ATLANTA - Why is anyone - Jon Gruden included - surprised to see the Bucs playing flag football?
Remember, the world champions were among the most penalized teams in the preseason. Their 232 yards in two regular-season games, more than 100 yards over the league average, tie them for the most in the NFL.
Their partners in slime? The once Chucky-coached Oakland Raiders.
A lot has been made about the three blocked kicks last weekend in the Bucs' 12-9 overtime loss to the Panthers.
But either the officials had no pockets or the Bucs have no discipline, because they were assessed 17 penalties for 160 yards against the Panthers, three penalties short of the team record set in 1976.
Not even Gruden's elaborate, laminated play-calling sheet has a selection for first and 25.
"You can run a draw or a screen. You get an 8-yard completion and you've still got 17 yards to go," quarterback Brad Johnson said.
Theories abound as to why the Bucs draw flags the way a windshield attracts lovebugs. They had 39 in five preseason games.
Special teams are filled with young players who make mistakes early in the season; the offensive line has been outplayed into committing holding penalties; the Panthers' rivalry has turned ugly; the officials are blind.
But the one that makes the most sense is that the Bucs have been undisciplined.
"We had nine penalties on running plays, so there goes your crowd support," Johnson said. "What are you watching? What are you really watching? Those weren't on passes, those are running plays."
TOM TERRIFIC: Tom Tupa is getting better with age. The 37-year-old punter is rejuvenated after double-hernia surgery in the offseason. Against the Panthers, Tupa was the lone bright spot on special teams, averaging 47.4 yards, including a 59-yarder, while pinning four punts inside the 20.
"I told him I hope I kick that good when I'm 37," said placekicker Martin Gramatica, who is 10 years Tupa's junior.
"He's done a great job. I noticed a difference from Day 1 in Orlando. He was just blasting the ball."
MR. PERFECT: Johnson not only eclipsed the 20,000-yard passing plateau last weekend but he broke his team record with 18 straight completions, dating to the season opener at Philadelphia.
"The best thing you can say is he very seldom is going to have a negative play," receiver Keenan McCardell. "At that position, that's tough. That's one of the things young quarterbacks don't understand.
"(Two weeks ago, Raiders QB), Rich Gannon was running out of the pocket. He could've thrown the ball away. I was like, "Why didn't you throw that ball away?' But I know why. Completion percentage. He went behind the line of scrimmage and took a 1-yard loss. That's a negative play."