- DT Gerald McCoy wants his team to show more pride and heart in Sunday's rematch with the Falcons
- Knowing that NFL games and NFL careers can pass quickly, McCoy wants his teammate to have more fun on game day
- Tampa Bay is still looking for its first home win of 2014 and that's something McCoy is eager to provide for the fans
Gerald McCoy has three sacks in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' last two games, to give him five on the season, and it's safe to say he's been enjoying himself a bit more on the field these past two weeks. McCoy is nearly two months removed from the Week Two hand fracture that slowed the beginning to his fifth NFL season, so he's feeling better all around, too. And his twin girls, born this summer, are getting settled, so he's probably finding a little more sleep at night as well.
On the other hand, the Buccaneers lost those two games, both with difficult endings, and the two before that as well. So it would be a stretch to say McCoy is having as much fun as he'd like these days. But here's the thing about fun: It's like what investors often say about money. You've got to spend it to make it.
There's no doubt that McCoy and his teammates would be having a lot more fun in 2014 if the wins were piling up instead of the losses. That could still happen over the second half of the season, and it might just take the Buccaneer players letting loose a little bit to make that happen.
"I always try to preach to have fun," said McCoy. "This is a very short-lived game. Even on Sundays, before you know it…it seems like it's a long game, and everybody says, 'Oh, it's a long game, it's not over 'til it's over,' but you blink your eyes and there are two minutes left in the fourth quarter and you ain't had no fun all day. I always tell guys, you've got to enjoy it while you have it because there are tons of people who would do anything to switch places with you. We've just got to have fun regardless of what the result is."
The last two minutes haven't been particularly enjoyable for the Buccaneers in 2014. They won in Pittsburgh on a touchdown catch by Vincent Jackson with seven seconds left but lost in overtime to New Orleans and Minnesota and saw opportunities to win at the end slip away against Carolina, St.Louis and Cleveland. While it's true that the Buccaneers need a find a way to become the team that makes the big play at the end, they would have to rely on that occurrence less often if they were more productive during the game's first 58 minutes.
The Bucs have been closer to that ideal in recent weeks, at least on McCoy's side of the ball, and he has seen his fellow defenders start to get in a bit of a groove. It's time to have even more fun, however, and what's more fun that a touchdown dance after a score on defense?
DT Gerald McCoy says the Bucs' defense has been able to have more fun in recent weeks due to better preparation on the practice field
"Yeah, I would say the last couple weeks we've had a lot more fun playing, due to our preparation and just going out there and letting it all fly," said McCoy. "There are a lot of things we did that we can build off of; definitely we're not there yet. We have to start finishing games. I said last week that we have to start taking the ball away. We took the ball away twice but we've got to score with it. The great defenses score and that's one thing we have to do. And we've just got to be more consistent collectively as a unit."
McCoy doesn't want the fun to end at the sidelines, either. The Buccaneers get a chance on Sunday to avenge a Week Three loss to Atlanta (the one full game that McCoy missed with his hand injury), and they get to chase that goal on their home field. Tampa Bay is still looking for its first win at Raymond James Stadium this season, and that's something the team simply has to get for its fans, he says.
"I think our team knows that we have to give our fans what they deserve, and that's a winner, especially at home," said the two-time Pro Bowler. "Our fans, regardless of what has happened with us this year, they've shown up and they've rooted and cheered all the way to the end. We just want to give our fans a reason to enjoy the rest of their Sunday. Especially when you have an opportunity to go see your favorite team at home, you've got an opportunity to see your favorite players play…I know me, if I was a fan of a team and I had that opportunity, I would want to go home smiling. I think our team knows that and we want to give our fans what they deserve and that's a winner."
That it's a division rival coming to town, and a team that beat the Bucs soundly in September, is not of much relevance to McCoy. The Bucs are motivated not by revenge but by the need to prove that they are not the same team that fell hard in the Georgia Dome in Week Three.
"More important than who's playing is our attitude approaching the game and during the game," said McCoy. "We didn't play with much heart or pride that game [in Atlanta], so that has to be better this game. More important than who's actually executing the game plan, whoever's out there we have to do it with more pride and more heart than we did last time we played them."
McCoy's five sacks at the midway point put him on pace to mark off one of those milestones that great defensive linemen seek: a double-digit sack season. He just missed it last year with 9.5 but was still widely regarded as the best at his position in the entire NFL in 2013. He's in the thick of that conversation again in 2014, even with the missed time due to injury, and he seems to be heating up as the second half of the season begins.
That's all good. Ten-sack seasons are good and All-Pro honors are good and individual recognition from your peers is good. Winning, on the other hand, is fun, for the players and the fans. To earn that experience, the Buccaneers just might need to have a little more fun while the outcome is still in doubt.