Head Coach Tony Dungy would have preferred a better practice on Thursday, but still feels his team is set to throw off its October jinx
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy raved, in his understated way, about his team's workout Wednesday afternoon. Given that he called it the Bucs' best workout in a long while, it would have been difficult for Thursday's practice to draw as much praise.
In fact, the Bucs disappointed Dungy a bit with their effort in the second practice for Sunday's Green Bay game, working with less focus and crispness than the day before.
"It was okay," said Dungy. "Not as good as yesterday. I thought we were exceptional yesterday, one of the better practices we've had. It was good today but not quite as sharp. Hopefully, it will be little sharper tomorrow.
"I didn't think we had the focus that we needed. We're just a little bit off, and hopefully we can regain that (focus)."
Generally, an NFL team implements its game plan on Wednesday and familiarizes its scout teams with the opponent's systems. On Thursday, the plan is to sharpen the plan and, at least for the Buccaneers, pay extra attention to special situations like red zone and two-minute. Therefore, you would generally like to see your team get better from Wednesday to Thursday, not the other way around.
"Thursday is when you'd really like to see it be sharp," said Dungy. "Wednesday, you're going to have some little errors just because there are some new things and you're seeing a team for the first time in the week. You'd like to be a little sharper every day, then really be sharp on Friday – build through the week."
On Wednesday, Dungy was encouraged by his team's attention to detail. If it seems like the Bucs' coaching staff is always harping on that issue…well, they are.
"That's pretty much what it's always about," said Dungy. "We looked at last year's game, week 17, and we still didn't have it the way we need to have it. I guess that's just a constant fight, and maybe (that's coming) from somebody who's never really totally satisfied when you make mistakes. I guess I'll probably always be saying that."
Perhaps so, and perhaps the issue is being brought to his attention a little more often than usual because the calendar has flipped to October. For some reason, the Buccaneers' Octobers under Dungy have been almost uniformly troublesome. Over the last five years, the Bucs have gone 5-12 in October and 40-23 in all other months. This one, Dungy hopes, will be much different.
"Well, we're much more rested now than we are normally in October," he said. "We're not overworked, we're not injured. But it is something that we've got to come out with the idea of practicing well every day, playing well every day and not letting ourselves fall into a two or three-game losing streak, feeling like we've got the time to make up for it. We may or may not."
The month begins with a doozy, as the 3-0, NFC Central-leading Green Bay Packers come to town on Sunday. Though it's only the third game of the season for Tampa Bay, Dungy didn't duck the serious implications of the game.
"In the overall grand scheme of things, you've got to win your home games and you've got to win your NFC Central games," he said. "This is both. If you lose this one it's like losing two games. You can make up two games over the course of a season – it's been done in the past – but it just makes it that much more difficult. If we want to get where we're going, this is obviously a big game.
"This is going to be the type of game where every possession is going to be big. I don't think we can ease into it and say we'll let the game flow. We've got to be ready to go. They've been very explosive, they've been taking advantage of people's mistakes. It was 21-0 against Detroit in about five minutes. They scored twice in about five minutes the first part of the second half against Carolina. This is not the type of team that you can have a bad five minutes against at any time of the game."
Despite the lull in focus on Thursday, Dungy believes his team will come out with a determined attitude on Sunday. In fact, he's been satisfied with the team's intensity during the first two games. Again, the shortcoming was in the execution.
"We've played with a sense of urgency, but we haven't played 60 minutes, 12 possessions, offensively, defensively and special teams," said Dungy. "To win in the NFL, most of the time, you have to do that.
"The first game I thought we did what we wanted to do (offensively). We said we wanted to get Warrick around 20 carries, we wanted to get the ball to Keyshawn, we wanted to move the ball and convert our third downs. And we did that. The second game, we didn't have the ball enough. We missed a couple third-down conversions on offense and then we're in the two-minute drill because we couldn't get the ball back on defense. The last game, we didn't get a chance to establish much because we didn't have very many plays. But the first game was kind of what we want to do."
Even in the loss, Dungy saw elements of his offense that worked as intended.
"In the Minnesota game, we averaged almost seven yards a run," he said. "Normally, when you do that, you're going to win, but we didn't get enough runs. We moved the ball in both two-minute situations. We didn't put it in the end zone, but we moved the ball down into the red zone. Our completion percentage is what we thought it would be with Brad, and what it should be. Jacquez Green has gotten open and made some big plays for us. We've had some guys catch it and run after the catch. And we've protected pretty well for the most part. Minnesota had a one-yard sack and Dallas had two one-yard sacks."
It is, indeed, a more promising picture when you focus in on the good elements. It may become even more so if the Bucs can regain their focus on Friday.