This game was supposed to be a lifeboat for the Buccaneers, a chance to get things right against a bad team. Perhaps they could set up a fast finish to salvage a dram of respectability from a season that has turned into a horror show.
Then again, the Bucs are a bad team, so what were we thinking?
They are mentally fragile when things go wrong. They can't handle prosperity when things go right. If the other team doesn't beat them, chances are the Bucs will beat themselves.
And when it all comes together, as it did here on a gray, wet, windswept Sunday at EverBank Field, the result is truly hideous.
There was already ample reason before this game to believe Raheem Morris' time as the Bucs' head coach may be coming to an end, but what happened here was astonishingly bad. The 41-14 beating they took against the Jacksonville Jaguars all but shouted that change is on the way.
They played the kind of a game that gets a coach and a lot of players fired.
The Bucs were swamped for 41 unanswered points after taking a 14-0 lead just 51 seconds into the second quarter. They tied a franchise record with seven turnovers – SEVEN! – four fumbles, three interceptions (two by Josh Freeman). They had 12 penalties for 97 yards.
They have lost seven games in a row, but even that doesn't tell the whole story.
At a time they are supposed to be fighting for the job of a coach they are said to love, the Bucs have been outscored 79-33 the past two weeks by Carolina and Jacksonville: combined record, 8-18. The specter of a 10-game losing streak to end this season is growing more probable by the week.
Imagine the demand for a change at the top if that happens.
"If was worried about job security, I wouldn't be coaching right now. I'd be holding a microphone, talking to some other coach," Morris said. "But I'm going to keep coaching and do what I've got to do."
Cornerback Ronde Barber was more direct in the quiet Bucs' locker room when the carnage was over.
"Nobody is in the business thinking about job security. We'll worry about 2012 when 2011 is up," Barber said. "We have three more games to figure out who we're going to be. To hell with job security. Nobody is worried about that. We've got to win for us."
But it's the same ol' stuff – although there was an extra-large heaping of stuff in this one. They had four turnovers in a row at one point, tossing out a one-play kneel-down at the end of the first half. There were missed tackles, missed assignments, and not just by the rookies.
Veteran safety Tanard Jackson got sucked in on one play, allowing Jacksonville tight end Mercedes Lewis to get free for a 62-yard pass completion while Sean Jones tried to chase him down. The play set up a touchdown.
"Tanard Jackson can't leave him in a hole," Morris said.
There was much, much more, starting with two more interceptions from Josh Freeman and one from Josh Johnson. LeGarrette Blount fumbled twice, lost one. Freeman lost a fumble that Jacksonville recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Preston Parker fumbled a punt return the Jaguars returned for a touchdown.
"You're carrying everybody's livelihood in your arms and you've got to hold on to the ball," Morris said.
Let me repeat: This is Jacksonville, winner of three games prior to Sunday. The Jaguars are playing for an interim coach and about to change ownership. They had one less day to prepare for this after playing last Monday. They spotted the Bucs a two-touchdown lead, and still won by 27.
So, what now?
"No magic pill. You probably have as good an answer to that as I do," Barber said. "But I'm not going to sit here and say we're defeated. We're just losing. Nobody on this team is going to give up. Everyone knows what they signed up for. We have to finish it, plain and simple."
With all respect to one of the truest professionals ever to wear a Bucs' uniform, this looks beyond anyone's ability to fix. Well, in the three weeks anyway. What happens after that, only the owners can answer.