TAMPA — With four games remaining in their season of despair, the Buccaneers still have a lot to play for, according to captain Gerald McCoy.
Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl defensive tackle bristled Wednesday at the suggestion that the rest of the season is meaningless for a 3-9 club coming off a 27-6 drubbing at Carolina.
“We’re not going to the playoffs, and that’s a fact, but so what?’’ McCoy said. “Are we going to lay down, or are we going to finish off strong? We have four more weeks to leave our marks on 2013. What are we going to do with it?’’
The Bucs are slight favorites at home Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, a 4-8 team that has beaten the Panthers and Ravens this season.
“We have to refocus and prepare,’’ said McCoy, who failed to make an impact throughout the lopsided setback in Charlotte. “That Carolina game just wasn’t us, all around the board. They neutralized me. I remember one time I got hit by a receiver and a running back. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ I truly believe with everything in my heart that we can go 4-0 in the last four games.
“We just have to go do it. Carolina’s a great team, but I believe we let them off the hook in how we played. They played great, and we didn’t play well at all.’’
Heading into the final quarter of the season, McCoy challenged his teammates to remain motivated.
“We have to be professionals until we can’t be anymore … and that’s not until the end of Week 17,’’ McCoy said. “If you are a professional, you get paid to compete and fans pay to watch us compete.
“Who would we be to say, ‘You know what? Forget it. We’ve only got three wins, let’s just get through these four weeks and wait until next year.’ That’s not a professional. There’s four more opportunities to be at your best in 2013. Then, it’s over.’’
The NFL’s No. 12 rush defense will be tested Sunday when the Bills travel to Raymond James Stadium. Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are the only backfield duo in the NFL this season with at least 600 yards apiece.
Spiller’s 2,463 yards from scrimmage since 2012 ranks sixth in the AFC, and he averages 5.5 yards on his 345 carries in the past two seasons. Jackson owns 14 100-yard games for the Bills, and he has generated 51 first downs this year, third among AFC backs.
“Jackson is a downhill runner, hard to bring down,’’ said Tampa Bay’s leading tackler, OLB Lavonte David. “You’ve got to put hats on him. Spiller’s a breakaway guy, but he can break tackles, too. They try to get Spiller in space and let him use his speed.’’
David said the Bucs will need a better tackling effort than they displayed at Carolina.
“We’re going to have to wrap up a lot better,’’ he said. “I don’t know what happened last week. We worked hard on tackling today in practice, and hopefully it carries over to the game. Hopefully, Sunday was a one-time thing.’’
Feeling a rush
The Bills appear destined for a ninth consecutive losing season, but Buffalo’s pass rush has excelled through the doldrums.
Buffalo tops the NFL with 43 sacks, led by veteran Mario Williams (12) and Jerry Hughes (8), a former first-round draft pick who has proven to be a steal since the Bills acquired him in an April trade with Indianapolis.
“They’ve got some good players on that front,’’ said LT Donald Penn. “They’re really underestimated. No. 55 (Hughes) is a great pass rusher that really gets no credit coming off the edge. They’re doing some good things. They’ve kind of got a lot of similarities to us. They do some good stuff, but they haven’t put it all together.’’