For the past two seasons, the Buccaneers have been like a kid learning to ride a bike. And every time it looks like they’re starting to find their balance, they crash.
Last year the fall came in three-letter-network primetime, on Sunday Night Football against the Cowboys. Tampa Bay had won five in a row, with signature wins over the Chiefs in Kansas City and Seattle at home. The Bucs thought they finally had their balance.
Then came a game that was flexed into the evening hours, and that Bucs blew their chance to move to 9-5 and what would have become a virtually certain playoff berth by winning in Dallas.
This year, after an ugly loss in Minnesota, the Bucs scratched and clawed their way to a win over an overmatched Giants team. And now comes another chance, under the lights before a national audience, to prove that they belong by sending the Patriots to 2-3. It would be New England’s first dip below .500 in more than five years, and it would be Tampa’s biggest win in an even longer time.
Beating the Patriots won’t fully prove that the Bucs have figured out how to ride that bike, but it would get them very close to the moment where they realize that the wobbling has turned not into an inevitable tumble but that instant where things finally even out, allowing them to pedal hard toward a postseason berth that has eluded them for a full decade.