Buccaneers complete collapse of the year

Tampa Bay BuccaneersWith their 31-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially completed the worst second half collapse of the 2008 NFL Season. And with their loss, the 2007 NFC South Champions were eliminated from postseason contention.

So what happened? How did this team fall from 9-3 to 9-7 in the blink of an eye? Well, it would be impossible to point to just one thing because several factors contributed to the Bucs’ freefall. But there seems to be three main factors that contributed in their collapse.

One of the biggest reasons for their demise was injuries along the defensive line. As soon as the team lost defensive tackles Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan three weeks ago, the Bucs were gashed by opponents’ running games. In their four game losing streak to close out the season, Tampa gave up a total of 710 rushing yards, or an average of 177.5 yards per game.

Another huge factor was losing Earnest Graham for the rest of the season after he was injured in a Week 11 win over Minnesota. Graham provided Tampa with a power running game to help balance what Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams brought to the table in terms of speed. Graham was also an unselfish player and a solid leader, willing to play any position (including fullback) to help his team win.

The nail in the coffin for this team seemed to be when defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s son was hired at the University of Tennessee. As soon as Lane Kiffin was hired, speculation grew that Monte would join him, which he eventually announced that he would following the season. Even though Monte is the ultimate professional and wouldn’t skate on his responsibilities as Tampa’s DC, there’s no denying that his announcement to leave at the end of the year created a distraction. In fact, the Bucs didn’t win one game following Tennessee’s decision to hire Monte’s son.

When you throw all three of those ingredients into a pot and mix them up, you’ve got the makings of bad stew. The writing has been on the wall for weeks, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Bucs couldn’t even muster a victory at home against the hapless Raiders with the playoffs on the line.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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