NFL Nation: Gerald McCoy

Last stand for Da'Quan Bowers

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
1:52
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- When he came here in 2011, there was hope that Da'Quan Bowers would blossom into one of the league’s best defensive ends.

Now, he is auditioning just to prove he belongs in the NFL. The final two games of the season mark Bowers’ last chance to show something. He will be a free agent after this season, and this is his last chance to convince the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to re-sign him. It’s also a chance to show other teams what he can do.

Bowers
Bowers, who moved from defensive end to defensive tackle this season, probably will get more playing time in the final two games than he has all season. That’s because All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

The 2-12 Bucs obviously are out of the playoff picture, but they will be watching Bowers closely, because they have to make a decision on whether or not to keep him around.

"You like to see a guy who can be physical at the point of attack," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We’ll probably get more runs at that position than we have all season because of Gerald not playing. He’ll have an opportunity to show his teammates and his coaches what he’s able to do in an extended period. We saw a little of that last week when Gerald went down early. [Bowers] got in a few more snaps and he found out the importance of conditioning. We need to see if he can pass rush, we need to see him go down in and down out and really do the things we ask him to do in run defense as well. It’s a great opportunity for him. He’ll be able to showcase that he’s capable of being a quality NFL starter."

Once talked about as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, Bowers’ stock slipped because of concerns about his knee. The Bucs took a shot on him in the second round. But Bowers was a non-factor, recording just 5.5 sacks in his first three seasons.

But when coach Lovie Smith arrived this season, the expectations for Bowers weren’t the same as before. Gradually, Bowers was moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, and he’s handled the transition well.

"It’s a totally different position even though you’re playing on the defensive line," Frazier said. "The blocking schemes are a lot different than when you’re a defensive end. Sometimes there are two people blocking you, with a guard and a tackle versus a tight end or a tackle at defensive end. Based on our needs, he fits the situation. He did a good enough job for us a week ago. We’ve been playing him inside throughout the season. We’ve also had him outside. But, at this point, he’s probably exclusively an inside player for us because of the circumstances."

The circumstances are that Tampa Bay is light on healthy defensive tackles. That means Bowers will get a lot of playing time, and he will have a chance to influence whether the Bucs decide to keep him around.
When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida TV: Fox

For five straight weeks, the Green Bay Packers looked like they might have been the best team in football.

They seemed to be in cruise control for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Then the Packers went to Buffalo, and a strange thing happened. Playing what might have been their worst game of the season, the Packers lost to the Bills.

Consider that proof that anything is possible in the NFL. Consider that proof that it’s not out of the question that the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance against the Packers on Sunday. That may seem like a long shot, but last week showed nothing is guaranteed.

ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas and ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down Sunday's game:

Yasinskas: Rob, what the heck happened to the Packers in Buffalo? I didn't see that one coming.

Demovsky: I don't think anyone did, Pat. But in hindsight, the Bills have just the kind of defense that could give -- and has given -- Aaron Rodgers and Co. trouble. They have a great front four that allows them to drop the maximum number of defenders into coverage. It's the same reason the Seahawks and Lions had been successful against the Packers. But if Rodgers and his receivers had even played an average game, that wouldn't have happened. Sometimes the stats lie, but in this case, they didn't. It was indeed one of the worst games I've ever seen Rodgers play, and I've seen all of them. He was out of sync from the get-go. He would read a play one way and his receivers would read it another. That's a bad recipe for an offense that relies on timing and reading the defense.

With that in mind, Pat, Lovie Smith's defenses gave Rodgers some trouble back in Chicago. Is there any reason to think the Buccaneers can come close to replicating what the Bills did?

Yasinskas: Probably not, especially with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy now out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. But if Tampa Bay does have a bright spot, it's the defense, which has been respectable since the bye week. The pass rush has been decent and the linebackers have played well. The secondary hasn't been great, but it has been better than it was in the first half of the season. This defense is improving steadily, but it still isn't as good as what Smith had in Chicago. The Bucs would have to play a perfect game to stop the Packers, and this defense is far from perfect. I don't think the Bucs have what it takes to pull off what Buffalo did.

Did that one bad game cost Rodgers the MVP award?

Demovsky: It shouldn't, but he probably needs to bounce back with one more of those three-plus-touchdown/no-interception games. It's human nature for the voters to remember what they've seen most recently, and of all the MVP candidates, Rodgers is probably the one whose bad game has come the latest in the season. Nevertheless, his efficiency this season has been off the charts. If 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions isn't an MVP pace, I don't know what is.

