The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made strides this season. You can see hints of that in the team's at-times-explosive offense led by a cast of young players who hint at better things to come.
The Bucs are also a team with plenty of holes and too many injuries, making first-year coach Greg Schiano's job a challenging one down the stretch. After marching out to a 6-4 record, the young Bucs have lost five straight.
"What's eating me right now is we're close, but close isn't what we're here for," Schiano told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday. "We've got to get where we start getting the five or six plays that determine the game on each side of the ball."
We've seen two different seasons from quarterback Josh Freeman. He was loose and in command early, throwing 25 touchdowns to eight interceptions over the first 10 weeks. He's thrown another eight picks since.
Part of that speaks to Freeman's development, but also to the situation he faces nearly every Sunday. The Bucs defense, like last season, cannot stop the pass and has bled points down the stretch, asking Freeman to pull the team out of a hole.
"Did we forget how to coach? Did they forget how to play? I don't think so," Schiano said. "It just didn't happen for us. And certainly that has an impact on the game."
When we stuck a fork in the Bucs weeks ago, but we did it gently, because Schiano made progress with this team. He doesn't have his parts in place and we expect plenty of roster manipulation in the offseason, but there is hope in Tampa. And that's better than nothing.