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Any Given Monday

Posted Dec 16, 2017

With the opportunity to play in front of a national audience at home, Buccaneers’ players are looking forward to this week’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in primetime.

“Anything goes on any given Sunday, especially Monday Night.” Add that to the list of infamous ‘Grudenisms’ that former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden has raked up over the years. A colorful, yet insightful analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, the former coach will be calling the game this Monday night as the Bucs take on the Atlanta Falcons on a national stage.

It will be a bit of an unconventional night not just for the Bucs – who will make just their second primetime appearance this season – but for Gruden himself, who will be enshrined into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor during a special halftime ceremony.

The winningest coach in franchise history will now have his name forever etched inside Raymond James Stadium alongside Buccaneers’ greats like Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and as of this season, late owner Malcolm Glazer.

“Yeah, absolutely,” said Buccaneers’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy when asked if he was looking forward to the Monday night matchup and honoring Gruden. “I think the last time we did this, I think [Warren] Sapp might’ve gone in [the Ring of Honor] against Miami in ‘13. It’s a great feeling. He definitely deserves it, obviously. I’m just looking forward to being there and it’s going to be a good one. I’m excited about it.”

For current Buccaneers players, Monday night presents an opportunity. It will be the second time in four weeks they’ll take on their familiar division-foe Atlanta Falcons. The Bucs went to their place first and unfortunately came home empty-handed. After falling behind 20-6 at the half, they managed a comeback that put them within one score with a chance to tie the game, before they ultimately succumbed to the Falcons and their potent offense. The only thing to do now? Get them back- and get them back at home.

There is no better stage to do just that than under the lights of Monday Night.

“I think everyone likes Monday night games because you’re the only game on,” Head Coach Dirk Koetter said. “It wasn’t that many years ago that there [were] no other games during the week. Monday Night Football was the biggest thing going and still I think every one of the players and coaches look at it that way.”

“Monday night you want to come out and perform at the highest level,” defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. said. “Everybody is going to be watching, so it’s going to be fun. But most importantly, we are men. We want to finish the season strong, so not only is there the fact that they beat us [last time this season], we want to get the win and send a message. We have a lot to play for.”

The Buccaneers made their last appearance on MNF last season when they played the Panthers in Carolina. The last time the Bucs hosted an MNF game? It was 2013 against the Dolphins, a contest the Bucs won 17-14.

Their most infamous Monday night game in recent history probably came in 2003 against Philadelphia as part of the Bucs’ title-defense season. Under Coach Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers put on a show, dominating the Philadelphia Eagles in a 17-0 thriller. Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius went off for two touchdowns from quarterback Brad Johnson and defensive end Simeon Rice tallied two sacks of Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb in the game.

The Buccaneers are 11-9 overall on Monday Night Football. They’ve won their last three outings dating back to Week 4 of the 2011 season. Conversely, Atlanta has just a .308 winning percentage in the primetime show with a record of 12-27 all-time. Hopefully a foreshadowing to this Monday’s matchup.

“A lot of guys have been in big-time moments, but this is a moment like no other,” quarterback Jameis Winston said of the opportunity to play in front of a national audience. “You just think about the national championship game where you’re the only game on TV. That’s how it is this week. We have to approach the game just like it’s another game. Another game [and] another chance for us to get a win at home against a great divison opponent.”

 “Anytime we get a chance to play in the national spotlight like that, it’s a great opportunity for us,” tight end Cameron Brate said. “We are all really excited.”