The Buccaneers expect Raymond James Stadium to be rocking on Sunday night when the Seattle Seahawks come to town for a nationally televised prime time game. Although John Madden won’t be calling the game for NBC, there will still be plenty of hype at Ray-Jay due to the fact that the Buccaneers will be hosting a tribute to legendary fullback Mike Alstott.
But the honor for Alstott will just be the icing on the cake. For the first time in five years, Tampa Bay will host a prime time football game and the atmosphere from that alone should be electric.
Tampa Bay owns a 15-20 overall record (12-8 at home, 3-12 away) in prime time games, including a 5-11 mark (4-4 at home, 1-7 away) in Sunday night contests. The last time the Bucs hosted a prime time game at Raymond James Stadium was a 19-13 victory against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football on November 24, 2003.
Since that victory, the Bucs have lost their last four prime time games – all of which have been on the road. The week after the Giants game in 2003, the Bucs lost at Jacksonville, 17-10. In 2004, the Bucs lost at Oakland, 30-20, in Tampa Bay’s last Sunday night game appearance, which was on ESPN.
The Bucs lost a hard-fought game at St. Louis on Monday Night Football on October 18, 2004, and then got clobbered by the Panthers in Carolina, 24-10, on Monday Night Football on November 13, 2006.
After two years of being away from the national spotlight and five years removed from that spotlight shining on Tampa Bay during the regular season, the Bucs are revved up to put on a show against visiting Seattle.
“There is definitely a certain energy out there,” Bucs tight end John Gilmore said of prime time games. “It’s electric. When the lights come on it brings the best game out of everybody. If you get a nationally televised game, everybody wants to put on a show. For the fans, there will be a lot of energy. I don’t know what it is about these night games, but you know what they say – the freaks come out at night. The freak comes out in everybody.”
Despite a 4-2 record, including last week’s upset over Carolina, Tampa Bay has largely flown under the radar this season from the national media’s standpoint. A good showing in the Bucs-Seahawks game on Sunday Night Football could change that.
“I love night games in general,” Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said. “It reminds me of high school football back when I started playing. It’s important that you get your body of work out there for everyone to see in the NFL to spread the respect around. You want people to notice you, but you don’t want to put any bad film out there for everyone else to see. It’s a time to shine for the team and individually. It’s a lot of fun playing at night.
“It’s beneficial to us with regards to the spotlight, but we’re perfectly fine with other people getting the attention, too. If they falter, they get all of the attention for not doing as well. We kind of like being under the radar, too.”
For young players like rookie cornerback Aqib Talib, who had two pass breakups and an interception last week against the Panthers, and second-year safety Sabby Piscitelli, who returned to action last Sunday from a dislocated elbow he suffered against Green Bay, playing in an NFL prime time game will be a new experience.
“It’s going to be a good one,” said Talib. “First time on that stage with the lights on. Seattle definitely is going to come in here ready to play. It will be a pretty good game.”
Piscitelli added, “It’s exciting. It adds an extra amount of swagger to the game. You don’t really think about the national TV part. You just think about the fact that it’s a night game. That’s what makes it a different atmosphere. The fans get a little crazier and the weather will be a little cooler. It will definitely be exciting.”
Despite the fact that Tampa Bay is 4-2 after winning four of its last five games, and Seattle is reeling with a 1-4 record, the Bucs won’t sleep on the Seahawks.
“You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, too,” Bucs tight end John Gilmore said. “You have to have a mindset that you are going to go out there this week and you can’t take anyone for granted. This is the NFL. You have to bring your hard hat to work every week.
“Seattle has good players and a really good defense. We can’t take anything for granted. Last week is over with. The only thing about last week is that I think it was good for the team from the standpoint of putting together a complete game.”
The lessons of last week’s upsets around the league have been learned by the Buccaneers, who took note that Cleveland beat the previously undefeated Super Bowl champion New York Giants, Arizona beat up Dallas, and winless St. Louis won at Washington.
“Some people could consider this a trap game, but if you go back a few years ago to 2006 when we were struggling, we still went out every day like we were trying to get a playoff spot,” Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant said. “That’s what Seattle is going to do. You can’t let up no matter what your record is. Everybody gets paid to do its best, so I think that’s what we’ll get.
“For us, it’s just the next game, whether it’s a 1:00 p.m. game or a prime time game. It’s the next game and we’ve got to win it.”
Tampa Bay defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson realizes the Seahawks are down right now, but they aren’t going to fly all the way across the country with the expectation of getting embarrassed on national television.
“We won’t underestimate these guys,” Wilkerson said. “Seneca Wallace could be back there, or [Charlie] Frye could be back there. Both of these guys are good throwing the ball. We have to be on our ‘A’ game.”
With several extra hours available for tailgating, the rowdy Buccaneers fans should be primed to bring the noise and their ‘A’ game, too.
“It definitely gives you more energy when the fans get into it,” Wilkerson said. “We feel that we have that extra person out there with us – that 12th man. It gives us even more motivation, especially when we’re tired. It pumps us up and gives the energy we need to win.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com