Troy Smith, including the first career sack for rookie DT Gerald McCoy. (Technically, McCoy earned two half-sacks, but it goes in the record book as a single sack.)
On offense, the running back tandem of LaGarrette "Hollywood" Blount and Cadillac Williams picked up 133 yards and a touchdown on the day. (Caddy scored the second-quarter touchdown, but Blount added another clip to his "Hollywood Hurdles Tacklers" reel.)
And with the running game having success, Josh Freeman was afforded a relatively slow day, going 13/20 for 136 yards, but he managed to throw the game's other two touchdowns. The first went to Mike Williams, who caught the ball in the endzone despite the fact 49ers Shawntae Spencer was called for defensive pass interference on the play. The second touchdown was caught by left tackle Donald Penn. Yup, the left tackle.
Because this was a left-tackle touchdown kind of game-the kind of game that showed the Bucs are multidimensional, that they have talent on both sides of the field, and that they can win behind a solid run game and a strong defense as well as they can win a come-from-behind stunner through the air.
It was the kind of game that a good team would play.
So it's time to face the facts: If the Bucs play like a good team, and they win like a good team...
Well, let's see how they look against the Ravens.
Cross-published at Chicks in the Huddle.