As he sat in his darkened office early Monday morning breaking down tape of Tampa Bay's 27-16 loss to the Saints, Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris came to a sobering conclusion.
The Bucs, he later admitted, are a much weaker team without defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who will finish this season the same way he finished last season – watching from the sideline with a torn biceps muscle.
McCoy tore his right biceps trying to tackle Chris Ivory with 3:35 left in the first quarter Sunday and will be placed on injured reserve, said Morris, who detected a notable sag in the Bucs defense after McCoy's departure.
"You can see the difference in our play up front with him out of the game – how it affects our get-off and some of the things we're able to do there positively on defense,'' Morris said.
You can see it on the stat sheet, too. In the four games McCoy played from start to finish this season, the Bucs have recorded 10 sacks and allowed opposing runners an average of 4.2 yards per carry.
When McCoy is out of the lineup, a span of nearly four full games, the Bucs have recorded two sacks and allowed opposing runners to gain 564 yards on 106 carries, or 5.3 yards per carry.
McCoy finishes the season with 13 tackles, four tackles for loss, 13 quarterback pressures and one sack. His quarterback pressures rank second on the team and his tackles for loss are tied for third.
"When he's played, he's played really well for us,'' Morris said. "He's done a great job for us versus the run. He's done a great job as far as the explosion and the get-off. He makes game plans change.''
Now, it's the Bucs who are being forced to change their game plan. Again. They did the same last year after McCoy tore is left biceps early in their Week 14 game at Washington.
Like that injury, which also landed McCoy on injured reserve, his latest biceps tear will require surgery. It also left some to speculate McCoy is either injury prone or using poor training methods.
This marks the third time he has missed games because of injuries, including two games this season with an ankle sprain.
Morris, though, does not subscribe to any of those theories.
"It's just football,'' he said. "(Lions quarterback) Matt Stafford missed two seasons and he is probably putting up his best season right now. (McCoy) just has to go rehab, get his mind right and come back ready to play.''
When McCoy does come back, Morris will at the very least encourage him to play more fundamentally sound. McCoy's latest injury, he said, was partially the result of poor tackling technique.
"He got off the ball and had a chance to make a play on (Ivory) and he kind of reached out rather than put (his) face in there,'' Morris said. "You've got to move into the ball, sky your eyes and hit on contact. He just reached at the guy – which is a common mistake coming off a block.''
Much as they did when McCoy was out with the ankle injury, the Bucs will replace the player Morris refers to as his defensive catalyst by using one player on running downs and another on passing downs.
Frank Okam, who missed Sunday's game at New Orleans with a sore calf, said Monday he should be ready to go for this week's game against Houston and likely will work the majority of the running plays.
Replacing McCoy as a pass rusher will be a little trickier. Without a true backup at under tackle, the Bucs probably will move either Michael Bennett or George Johnson inside on passing downs.
That's a slight switch from the game plan the Bucs employed when McCoy was out with his ankle injury, when they moved rookie Da'Quan Bowers inside on passing downs and left Bennett at end, at least for the first game.
"When you talk about the pass rush aspect of it, you probably prefer George Johnson and Michael Bennett to go inside,'' Morris said. "Bowers … is just not that comfortable in there.
"His deal is (playing) the end, but (that was) something we had to (do) the last time (McCoy got hurt), and he got us through that and helped get us a win. But you can see, clearly, it is not where he is supposed to be.''
Okam realizes the Bucs are not where they're supposed to be as run stoppers. After Sunday's games, they ranked 29th in the league in that category and fundamentals, he said, are the problem.
"When you give up yards like that, you have to start back at the fundamentals,'' Okam said. "Alignment assignment, angles to tackling and gang tackling stop leaky yardage.
"It all goes back to the fundamentals you've honed since training camp. It's just about us playing to our capabilities. That and we have to be more consistent. That's my honest opinion."