TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — National TV, a chance to shine with the rest of the NFL watching.
The winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers can think of no better stage to prove they’re not nearly as bad as an 0-6 record suggests heading into tonight’s prime-time test against Cam Newton and the surging Carolina Panthers.
The Bucs have lost 10 of 11 dating to last season, six straight at home, and frankly are running out of competition for the label of worst team in the league.
Tampa Bay and Jacksonville are the only teams who’ve yet to win this season.
“Desperate, that’s kind of like the last straw isn’t it, if you don’t have a win?” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
“The Giants won (Monday night). I was like: ‘C’mon now ... another team with a win.’ We’ve got to get one,” the fourth-year pro added. “We don’t want to be the last ones. We’ve got to get it.”
Coach Greg Schiano hopes playing at home in a short week in which Tampa Bay doesn’t have to travel will help against Carolina (3-3), which has won three of four following an 0-2 start.
Newton completed 81.4 percent of his passes the past two weeks while throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions in lopsided wins over Minnesota and St. Louis.
“First and foremost, we desperately need a win, right? ... But I think what’s most important is the guys recognize that every other NFL player watches this game; at least if they’re a football fan they do. The Thursday night game is part of their week,” Schiano said. “It’s a big part of our league.”
Carolina coach Ron Rivera can relate to Tampa Bay’s struggles. He inherited a team coming off a 2-14 season in 2011, and the Panthers have endured some bumps while improving to six wins two years ago, seven in 2012 and rebounding after losing the first two games this season.
“It’s hard to win in this league. You go watch the games they play and they’ve played some good football teams, and they’ve lost some tough games,” Rivera said.
“Believe me, I’ve gone through it. I know exactly how they feel. ... You can play great and have something crazy happen. You can have a ball bounce the wrong way. You can miss a kick, they can make a kick, they can make a great catch,” Rivera added. “They’re a good football team, it’s just a matter of time, keep pushing and keep working. That’s the way it is in this league.”