QB Chris Simms is able to see the Ravens game as part of a much bigger picture
There is a lot of football still to be played. That was the mantra adopted by Tampa Bay Buccaneer players after a 27-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2006 season opener on Sunday.
"We've got 15 more in front of us," said defensive end Simeon Rice. "You can only put so much on this one. If we came out and won this one, is that to say we won the Super Bowl? No. You've got to play each game as they come, and we've got to keep everything in perspective. We'll piece it together and move forward."
Moving forward begins with learning from the season-opening loss and taking away the handful of positives hidden within the lopsided score.
One of those things is the on-the-fly adjustments the Buccaneers' defense made after surrendering a touchdown on an 80-yard opening drive that chewed up 9:16 of the first quarter. After that potentially demoralizing drive, the Bucs showed their usual resolve and regrouped. On the Ravens' next five drives, they gained the following yardage totals: negative-seven, nine, nine six and seven, respectively. In total, the Buccaneers defense allowed only 191 yards the rest of the way, much of that late in the game when it was focusing on taking the ball away.
"We regrouped," Rice said. "This game ain't about regrouping, but we did that. You've got to take the positives, especially from a losing standpoint. We've got to walk away with some type of moral victory, and the silver lining for us is that we regrouped."
The Bucs don't want to sugarcoat the loss. Quarterback Chris Simms said, "It stinks, plain and simple. They put it to us."
Still, videotape analysis is likely to reveal several things to build on, as well as some very correctable errors. One other positive, for instance, was the utilization of the team's tight ends, something that could eventually loosen coverage on wide receivers as well as the stacked defensive fronts running back Cadillac Williams will see throughout the season. Between Anthony Becht and Alex Smith, Buccaneer tight ends caught six passes for 45 yards and were involved in the team's offense right from the start of Sunday's game. Still, Becht said he expects more from himself and is confident the team will improve.
"It's definitely a loss that we have to learn from," Becht said. "I've been on plenty of teams that have lost the home opener and done extremely well throughout the season. We have 15 games left. We just take them one at a time. We're going to Atlanta. It's going to be a good test. This is just NFL football. Any week, any given time, it doesn't matter. Somebody's going to win the game. It wasn't our turn this week. We've just got to come back, work hard next week, get ourselves prepared and go into Atlanta and play a good team.
"It's a marathon, and we're not out of it by any means. I don't think anybody feels that way. This isn't college football where you're out of the national championship already. We've got 15 games left and we're just on our second game next week."
Other positives include Ronde Barber's physical play, with 11 tackles (10 solo), and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud's eight-tackle fill-in for injured starter Shelton Quarles. And even though Simms didn't have his best day as a starter, Head Coach Jon Gruden spoke confidently about his quarterback's future and Simms himself handled the defeat with aplomb.
In the locker room after the game, Simms held himself accountable for the game, offered no excuses for the outcome and remained optimistic about his team's chances this season.
"[The defense] kept us in it," Simms said. "Offensively, we pretty much stunk up the place today. I stunk up the place, and there's no other way around it. That's the simple fact of the matter.
"It's a long season. This game, in the grand scheme of things, means very little. It will leave a bad taste in my mouth tonight and tomorrow, but we'll watch the film, we'll fix things and come tomorrow morning, it's time to get ready for the Falcons."