I know the Bucs have tried Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at various times this season at quarterback. Have they seen enough to know whether they can count on or rule out either one or both as their starter next season?

Yasinskas: I think the only thing that has been settled is that Glennon is not viewed as the long-term answer by the coaching staff. Although he was referred to as the quarterback of the future, he has been benched in favor of McCown twice -- once upon McCown's arrival and again when McCown returned from a thumb injury. That tells me Glennon has no future here. And McCown is no long-term answer. He's 35 and he hasn't played like the savvy veteran the Bucs expected. He has turned the ball over too much and been inconsistent. Whether it's through the draft or free agency, the Bucs need to make a move at quarterback this offseason.

I read where Packers coach Mike McCarthy was quoted as saying there would be some change on special teams this week. What's that all about?

Demovsky: When you've had six kicks blocked (two punts, two field goals and two extra points), you know you have a problem. And then the Bills returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. McCarthy said this week that "the personnel is not right." Fifteen weeks into the season, it was shocking to hear, but it's a sure sign that there will be some new players or old players in different roles on those units this week.

I'm sure plenty of Packers fans are already chalking this one up in the win column, but what's the most likely way the Bucs could pull off an upset Sunday?

Yasinskas: It's a long shot any way you look at it. But the best chance for Tampa Bay would be if the defense plays a great game. That's going to be tough without McCoy, but there still is enough individual talent on this defense to have a good outing. To win, though, the defense has to be more than good. It has to be outstanding, and it would have to produce points, because Tampa Bay's offense isn't explosive enough to stay with the Packers. Like I said, it's a long shot, but you never know what you're going to get with the Bucs.

TAMPA, Fla. -- The competitor in Gerald McCoy didn’t want to let the knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s game end his season. But the rational side of McCoy knows it's best that he sits out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' final two games.

McCoy
McCoy
“I believe this is the best decision because it’s more long-term,’’ McCoy said. “I think we have a lot of great -- not good -- great ahead of us with this team and this organization. A big part of that will be my health. I need to be healthy if we’re going to be successful.’’

McCoy suffered a sprained knee in the loss to Carolina and the injury will not require surgery. The Bucs are 2-12, so why is McCoy so optimistic about the future?

“We have a lot of great pieces in place,’’ McCoy said. “We’ve made a lot of great strides. But, in order to make all that happen, I have to get healthy.’’

There’s no question the Bucs and McCoy are making the right decision in shutting him down for the rest of the season. He’s the most valuable piece of the team’s foundation and there’s no sense in exposing him to further injury when the playoffs are out of the picture. McCoy will rest the knee for a few weeks, but he already is looking forward to starting the process of getting ready for next season.

“I’ve already talked to my trainer out in San Diego and told him to get his head together because he’s got a madman coming,’’ McCoy said.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Seen and heard in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room after Sunday's 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers:
  • McCoy
    McCoy
    Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered a hyperextended knee, coach Lovie Smith said. McCoy left the game in the first quarter and did not return. Smith didn't know how serious the injury was, but it's not too much of a stretch to think that McCoy's season probably is over. The Bucs have only two games left, and there's no sense in exposing their best player to further injury.
  • Smith and quarterback Josh McCown both said they were perplexed by a call by the officials at the start of the fourth quarter. After an initial ruling that McCown had thrown an incomplete pass, the play was reviewed and the ruling was changed to a fumble on a ball that traveled about 15 yards in the air. Smith said the explanation from the officials was that the ball already was out and moving before McCown's arm came through.
  • Smith confirmed that left tackle Anthony Collins was indeed a healthy scratch. Collins was benched as the Bucs moved Demar Dotson from the right side to the left side. Smith said the move was a coach's decision. He also said Dotson is Tampa Bay's best tackle and the coaching staff wanted a look at him on the left side.
TAMPA, Fla. -- As the losses continue to pile up, it’s fair to wonder if Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith could follow the path of Rob Chudzinski and Mike Mularkey.

Chudzinski lasted only one season in Cleveland and Mularkey was ousted after one year in Jacksonville. Could Smith, whose team is 2-10, face the same fate?

Smith
Nothing is out of the question, but I think Smith is safe. Smith was ownership’s hand-picked coach to follow Greg Schiano and was given a five-year contract.

Ownership obviously can’t be delighted with the early results. But I think they are smart enough to look at the big picture, due largely to trial and error in the past. Since firing Jon Gruden after the 2008 season, the Bucs have gone through constant change.

