This is not the sort of math the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to be doing in Week 14.
With four weeks left in a tight NFC playoff race, the Buccaneers still hope to be calculating tiebreakers at some point, but first they must deal with two more shots to their starting lineup.
On Monday, the team announced that center
The Bucs did not immediately fill the two resulting openings on the 53-man roster.
The unwelcome math: Two games played in the last nine days, two starters lost to injury in each one, four new holes in the starting lineup just as the postseason stretch run kicks into gear. In the team's 17-10 loss at Baltimore in Week 12, starting right guard
The Bucs' most recent season-ending injuries attacked the same two spots on the depth chart as those of a week before – the offensive line and the secondary. The O-Line loses its veteran anchor in the middle and just as it completes a four-game hot streak in which it blocked for 150.0 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry and allowed only one sack per game. The defensive backfield loses its leading interceptor, as Talib's six interceptions actually tied him for second in the entire NFL, just one behind the league leader, Philadelphia's Asante Samuel.
Against Atlanta, the Buccaneers replaced Joseph and Grimm with
"It was a tough stretch there, the last two games, our first two-game losing streak of the season," he said. "But these guys are young, they're infectious, they love to come play this game and I look forward to see these guys get ready for this week. It's another important game, another road game and we'll be ready to play."
The Buccaneers now have 10 players on injured reserve, including promising rookie defensive tackle
As such, the team has seen 39 different players draw at least one start this season, with Lynch being the most recent addition to the list. That number will likely grow on Sunday in Washington, though cornerback
Talib's injury occurred early in the second quarter of Sunday's contest, and the in-game adjustment to his absence was likely a good indication of what the team will do going forward. Biggers, previously the nickel back, would assumedly move into the starting lineup and rookie cornerback
Faine's injury occurred in the fourth quarter, so there were fewer snaps for the offense to cover. Still, Zuttah slid from his new starting right guard to center, where he had started four earlier games during another Faine absence, and rookie
Still, the team has adapted well to each new difficulty, and the Bucs' rushing and pass-protection numbers have actually improved during the second half of the season.
"I've been really encouraged by how the guys have responded, how they've played, with these guys moving around to different positions, playing different spots," said Morris. "Zuttah's played two different spots on the offensive line and had the ability to play three or four. Those guys bounce around and keep playing tough. They come in and out of the lineup. We finished the game yesterday with Hardman out there and he played well. They're just playing solid football and you've got to be pleased with that. You've got to be pleased that your depth looks better and better every week."