The Tampa Bay Bucs reveled in the Summer of Love in front of the HBO cameras.
The prep for the early days of Fall by blowing their marquee close-up.
Those blotches you see are real, a reflection of a team that stunk it up in half of their games in the young NFL season. A 19-14 loss to the New England Patriots in a Thursday Night Football matchup doesn't mean fans should storm One Buc Place with pitchforks, looking for someone to stick it to in frustration.
But it may be best to keep security on high alert.
And you might want to put an extra man on kicker Nick Folk, who missed three field goal attempts, including a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter that could have been the difference maker.
Folk won a war of attrition with Roberto Aguayo during training camp, but continued gainful employment in the NFL is now very shaky.
"We'll talk about that sometime forthcoming," was all Bucs coach Dirt Koetter offered in the post-mortem.
Folk has now missed six kicks in five days. He whiffed on a field goal and an extra point in Tampa Bay's victory against the New York Giants on Sunday, although he did make the game-winner.
Folk then shanked three kicks on Thursday night, although one was a 56-yarder at the halftime gun.
"Keep swinging," Folk said. "We should have won the game 20-19. This one's on me."
At 2-2, the Bucs aren't dead, but they can't feel very good about how this played out. Two touchdowns against the worse defense in the NFL is putrid. Awful against a team that was allowing an average of 32 points a game and an average of 394.3 yards.
Winston? He was continually off his mark, often overthrowing receivers until padding stats on the last two drives of desperation. Take into consideration this fun fact: The Patriots had given up 300 or more passing yards in their first four games.
Mike Evans? Blah. He finished with five catches for 49 yards.
Folk? Child please.
Only Doug Martin – returning after a three-game suspension – looked like a trustworthy option, rushing for 74 yards and a score.
Captain Obvious summation: This is not good. At all.
"You can't miss opportunities and that's what happened tonight," Winston said.
A game that was supposed to be an offensive brawl turned into a round of patty cake, with the Patriots delivering just enough blows to go back home with a victory.
This is tough for the home team.
They were the darlings of Hard Knocks, the HBO series that gives you a backstage pass to the locker room and inner workings of an NFL team.
The highs included watching Winston go back to Sweet Home Alabama and talk about cockroaches in his old family home. The lows included the agonizing but decision to cut ties with placekicker Aguayo. (Might want a do-over there).
The Bucs have since moved on to a more compelling reality series called the NFL regular season, and at 2-2, early ratings are:
"You can't play this one over again," Koetter said. "We let this one slip away."
The Bucs have playoff aspirations for the first time since 2007. Realistic ones with a high-octane offense and a defense loaded with playmakers.
The Patriots came into town flaunting another Super Bowl ring, and accompanied by a strong contingent of road-warrior fans in nautical blue, red and silver trim. But the more worrisome folks in Tampa were on the opposing sideline.
Brady. Brandin Cooks. A coach named Belichick.
"I don't ever look at anything as me against the other coach," Koetter said before the game. "I have the utmost respect for Bill Belichick. His respect is well deserved and beyond reproach. It's not coach vs. coach. It's team vs. team."
The Summer of Love has segued into the Hard Knocks reality of mediocrity a quarter into the 2017 season.
ABOUT THE WRITER
George Diaz is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.