For the first time, the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have the national NFL spotlight to themselves on Thursday night.
Well, they’ll have to share it with the host Minnesota Vikings, of course, but it will still be the prime-time debut for Greg Schiano’s Buccaneers. Though the Bucs have suffered a series of very close losses to fall to 2-4, Thursday night is an opportunity to show a nationwide audience that they have built a team ready for playoff contention.
The Buccaneers went 1-1 in prime-time games a year ago, beating Indianapolis early in the season on Monday Night Football and then dropping a Saturday night decision to Dallas in December. Both of those games were played at Raymond James Stadium; Thursday’s game at Mall of America Field marks the Bucs first prime-time game on the road since December of 2008. That Monday-nighter ended up as a 38-23 loss for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s last win on the road in a nationally-televised night game was the memorable 17-0 Monday Night blanking of the Eagles in the 2003 season opener. Defending Super Bowl champs generally open the next season at home, but the Bucs were sent on the road and ended up spoiling the regular-season debut of the new Lincoln Financial Field
Tampa Bay has a 17-22 all-time record in prime-time games but are just 3-13 in such games on the road. That includes a 1-1 record in Thursday night games, though the Bucs haven’t had a chance to play a regular-season game in the middle of the week in a dozen years. Tampa Bay last appeared on Thursday night during the 2000 season, a 28-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 19.
The only other Buccaneer appearance on a Thursday night took place way back in 1980 and was actually the first nationally-televised prime-time game in franchise history. With the Los Angeles Rams visiting Tampa Stadium, the game was a rematch of the 1979 NFC Championship Game, won by the Rams, 9-0. This time, the Bucs gained a small measure of revenge with a 10-9 victory.
Mall of America Field happens to be the site of the Buccaneers’ most recent win on the road, actually. Tampa Bay defeated the Vikings, 24-20, on the road in Week Two of last season. Tampa Bay also won at Minnesota in 2005, so they’ll be bringing a two-game Metrodome winning streak into Thursday night’s game.