From Raheem Morris to Schiano and now to Smith, the Bucs have kept overhauling their roster but never gave it a chance to stabilize. The Bucs have some good individual talent (Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans and Lavonte David to name a few) to build around. Some complementary players are needed, and that’s what the upcoming offseason is for.

But what the Bucs need more than anything right now is continuity. Smith isn’t like Morris or Schiano, who were unproven in the NFL. Smith won in Chicago, and history is the best indicator of what is to come. Smith needs another offseason to get the roster to where he needs it to be.

Smith hasn’t panicked this season. He’s stayed the course and stuck with his philosophies. I don’t anticipate that changing. Smith is a creature of habit.

And that’s a good thing. The last thing the Bucs need right now is another dramatic change. There’s no question some personnel moves need to be made, but the Bucs need stability.

They need to stick with Smith and let him finish what he has started.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room after their 14-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

McCoy
McCoy
Late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs appeared to move the ball to the Cincinnati 20-yard line with a chance to kick a winning field goal. But the play was reviewed, and the Bucs were penalized for having 12 men on the field. How did that happen? According to quarterback Josh McCown, the Bucs brought in Oniel Cousins to serve as an extra blocker and failed to take receiver Robert Herron off the field.

Coach Lovie Smith generally avoids strong criticism of his players. That changed a bit Sunday. Smith didn’t single any player out, but he referred to "stupid penalties" twice. The Bucs were penalized 13 times for 94 yards.

The offense is an easy target after the Bucs scored only 13 points. But defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was pointing the blame at the defense. McCoy said the defense needed to score and didn’t.

Buccaneers collapse in epic fashion

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
7:06
PM ET

CHICAGO -- A few weeks ago, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith playfully said that his team would make an "epic climb" at some point.

You want epic?

The Bucs delivered an epic collapse Sunday. For a team that has lost in just about every way in a 2-9 start, Sunday's 21-13 loss to the Chicago Bears was different.

[+] EnlargeLovie Smith
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastLovie Smith was in no mood to reminisce about his Bears days after the Bucs' disastrous third quarter led to another loss.
This time, you couldn't see it coming. This time, the Bucs started fast and appeared to be cruising to a second straight win.

What happened? The third quarter happened. After dominating the first half and leading 10-0, the Bucs suddenly crumbled in spectacular fashion. They gave up 21 points in the third quarter, and it was the literal definition of "gave" them up.

It started harmlessly enough. The Bucs received the second-half kickoff and ran three plays before punting. That's when a Chicago offense that had been held to 68 yards in the first half suddenly came to life. The Bears put together a quick touchdown drive to cut the lead to 10-7.

"The plan wasn't to start off the second half that way," Smith said. "And once we got ourselves in the hole a little bit, we needed to regroup right there, and we didn't."

Once the hole opened, it just kept getting wider very quickly.

Quarterback Josh McCown, who had played so well in last Sunday's victory at Washington, suddenly turned into a turnover machine. He held the ball way too long on a scramble that resulted in a sack/fumble by Chicago's David Bass. That gave the Bears the ball at Tampa Bay's 13-yard line. On the next play, Matt Forte ran for a touchdown that put the Bears ahead to stay.

Chicago's onslaught didn't stop there. On Tampa Bay's first play of the next series, McCown threw a pass intended for rookie running back Charles Sims that wound up in the hands of safety Ryan Mundy.

"It was unfortunate," McCown said. "The ball goes off of Chuck's hands and ends up in their [hands]. Those two right there back-to-back hurt us. It's tough, but we've got to do a better job managing it."

Three plays later, Forte scored again. The lightning-quick chain of events in the third quarter decided the game and put the Bucs back to where they were before their victory in Washington.

Smith has been talking about how his team is improving and how he believes the Bucs are ready to turn the corner. And for 30 minutes, it looked like the Bucs were playing exactly the style he likes. They were putting a good rush on quarterback Jay Cutler and moving the ball in the passing game.

"We did it for the first half," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "We have to do it the whole game. We didn't do it enough. We have to be more consistent and do it the entire game."

The Bucs ended the game with four turnovers. They came up with only one takeaway.

"It's tough to win football games when you lose the turnover ratio," Smith said.

The irony is that the Bears won by playing the way they often did when Smith was the coach in Chicago for nine years. But this wasn't a day for reflection.

"I really wasn't into family reunions or anything like that today," Smith said. "I have lifetime friends here. I don't really need a game to see them. We won a lot of games here at Soldier Field. A lot of great memories. But this is a bad memory right now."

