Going into Sunday's matchup against the Rams with a 6-8 record and playoff possibilities no longer in existence, one would think that the Bucs have nothing meaningful left to play for against St. Louis. However, that is far from the attitude Tampa Bay is approaching this contest with.
The team's last home game of the season will give this developing squad the opportunity to continue to build and lay down the foundation for next season. The Bucs could have chosen to lessen the role for key building blocks of the team's future like running back Doug Martin and rest more established starters to get some of their developing prospects game experience, but that's not what head coach Greg Schiano is all about.
Coach Schiano has a plan in place for his football team for every possible situation, including the struggles Tampa Bay is going through right now, and in his program every game is equally important. There is no time to think about next season just yet for the Bucs.
“We’re in the early fazes of the development of this program,” Schiano said. “Part of that is learning how to win and win consistently. That’s our number one and only goal Sunday – to go out and win. My main focus is trying to build a culture of winning, and the things it takes to win.”
As much as this game means to Schiano's program, it is just as important for the players involved. Third-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is so focused and determined to win this week and help get the team back on track that even his biggest supporters are in the back of his mind for this contest.
“Well let me tell you this and make it clear, we love our fans and we love all our supporters, but it’s not about them, it’s really not,” McCoy said. “This game is not about them or putting on a show for them, it’s about us getting back on track and doing what we have to do to get a big win. If there’s a show involved then great, I’m sure it will make the fans happy, but this game is about us.”
Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams has even put aside any personal accomplishments he has the chance to achieve this year such as reaching 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. The third-year pro doesn't care about his numbers now as the only thing on his mind for the remainder of the season is winning football games and proving to the fans that the team deserves their support.
“Basically [I’m playing] to get a win,” Williams said. “That’s the number one thing. No matter what happens we want to go out and get our fans a win. Let them know that we’re still fighting for this team so they come out and cheer for us next year.”
Linebacker Mason Foster also wants to finish out his second season as a pro by continuing to build and improve every week rather than giving up when things are looking down like the team did his rookie year.
“It’s definitely a completely different feeling than last year,” Foster said. “Everybody’s still fighting; we have a great team [and] we have great coaches and we want to finish out this year strong. We’re still competing in practice and still working to get better. As long as you let us go out there and practice we’re going to work hard. It’s good to be a part of a team like that.
"You want to end on a high note and you definitely want to end the year playing your best football. That’s going to keep you going and leave you with a good feeling going into the offseason."
- Haley Cornish contributed to this report