Unless they meet in the playoffs later this season, this will be the last time the Buccaneers and Packers play each other while Tampa Bay is a member of the NFC Central Division. The Bucs players recognize the opportunity to break that 12-game losing streak this Sunday.
"With this being our last year in the Central, we don't know when our next opportunity will be to play in Lambeau," said Bucs SS John Lynch. "We haven't done it in so long. It's a division game and we're right in the thick of this division race. We can put ourselves in better position by going up there and taking care of business."
The Bucs and Packers have split their last three season series, but Tampa Bay is hoping to put an end to that streak as well.
"We've never swept Green Bay since I've been here," said Bucs LB Derrick Brooks. "This is our opportunity to do it."
So why has this streak lasted as long as it has? Well, several Bucs players feel like they know the reasons and how to avoid making the mistakes they have made in the past.
Bucs LT Kenyatta Walker thinks a lot of Tampa Bay's problems can be connected to Packers QB Brett Favre, who has won a whopping 85 percent of Green Bay's home games since they won XXXI Super Bowl in 1997 (1996 season).
"They're a very good team," said Walker. "As long as they have Brett Favre back there, the game is never over. Their defense is playing read good. They have a solid line. We have a tough road game that we have to win in order to stay in the hunt."
Some of the Tampa Bay players think their past problems in Green Bay might have something to do with the Lambeau mystique.
"A lot of people talk about the Lambeau mystique," said Lynch. "I think they have had good football teams over the years and a great quarterback who plays extremely well up there. We've played some tough football games up there and haven't come away with a win. We'd like to make that happen this week."
Buccaneers QB Brad Johnson thinks the Green Bay mystique was created and has been continued by the great players that have played for the Packers.
"They have great tradition there," said Johnson. The reason they have great tradition there is because they have great players."
Although the Bucs players have different thoughts on the difficulty of playing at Lambeau Field, they all agreed on one thing. They have to play good football for 60 minutes in order to escape with a win, and that's not something they've been able to do in recent visits.
"The big thing is we have to go up there and play a full game," said head coach Tony Dungy. "Every time we go up there, we seem to have a five or eight minute letdown and it kind of hurts us."
"We've hurt ourselves up there," said Bucs FB Mike Alstott. "The last two years, we've lost by three points each game. If we can play like we did last week and play fundamentally sound, and execute, we know we'll have a chance to win."
Not only is Tampa Bay trying to snap their l2-game losing streak in Green Bay, they are also trying to avoid starting off the season 3-4 for the fourth season in a row. With a win over the Packers on Sunday, Tampa Bay can improve to 4-3 on the season.
"Improving to 4-3 would be great," said Dungy. "It would compared to where we've been the past few years. If we are 4-3, we'll be in pretty good shape. We'll have three division wins and we'll be a leg up on the rest of division as far as winning a division game on the road."
The Buccaneers will be doing more than attempting to end streaks on Sunday. With a win over the Packers, Tampa Bay can improve to 2-1 in the NFC Central Division and win a road game in the division, which is something no other NFC Central team has done this season.
"We've got to go up there and win this game," said Bucs DE Steve White, who may be starting for the injured DE Marcus Jones. "We can be the first NFC Central team to win a road game, which can then put ourselves in position to try and win our division.
"To win our division, we're probably going to have to win this game. That's the way we have to look at it and I think we will. I think we'll go out there and prepare real well this week and then get ready for a good game in Green Bay on Sunday."
A win will also allow the third place Buccaneers to climb ahead of the second place Packers in the NFC Central Division and let them keep pace with the first place Chicago Bears.
"They're in second place," said Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson. "And we want to take that over by winning on Sunday."
With so much riding on Sunday's game against the Packers, what kind of mindset do the Pewter Pirates need to have in order to finally win in Green Bay?
"We've got to have a sense of urgency," said Alstott. "We have to have that must-win feeling again. It's another division game and we can't get behind. We're already in third place and we're playing a very good Packer team. We can't make mistakes and let them back in the ballgame."
And just in case anybody is wondering, what the temperature for kickoff at Lambeau Field on Sunday is supposed to be, the forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with a temperature of 48 degrees.
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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