Smith's right. His time in Chicago is in the past and no longer matters. His job now is to turn the Bucs around. You can't do that when you're having disastrous quarters.
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LANDOVER, Md. -- Ever since he was hired in January, we've heard Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith talk about "Buc Ball."

For the first nine games of the season, it looked as if the definition of that was to go out and play bad football. If the Bucs weren't getting routed, they were squandering fourth-quarter leads.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesMike Evans' effort helped seal a Buccaneers victory that was driven by their defense.
But Sunday's 27-7 victory over the Washington Redskins showed everyone what Buc Ball is supposed to look like. With rookie wide receiver Mike Evans playing the role of closer, Tampa Bay's defense set the stage for a win with its best performance of the season.

"It just shows us what we're capable of," defensive end Michael Johnson said. "We can be very dangerous when we do that. We've got a lot of talented players together like that. When it all goes together, it's kind of an orchestra, a symphony, sweet music."

What Buc Ball is made up of is an aggressive and opportunistic defense coupled with an efficient offense. The Bucs took the offense to extra heights, thanks to Evans, who finished with seven catches for 209 yards.

"[Evans] is just special," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "I'll just leave it at that."

Evans' two second-half touchdowns sealed the victory, but the defense already had the Bucs in control. It started on the first play of the game when linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted a pass by Robert Griffin III to set up a quick field goal.

The 2-8 Bucs, who have been notoriously slow starters, followed up with cornerback Johnthan Banks returning a Griffin interception for a touchdown with 3:56 left in the first quarter.

The defensive heroics didn't end there. The Bucs also recovered a fumble and sacked Griffin six times.

"Our defense going on the field and getting a quick takeaway kind of set the tone," Smith said. "We haven't been able to take the ball away as much as we need to on the defensive side. Thought we had great pressure from our front. The front kind of set the tempo as much as anything."

That tempo might have been set by McCoy, who had 1.5 sacks. The unquestioned leader of the defense, McCoy gave a pregame speech that apparently hit home.

"It was the attitude," McCoy said. "I talked to the group before we went out there and told them we have to have a different type of attitude. We just took the attitude of, we expect to win, and we went out there and did what we had to do."

The Bucs did something else they hadn't been doing -- protected a lead. This is the same team that had blown fourth-quarter leads in each of the last three games and five times this season.

"We talk about 'play 60,'" Smith said. "Sixty good minutes. We haven't been able to start the game and finish it at the same time."

This time, the Bucs started and finished well. It was evidence that Buc Ball really can work.

"That's what they're supposed to do," Smith said. "That's our style of ball."

No tears from Bucs QB Josh McCown

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
5:21
PM ET
LANDOVER, Md. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 27-7 victory against Washington at FedEx Field:
    McCown
  • Although it seemed impossible after what happened last Sunday, quarterback Josh McCown opened his session with the media with a joke: "Last week, [did] y'all get wet?" That's what a victory can do for your mood. Last week, McCown was crying in the locker room after a loss to Atlanta. On Sunday, he was smiling.
  • Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans, who had seven catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns, might be becoming a household name in some sectors. But there was a funny moment in the hallway of the locker room. Evans was brought out to do a radio interview, and the producer shouted into his cellphone back to headquarters, "I've got Mike Smith ready to go."
  • Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said he gave a speech to the entire defense. The theme of it, he said, was "refuse to lose." He might want to try that one again next week.

Buccaneers are a broken record

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
8:00
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- In their eighth loss of the season, something new happened for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The team’s most powerful voice was silenced. And the coach, who usually paints a pretty picture, wasn’t even trying.

Let’s start with coach Lovie Smith. He gave the freshest speech he’s given in weeks, really all season. For a change Smith didn’t try to put a positive spin on Sunday’s 27-17 loss to Atlanta.

“It’s a broken record, really, with me talking to you and telling you how much better we’re getting and we’re making progress -- got to find a way to get a win," Smith said.

Amen. It’s about time Smith addressed how the Bucs have struggled, instead of trying to make it sound like the team is improving. When you're 1-8 and have blown fourth-quarter leads in the last three games and five on the season, you’re not improving. You’re getting worse and you’re getting closer to 1-15. Does anybody really see the Bucs winning another game right now?

I see a defense that’s not half as good as it should be. I see a team with no running game and a ridiculously bad punting game.

All that is probably part of the reason the team’s biggest voice was nearly silent. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who usually always has something to say, didn’t have much to say.

