The 2013 preseason was nearing its conclusion and as far as Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn was concerned that conclusion could not come soon enough.

As the preseason dragged on Penn grew weary of all the questions being asked about a Bucs offense that was running like a Pinto on a flat tire. He was certain the onset of the regular season would change that.

Well guess what?

Two weeks into the regular season the questions have not ceased. In fact after the offense stumbled like a drunken Gasparilla reveler during consecutive losses to the Jets and Saints to open the season the questions are coming more regularly and with greater urgency.

“It’s frustrating because our defense has really been playing great’’ Penn said. “There are just some things we have to correct on our side. But it’s definitely up to us to pick up the slack.’’

This is not how it was supposed to be.

After ranking ninth in the league in total offense last season the Bucs fully expected to be one of the league’s most potent offenses this season with Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks set to return from injuries and most everyone else back for a second season in coordinator Mike Sullivan’s offensive scheme.

Instead Tampa Bay enters today’s game at the New England Patriots ranked 29th in total offense and 27th in scoring with 31 points.

So what’s gone wrong? Well just about everything — from injuries and illnesses such as the staph infection that sidelined Nicks the first two games to insults such as the ones they endured when they couldn’t get a play off during their opening series against the Jets.

“It’s hard to put a finger on any one particular scheme or concept or player or coach’’ Sullivan said. “There’s been a multitude of little issues here or there that have occurred and oftentimes at the most inopportune times.’’

Timing certainly has been an issue. When the transmitter in quarterback Josh Freeman’s helmet went out four plays into the first possession of the season the Bucs suddenly found it impossible to even get a play off on time.

They were called for consecutive delay-of-game penalties while they tried to correct the problem whistled for a false start one play after that and called for three more pre-snap errors in the 18-17 loss to the Jets.

Throw in four more pre-snap penalties in last week’s 16-14 loss to the Saints and only the San Francisco 49ers (11) have been penalized more for pre-snap timing mistakes.

“The false starts things like that they’re inexcusable’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “We can’t do that stuff. It’s frustrating for both the players and the coaches and I’m certain we’ll get it fixed but it has hurt us.’’

Injuries have hurt too. The Bucs haven’t had Nicks so far — he is expected to start today — and Davin Joseph admits he’s been a bit rusty since returning from a 2012 season-ending knee injury.

Tampa Bay also hasn’t had tight end Tom Crabtree so far and played the opener without fullback Erik Lorig.

Without Crabtree who the Bucs consider their best option as a pass-catching tight end Freeman has been forced to throw almost exclusively to wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. That has made the passing game less diverse more predictable and easier to defend.