After a second-period penalty against New Orleans Saints T Jermon Bushrod, Bucs OLB Adam Hayward came to the sideline and appeared to get into a dustup with assistant coach Bryan Cox, who was shouting to another Tampa Bay player on the field.
Hayward got in Cox's way and he was pushed aside. Hayward then put two hands on Cox's chest and shoved him. He also yelled at Cox until teammate Jacob Cutrera got in between the two and led Hayward away.
"I'm aware of it, I'm not happy about it but I do know that it's been resolved,'' Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. "I think you chalk it up to heat of the moment. Guys are very passionate. Adam is a passionate player, coach Cox is a passionate coach. I know they're very close.
"It was more of a family spat in a frustrating time than anything that I'm deeply concerned about. Again, it's not what a football team that I'm head coach of wants to see. It will be addressed and we'll move on from it, but it need not happen again.''
Maintaining focus a big test
One year removed from a season-ending 10-game losing streak, the Bucs say they have a lot to play for in the next two weeks.
Tampa Bay will take a four-game skid into Sunday's home matchup against the Rams before closing out the 2012 slate on Dec. 30 at Atlanta.
"You've got to put good stuff on film because you might not have a job after these next two weeks,'' LT Donald Penn said. "It's going to be a big test for every player in this room.''
Last year's dismal finish cost head coach Raheem Morris his job. Although Schianois safe, players will be under scrutiny to see how they handle adversity.
"These two games are very important,'' rookie OLB Lavonte David said. "The last two weeks are going to determine our will. It's important that we stick together, no matter what. One thing I know — we're all being tested right now.''
After their first shutout loss since a 24-0 setback against the Giants in 2009, the Bucs are determined to maintain their focus down the stretch.
"You sign up for 16 and you play all 16,'' veteran S Ronde Barber said. "Nobody's playing for next year. … You're playing for the name on the front and back of your jersey. This franchise is trying to establish something.''
Barber didn't hesitate when asked how to overcome a loss of Sunday's magnitude.
"Collective amnesia,'' he said.
The Bucs entered the game with an NFL-high 14 completions of at least 40 yards, but Josh Freeman was unable to find WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams for long gains.
Jackson, averaging a league-leading 20.4 yards per catch, was held without a reception until late in the third quarter, when New Orleans was already cruising with a 31-0 lead. He finished with six catches for 81 yards and declined comment after the game for the second consecutive week.
Williams gained 63 yards on his four catches as TE Dallas Clark emerged as Freeman's favorite target with eight receptions for only 42 yards.
Together, Clark, Jackson and Williams were targeted 31 times.
"You give up turnovers on the road in a division game and it's going to come out like this,'' Williams said after the Bucs were victimized by five giveaways — four interceptions and a fumble by Freeman. "We can't have any finger-pointing going on around here and I don't think we will.''
Some of the Bucs were questioned about any possible lingering effect from a 23-21 loss to Philadelphia last week, when the Eagles scored on the last snap of the game to spoil a 10th anniversary salute to the 2002 championship team.
"That's ridiculous, that's a bad excuse,'' veteran S Ronde Barber.
A week after rookie Nick Foles shredded Tampa Bay for 381 yards, Drew Brees completed a season sweep of the Bucs by matching his Oct. 21 total of four TD passes against the Bucs.
"Anyone who asks about a carryover from last week's loss doesn't know what they're talking about,'' DT Roy Miller said. "We had a great week of practice and I was confident we were well prepared. Today was just embarrassing.
"For some reason, we weren't on the same page, on either side of the ball. When a team like the Saints finds a weakness, they get on track. And when they get on a roll, you're in for a long day.''
Reversal of fortune
The Bucs turned the ball over only 12 times in their first 13 games, establishing a plus-12 ratio that was topped by only four clubs. But Sunday, facing the most porous defense in the NFL, Josh Freeman threw four picks and lost a fourth-quarter fumble while being sacked by DE Cameron Jordan.
In contrast, Drew Brees was not picked off after throwing half of his 18 interceptions in the previous three weeks.
"We shot ourselves in the foot,'' Bucs RB D.J. Ware said. "We couldn't get anything going, no matter how hard we fought. We've got to show our next two opponents what we are all about.''
Tampa Bay has dropped 13 of the past 14 games it lost the turnover battle.
The Bucs had scored at least 21 points in 10 consecutive games. … The Saints hadn't posted a shutout since a 12-0 victory against the Jets on the final week of the 1995 season, when New York's quarterbacks were Bubby Brister and Boomer Esiason. … Drew Brees has thrown 33 TD passes in 15 career games against the Bucs. … For the first time this season, Tampa Bay failed to score in the fourth quarter. … Josh Freeman had thrown only three interceptions in his previous eight games. … LeGarrette Blount gained 25 yards on four fourth-quarter carries to lead the Bucs, who were outgained 149-67 on the ground.