“Usually I know what to say, but at this point, guys, I don’t know," McCoy said. "I don’t know anymore. I know we're going to keep going, but I don’t have an answer for you, I really don’t. I’m sorry."

I don’t know which is more out of character -- Smith not trying to talk about improvement or McCoy speaking the painful truth.

Either way, it’s not good.
» AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South | Preseason picks

Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas revises his prediction at the midway point of the season:

Preseason prediction: 8-8

Revised prediction: 4-12

Why the Buccaneers will finish worse: I admit I bought into the hype the Bucs were selling about winning right away because they didn't believe they could ask their fans to be patient much longer. They were aggressive in free agency, signing defensive end Michael Johnson, left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith and trading for guard Logan Mankins. With players like defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David already in place, the roster looked good -- on paper -- heading into the season. But this team has struggled in every way imaginable.

The Bucs aren't going to get to .500 or even close. They rank 31st in the league in overall offense and defense, and they're not doing anything particularly well. They have lost some close games and been routed twice. Injuries to quarterback Josh McCown, running back Doug Martin, middle linebacker Mason Foster and safety Dashon Goldson have played a role, and the loss of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford to a leave of absence after a preseason heart procedure hasn't helped. But this team still has underachieved, and some of those moves made in free agency aren't looking very good.

Coach Lovie Smith keeps saying his team is improving, but that’s happening in very small increments. The Bucs need major improvement before they can win.

They will win a few games and show a little progress down the stretch. But the kind of improvement this team needs is the type that can come only with another offseason to strengthen the roster.

» AFC Report: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South | HOME

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Lovie Smith era has started about as poorly as possible. Smith and general manager Jason Licht came in saying they were in a "win-now" mode because they didn't feel it was fair to ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans to be patient. They were aggressive in free agency, but none of those signings has made a major impact so far. Injuries have played a part in the slow start, but they're not a valid excuse for what has happened. This team has struggled in every area, and there haven't been many signs that things are going to improve.

Midseason MVP: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been a bright spot on a team that hasn't had many. Despite drawing constant double-teams and playing part of the time with a broken hand, McCoy has been a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line. He has played the run very well and has been the most consistent pass-rusher the Bucs have. That's why the Bucs recently signed McCoy to a seven-year, $98 million contract extension.

Biggest disappointment: The defense. This unit was supposed to be a strength under Smith, who is supposed to be a defensive guru, with McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David forming the nucleus. McCoy and David have done their parts, but the rest of the defense has been a disaster. The Bucs are ranked last in overall defense, and a lot of people are wondering whether Smith's Tampa 2 scheme is outdated. Defensive end Michael Johnson, who was brought in to bolster the pass rush, hasn't been a factor.

Best moment: There's only one choice here, and that's the Sept. 28 win against Pittsburgh. It came on the road and was easily Tampa Bay's best overall performance of the season. Quarterback Mike Glennon was making his first start of the season, and he threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs trailed late in the game, but the defense came up with a huge stop. The offense got the ball back with 40 seconds left, and Glennon led the drive to a game-winning touchdown.

Worst moment: You can take your pick of several, and the blowout loss to Atlanta is a strong candidate. But I'm going with the 48-17 loss to Baltimore. That was the worst because it came at home after a week in which the coaches and players were promising an improved performance. Instead, the Bucs turned in their worst performance of the season. They fell behind quickly and trailed 38-0 at halftime.

Key to the second half: Playoff hopes disappeared a long time ago, but the second half of this season is important on several levels. Although it would be unusual to fire a coach (especially one on a five-year contract) after only one season, it's not unprecedented. Smith needs a few wins and some signs of improvement to fully secure his job. This season still can turn out to be a success if the Bucs finish strong and build some momentum heading into next season.

CLEVELAND -- It should have been said long ago.

But it didn't come until after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 22-17 to the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday. And naturally it came from the most powerful voice in the Bucs' locker room.

"Everybody's frustrated, but I don't think anybody's upset enough with losing," All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "It's like, 'OK, we had a lot of good plays, and they came back. They won. Now on to the next.' No, we've got to stop that."

[+] EnlargeTaylor Gabriel
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsThe Buccaneers led the Browns in the fourth quarter until Taylor Gabriel scored on a 34-yard pass from Brian Hoyer.
McCoy's right in his assessment that the Bucs aren't upset enough about losing. They're 1-7, and week after week, we keep hearing how they're improving. It's a message that starts with coach Lovie Smith and trickles down to the players.

But much of that positive talk stopped Sunday. Smith was unusually grim in his postgame meeting with the media.

