Though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to a rough start, their current state still might not be as troubling as the one the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in.
With backup Brady Quinn prepared to make his first start in almost three years, the visiting Chiefs look to avoid a third consecutive loss while trying to hand the rested Buccaneers a fourth straight defeat Sunday.
After winning three of its final five games to salvage a 7-9 record last year and with key contributors Jamal Charles, Matt Cassel and Eric Berry healthy to open this season, Kansas City expected to start strong in 2012. However, the Chiefs have committed a league-high 19 turnovers in their 1-4 start, Cassel has a meager 66.2 passer rating and the defense has allowed 29.0 points per contest.
"This team needs to do more things to win,'' coach Romeo Crennel said. "That's what we're going to work on, try to get this team to do more of the right things so that we can win.''
Things hit a low late in last Sunday's 9-6 loss to Baltimore when a portion of the Chiefs' home crowd cheered as Cassel laid on the ground after a hit from Ravens' defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Kansas City offensive lineman Eric Winston called the cheering "100-percent sickening," but it demonstrated the frustration of one of the NFL's most loyal fan bases.
The Chiefs must find a way to get back on track with Quinn under center, as Cassel was ruled out against the Bucs after suffering a concussion versus Baltimore. In his first regular season action since he started and beat Kansas City while with Cleveland on Dec. 20, 2009, Quinn went 3 for 3 for 32 yards and led the Chiefs to a fourth quarter field goal last Sunday.
The 22nd overall pick in 2007 completed a pass to Dwayne Bowe for a go-ahead touchdown in that series, but it was called back due to a penalty.
"It felt great to be out there," said Quinn, who has completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 1,934 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions while starting 12 of his 15 career games. "Matt is our starter and I just prepare every week like I am a starter, and I prepare myself for the moment.''
That moment will be now, but all the pressure likely won't be on Quinn.
A Chiefs defense that had allowed least 24 points in each of its first four contests hopes to build on Sunday's effort when it limited Baltimore to three field goals.
"If we will play like that going forward, we give ourselves a chance to win the game,'' Crennel said.
Charles continues to be one of the few bright spots, rushing for a league-high 551 yards on 102 carries with two TDs while also catching 15 passes for 118 yards and a score. He gained 106 yards on 18 rushes during the Chiefs' 30-27 overtime home victory over Tampa Bay on Nov. 2, 2008.
The Buccaneers (1-3) have lost their last three games by a combined 15 points since a season-opening 16-10 victory over Carolina. While Kansas City might be struggling with its collective confidence, Tampa Bay feels confident coming out of its bye week.
"You know what's great about this team is everybody's so encouraged. Nobody's down,'' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
While the team's overall optimism is refreshing, the Buccaneers need to be more consistent.
Tampa Bay has scored 34 and 22 points in games this season, but also failed to total 20 in two others. Josh Freeman threw for 110 yards during a 16-10 loss at Dallas on Sept. 23, but had 299 while he helped the Bucs erase an 18-point deficit before falling 24-22 at home to Washington on Sept. 30.
High-priced free-agent acquisition Vincent Jackson caught six passes for 100 yards with a TD against the Redskins, his second 100-yard game in the last three. The former San Diego Charger, however, has averaged 63.8 receiving yards and scored three TDs in his last 10 games versus Kansas City.
Defensively, Tampa Bay ranks 27th allowing 419.0 yards per contest but has yielded only three second-half field goals in its last two games.
"You look at us on tape, and you say: 'Wow.' It's a play here or a play there,'' offensive tackle Donald Penn said. "It's going to come ... because it's right there."
Tampa Bay has won the last three meetings with Kansas City by a combined 13 points.