Sunday, December 19th in the year 2010 AD. 1:03 PM EST. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida. Dave Rayner kicks off, Michael Spurlock returns the ball 17 yards. The game has started. Roughly 3 hours later, the game ends with another Dave Rayner kick. This time, through the uprights. Field goal is good. Detroit Lions win in overtime. By 3 points. For the Bucs, playoff hopes take a huge hit. For the Lions, hope for the future. Their team can win close games.
Sunday, January 2nd 2011 AD. 3:15 PM CST. Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin. Robbie Gould kicks off. About 2-and-a-half hours later, Greg Jennings catches an Aaron Rodgers pass for 46 yards down the sideline, a yard short of the endzone. One play later, the Packers score. The Bears can't come back. The Packers edge into the playoffs. Chicago loses a meaningless game. The Giants and Buccaneers are shut out of the playoffs, losing on a tiebreaker. Had they picked up one extra win - any win - they would've been in. For them, only the next season remains.
Over a month later, Aaron Rodgers lifts the Lombardi Trophy. The Buccaneers are busy. Planning the offseason. Scouting draft prospects. Preparing for a lockout. Training to get better. Hungry for a playoff spot. Agonizing over what could have been. What if they beat the Lions. What if they beat the Falcons. What if they beat the Ravens. Pointless. It didn't happen. Move on. Prepare. Get better. Make sure it doesn't happen again.
Sunday, February 5th, 2012. 6:34 PM EST. Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana. Connor Barth kicks off. Over the next 5 hours, the game moves forward. Kellen Winslow catches a touchdown pass. Mike Williams makes a man miss and streaks downfield for 43 yards. Aqib Talib bats away a touchdown pass. Legarrette Blount breaks a tackle, runs 30 yards, then drags a defender for another 10. A few missed tackles and the opponent scores. 4 minutes left. Down 3 points. Freeman has the ball. A slow, methodical drive ensues. Then, Arrelious Benn blows past the defense, catches a bomb, gets ruled down at the 1-yard line. Earnest Graham pounds it in. The Bucs lead with under 2 minutes left, and the opponent has the ball. First down, incomplete, E.J.Biggers had great coverage. Second down, complete, Ronde Barber makes the tackle short of the 1st down. Third down, a bomb downfield. Cody Grimm runs over the top of the wideout and knocks away the ball at the last moment. Fourth down. This is the game. Gerald McCoy destroys an offensive guard and flushes out the QB. A new addition at DE chases him down, and notches the sack. Raheem Morris gets drenched with Gatorade. Two kneels later and the Bucs have officially done it. Freeman lifts the Lombardi trophy.
It can happen. During the next months we can all hope it will. The team will be working to make it so. And whenever the season starts, they will get a chance to do it. It's why they play football. And it's why we watch football. This team can win a Super Bowl. We just have to hope they do.