"There's no doubt we're headed in the right direction, but you say that about four games ago," Smith said. "We have to find a way to win a game is what we have to do. And that's what we haven't been able to figure out. And we're running out of time. We're at the halfway point in our season now. It's about November football, playing your best ball right now, and we haven't."

That's a huge about-face from a coach who just last week said the season doesn't really start until November. But maybe that's what happens when you lose a game after holding a fourth-quarter lead for the second straight week.

Maybe that's what happens when you do positive things you hadn't been doing, such as running the ball well and rushing the passer, and still find ways to lose.

The Bucs found plenty of ways to lose against the Browns. The special teams were a sore spot. The Bucs had a punt and a field goal attempt blocked. They also had an offside penalty on a Cleveland field goal attempt. That set up a first down, and the Browns ended up scoring a touchdown.

A defense that played well most of the day had a huge breakdown on Cleveland's winning touchdown. With 8:59 left in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay allowed Taylor Gabriel to get open behind three-deep coverage. The Bucs also weren't helped by the two interceptions thrown by quarterback Mike Glennon.

"We see all these bright spots and then boom, it's a blackout," McCoy said. "We've got to eliminate that. We have to make a play at the end. We have to stop allowing the other team to make a play at the end."

Smith isn't prone to being openly critical of his players, but that wasn't the case Sunday.

"Those were all blunders that really cost us in the end," Smith said.

Maybe it's good that Smith is showing a little frustration. I think it's great that McCoy is showing a lot of frustration. The rest of the Bucs need to follow McCoy's lead and get so fed up with losing that they start winning.

"I've been here," McCoy said. "I've been dealing with this for five years. I'm tired of it. I don't know how everybody else feels. But I'm sick of dealing with it. I'm just being honest. I probably shouldn't have said that, but I am. It is what it is. I don't know if guys that haven't been here know what we've been dealing with for a while now. We've got to get tired of losing."
TAMPA, Fla. -- All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy knows how to deal with the media better than any of the other Buccaneers. He knows he’s the most powerful voice in the locker room, and he isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind.

McCoy
McCoy
 McCoy, obviously, had something on his mind Thursday. Unsolicited, he opened his weekly chat with the media with glowing praise of Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer. At the same time, McCoy certainly seemed to be taking a shot at Johnny Manziel without ever using the rookie’s name.

“First off, I want to say from me how much respect I have for Brian Hoyer and what he represents on the field,’’ McCoy said. “I don’t know who he is or what type of guy he is off the field. He’s in the starting role for a reason. He rightfully earned that role through all the circus that was going on in Cleveland.

“He never wavered. He kept his mouth shut, and he just performed, and he’s the guy who should be starting. He’s led them the way he should. He’s an athletic guy, smart, can make all the throws and is a huge reason why they are where they’re at. Starting with him, we’ve got to make sure we neutralize him.’’

The Browns drafted Manziel in the first round amid all sorts of hoopla. Manziel was the focus of all the preseason media hype. But Hoyer won the job and has a pretty firm grip on it with the Browns off to a 4-3 start.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers credit for finally getting something right.

The team has struggled through a 1-5 start and hasn’t made the playoffs since last decade. But Saturday, the Bucs made the best move they’ve made in a very long time.

McCoy
McCoy
They signed All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a seven-year contract extension worth $98 million. That makes McCoy the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league, but he deserves every bit of it. He’s the best defensive tackle in the league and still has upside.

But McCoy is more than just a defensive tackle. He’s the leader of this franchise on and off the field. He recently has called himself out for not playing up to par and called the Bucs’ defense "soft." Those words mean a lot from McCoy because he has the résumé to back them up.

The McCoy extension is also a sign that coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht are going forward with their plan on how to build the Bucs. Smith has made it clear he wants to build a defense like the Bucs had in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

That’s when the Bucs had Warren Sapp at defensive tackle and Derrick Brooks at weakside linebacker. The new Bucs are in great shape at both of those positions with McCoy filling the Sapp role and Lavonte David drawing favorable comparisons to Brooks.

David is likely to get his contract extension after this season, and that will lock up the Bucs’ nucleus for the long term. Despite the team's record, Smith and Licht are going about things the right way. They’ve made sure their best player doesn’t get anywhere near free agency.

They still need another offseason of personnel moves to really be competitive, but the Bucs have made sure they’ve secured their main building block. McCoy is a leader on and off the field, and, if the Bucs can fill in some of the holes around him on defense, they can truly be like the Bucs of old.

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