Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
If you listened to this week’s Pewter Nation Podcast you heard a very animated version of myself. I had just watched the Buccaneers lose a game they shouldn’t have before hitting the record button, so that was my raw, natural reaction to it all. Not only should they have won Monday night’s game against the Steelers, for the first time in a long time there wasn’t even the aura of “Oh well, not like it mattered in the long run anyways” since the team hasn’t been close to the playoffs in quite some time outside of 2016 – a year where they weren’t even that good.
This year that loss could mean something, in the end, and it means something now, too. And to watch Tampa Bay shoot itself in the foot time and time and time and time again was disappointing.
But even more so than the loss itself the fact that it happened in prime time irked me.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
I was annoyed. I wasn’t annoyed because I have something at stake as if I’m a member of the team, but I suppose I was more annoyed for them. This team has heard all the criticism from local media, national media and all kinds of fans and followers over the past few years. They went into this year’s training camp and worked their butts off to make sure they didn’t hear that again.
For a moment, they didn’t, as the team started 2-0 and had one of the hottest offenses in the NFL. But even then, their first game was a 1:00 p.m. kickoff on the East Coast, which meant no one west of the Mississippi even knew the game happened outside of their fantasy team, and their game against the Eagles was overshadowed more from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s post-game wardrobe than the win itself. Not that that was a bad thing. I loved that. It was just supposed to be a part of the next step of national recognition this team deserved.
That was all supposed to build up to the national audience on Monday Night Football. How, for the first time in many years beyond the last time they’ve been on the sacred weekday night of football, the Buccaneers had the chance to show they could be something more than just a win.
They didn’t. In fact, they beat themselves up so poorly they lost to a team that couldn’t even convert on all four turnovers and couldn’t even score in the second half.
That’s the part that annoyed me. I was annoyed for them, because they don’t get that stage again. They don’t get to re-prove themselves to those who don’t watch every week. They don’t get to re-assure people that this team is going in the right direction. They don’t get to show everyone that the team on Hard Knocks from last year is gone, and that’s due to the hard work they put in this offseason.
They don’t get that chance again in prime time – not until the postseason, unless this team gets a late December game flexed because the Bucs are in the playoff hunt.
I said in the podcast that it’s annoying that this team can’t win on the big stage. The Bucs are 3-2 in Monday Night Football games since 2010 and are 1-1 in Sunday Night Football games since 2006. But Tampa Bay is an awful 1-5 in Thursday night prime time games, and thankfully doesn’t have one this year.
But outside of a Sunday Night Football game at Dallas in December of 2016, those games have never mattered like this one could have.
I’ll also say that the only two teams who have been featured less in prime time games than the Buccaneers are the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns. That’s not the company you want to be in, but that’s the reality for this team.
There is nothing “prime time” about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I mean, if you didn’t live here, why would you think there would be? They have the star players in certain areas, but it’s never amounted sustained team success. They have the legendary past, but all that’s done is overshadow and pressure things more than motivate and inspire, it seems.
Former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
That shows up the most in prime time games when the broadcast can’t help but remind you of what used to be for the Buccaneers, especially when Tony Dungy is getting inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime.
On Monday night against the Steelers, the Bucs had the chance to right a lot of their wrongs. They had the stage, the players, the personalities, but they let that opportunity slip away. Tampa Bay didn’t embarrass itself, but it didn’t win – and that’s what matters at the end of the day.
Losing on Monday Night Football isn’t a tragedy, and, in the end, it doesn’t count on the season standings for anything more than one game. Heck, all of you would’ve taken a 2-1 start if I offered it to you a month and a half ago. But it was a missed opportunity. It was a missed chance to put the Buccaneers where they belonged. Not because of what they’ve done yet, but because of how hard they’ve worked.
But that chance is gone, and the only thing they can do now is work even harder.
If they do that, they’ll get their shot in prime time again – possibly as one of the final 12 teams still competing for a Super Bowl.