TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Jeff Garcia tried to put a positive spin on Tampa Bay's third loss in four games.
The team's promising 3-1 start has dissolved into a 4-4 record, however the Buccaneers are confident they will regroup the second half of the season and remain in contention for a playoff berth.
``We can beat ourselves up about a lot of things, but we're only halfway through the season and I'm not going to allow myself to hang my head and be disappointed,'' Garcia said, reflecting on Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
``I think there are a lot of positive things to look at. We have eight games remaining, and I know this team's going to come back this next week, give everything they have to give, fight, battle, and do whatever it takes to turn this season around.''
A lopsided loss at Indianapolis four weeks ago was much easier to swallow than setbacks the past two weeks against Detroit and Jacksonville, which held off the Bucs despite playing without injured quarterback David Garrard.
Tampa Bay outgained the Lions and Quinn Gray-led Jaguars by hefty margins, but undermined themselves with turnovers and other mistakes.
Tampa Bay lost two costly fumbles at Detroit and Garica threw three interceptions during the loss to Jacksonville. Meanwhile, the Bucs defense didn't force a turnover in either game.
``You can go through all the statistics you want, play fantasy football and draft whoever you want. At the end of the day it's turnover ratio that decides football games,'' coach Jon Gruden said.
``We turned it over too many times in two weeks, and we haven't gotten any turnovers. Usually that'll do you in.''
Injuries have been a factor in the slide, but so have youthful mistakes and penalties.
Despite gaining 422 yards against Detroit and 385 against Jacksonville, the offense has struggled to finish drives and score touchdowns. Two of the four TDs the Bucs scored against the Lions and Jaguars came on long receptions by Joey Galloway.
With tailbacks Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams and Michael Pittman sidelined by injuries, the running game has been inconsistent. The defense also has been affected by injuries, with cornerback Brian Kelly and end Patrick Chukwurah missing significant playing time.
Still, the Bucs are very much alive in the NFC South, where division-leading Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta all have at least three losses.
``If we can get some guys back in the second half of the season, we could hang around and make this interesting,'' said Gruden, whose team has missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons.
Linebacker Derrick Brooks agreed.
``The reality is we're one game out of first place and we play that team again, so let's not hold your heads down,'' said Brooks, though the Bucs actually trail the Panthers (4-3) by a half game.
``We're trying not to get frustrated because we're doing so many things well. On the same token, it's about finding a way to win. For us to not have turnovers (the past two weeks), from my standpoint defensively, is not a way to turn the corner. We've really got to find a way to do it.''
The first step is rebounding next Sunday against Arizona (3-4), which is coming off a bye.
``Right now we're going to find out the true character of this team,'' defensive end Kevin Carter said. ``Basically, we've got to establish whether we're gonna be a playoff contender or not.''

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