There's No Place Like Home

October 4 – When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Green Bay Packers in their regular season home opener on Sunday, six weeks will have passed since their last home game at Raymond James Stadium. While the Bucs are quick to point out that playing at home doesn't necessarily guarantee them a win over the undefeated Packers, they're confident the home field advantage will help remedy some of their recent offensive and defensive woes.

Having a regular season home opener in October is a bit late, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take it while they can. It will have been six weeks since the Pewter Pirates played at Raymond James Stadium when they take the field against their division rival Green Bay Packers.

"It's been a long time," said Bucs FB Mike Alstott. "Just thinking about that gets you excited. It's so fun to play in our house in front of our fans. We know how hard it is for people to come into our house and win."

Perhaps the reason Alstott and Co. are excited about playing at home is because they usually win there. The Buccaneers are 19-5 at Raymond James Stadium in the regular season, including 3-0 against the Packers.

"It's been about six weeks since we've been home and we've got a big home game against Green Bay," said Bucs QB Brad Johnson. "We have to come away with a win.

"The way you win in this league is to win your home games and division games. Obviously we're getting back and playing against a Green Bay team that is 3-0 and it is a big division game being played at home."

Two of the Bucs' five home losses have come to NFC Central opponents, but both of them were to the Detroit Lions. The Buccaneers feel winning home games and championships go hand and hand.

"We want to win all of our home games," said Bucs SS John Lynch. "That's something Tony has talked about since he's been here. We want to make this a place that's difficult to come in and get a win, much like the Packers have done up there."

Dating back to the start of preseason, Tampa Bay has played six football games. Four of those games have been on the road, including the last three. The last time the Buccaneers played at home was on Aug. 25, when they defeated the New England Patriots.

Tampa Bay managed to escape Dallas with a 10-6 win in Week 1 and then lost a close, but mistake-filled game at Minnesota last Sunday. Although they are 1-1, the Buccaneers realize they have of plenty of room to improve on both sides of the ball and things could turn ugly quickly if the improvement doesn't start showing this Sunday against Green Bay.

"This defense has a lot to show," said Tampa Bay DE Simeon Rice. "We have a lot to do and a lot to show. We're going to go out and so that we truly are a good defense. Last week humbled us to a certain degree because they were hungry and their backs were against the wall. Now, our backs are to the wall. We want to be No. 1 in this division and conference and this is a stepping stone for us. Who better to do that than against Brett Favre?"

Speaking of Packers QB Brett Favre, he is 100 percent healthy for the first time in two seasons and it is certainly showing in his play this year. Favre is completing 68.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for 804 yards and 8 touchdowns. So how do the Bucs plan on stopping the hottest quarterback and team in the NFL on Sunday?

"The thing you have to realize when you go against Brett is that you are going to have your opportunities," said Lynch. "He's going to give you some opportunities to catch some balls and what you have to do is make good upon that opportunity and make him pay."

No one was more disappointed in the Buccaneers' defensive performance against the Vikings than the Bucs players. After allowing the Vikings offense to total 400 yards of offense and engineer an 11-play, 96-yard game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs defense feels they have something to prove this Sunday against a good team like the Packers.

"We're hungry," said Rice. "We're hungry for this win and we're back at home. We want to show and tell what we have for this year. I think a lot of guys want to have blockbuster games this week just to kind of give an indication as to what we are this year."

Not only is the Bucs defense hungry, but they're an angry bunch that plan on taking their frustrations out on the Packers.

"We're pissed," said Brooks. "Any time you have a lead in the fourth quarter and lose it, it's not good. But we're going to be pissed until we win.

"Guys are mad. It's hard to go out there and give that effort and still lose a game. We left some plays out on the field, but right now, all we want to do is play our best defense on Sunday."

Bucs Pro Bowl SS John Lynch concurred with both Brooks' and Rice's thoughts on the need for their defense to return to their usual form.

"We're looking forward to being in front of our home crowd," said Lynch ". We feel good every time we play here and we've got a great challenge in the Packers. They're a team that's playing real well right now and I think that's what we need. I think a lot of people are down after last week. We feel like we let one get away, but that's gone. What championship teams don't do is lose two or three in a row. So we have to put a stop to it right now and we've got a great opportunity to do that and put ourselves right back on top of the division with a win this week."

Even after their poor performance against the Vikings, the Buccaneers defense still considers themselves the best defense in the NFL.

"We still feel we're the best in the league," said Brooks. "We're going to go out there and prove it on Sunday."

The Bucs offense has been able to move the ball successfully in two games this season, but they are having trouble finding the end zone. Tampa Bay has scored two touchdowns in two games, but like the defense, the offense knows there would be nothing better than to have a coming out party at home against Green Bay.

"I'm ready to make some plays," said Alstott. "And we're ready as a team to get this thing where it's supposed to be and Green Bay is in our way."

But as much as the team is set on improving their play, they are just as confident a home game and their home crowd will help them take the step in the right direction.

"It's been so long since we played at home," said Brooks. "I think that is really one of the remedies we need to bounce back."


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