If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are to pull the emergency brake on a seven-game losing streak that's transformed 4-2 promise into 4-9 gloom, it's going to have to be in front of a national audience against the franchise self-dubbed as "America's Team."
"You don't want to get embarrassed on national TV," said left tackle Donald Penn of the Saturday night game to be aired on the NFL Network. "That's when we've got to play out best. We've got a lot of people watching and there will be a lot of media for this game.
"We love playing at home. It's tough right now. We want to get that taste out of our mouths so we do want to put on a show for the fans and try to play the spoiler."
The role of spoiler is about all the Bucs have to look forward to after last week's 41-14 spanking in Jacksonville guaranteed Tampa Bay a losing season. More importantly, said defensive end Michael Bennett, the Bucs only have three remaining games to plug holes in their sinking ship.
"It's a good game and especially since it's a big prime-time game against Tony Romo and the Cowboys," Bennett said. "It's a game to show what the Bucs can do and it's going to be a good platform for us to start from for next season. This is the game that's really going to determine -- the next three games -- how we're going to go into the offseason and next season."
"It's a big deal playing against each other," Bennett said. "We always talk about who's the best player and how this is going to be a good game. I told him I'm not going to take it easy on you because you're my brother and he said the same thing. It's our job so we've got to play hard against each other."
Tampa Bay is catching a Cowboys team that's lost two straight and is playing without rookie sensation, running back DeMarco Murray. At 7-6, Dallas is in a first-place tie with the New York Giants and has plenty to play for. Bucs defensive end Da'Quan Bowers said that despite Murray's injury, there are other offensive weapons to concern themselves with.
"It's going to take a lot of work," Bowers said. "It's going to be a tough task with the caliber of quarterback they have back there, a threat at receiver and a threat at running back. We've just got to be playing sound football up front.
"It's not about being on national television, it's all about trying to turn this season around. We've been in dogfights throughout the year and now we're just trying to play Buc ball and trying to get back in the win column."
Despite the weeks of frustration piling up and not experiencing a win since mid-October, Bowers said he feels the locker room is staying united and is committed to improving.
"I learned a lot about my teammates," he said of what he's taken from this skid. "I see no quit in any of these guys around here. For a 4-9 ballclub, I see a lot of effort and guys trying to do the right thing to turn this program back around."
Bouncing back on Saturday would also allow Tampa Bay to end a three-game losing streak to the Cowboys in games played from 2006 to 2009. The Bucs lost those three games by a combined score of 85-40 and the last win was a 16-0 shutout in 2003 at Tampa Bay.
"We haven't been successful against them since I've been here," Penn said about the Cowboys. "So it would be good to go out here and try and get a 'W' against a good team."