TAMPA — Two weeks ago in Seattle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy stood at his locker and kept repeating the words after the one the Bucs blew against the Seahawks to go to 0-8.
“I'm just tired of this,” McCoy said, again and again.
Now we know just how tired.
McCoy blew it up and out last Monday night under the lights against the Dolphins, three tackles for loss, a sack, three quarterback hits in the Bucs' first win of the season.
Then there was Sunday's 41-28 blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons. On Atlanta's first series, the Falcons were driving in Bucs' territory — until McCoy intervened. He sacked Matt Ryan on consecutive plays, 14 yards of losses, no more drive. McCoy added another sack in the second quarter — his first three-sack game as a pro. He hadn't done that since high school.
He joined Brad Culpepper and Warren Sapp as the only Bucs defensive tackles with three sacks in a game.
McCoy was so good Sunday, so overwhelming, that the Falcons benched center Peter Konz in the second quarter.
But those first two McCoy sacks ...
“That, to me, was critical,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “It set the tone.”
The rest was a blur of great Bucs plays — Mason Foster's interception for a touchdown, Mike Glennon's 20-for-23 passing, Vincent Jackson's second one-hand circus grab against Atlanta in as many games and ... the man, the myth, the legend: Bobby Rainey. What a day.
In so many ways, you can trace it back to that day in Seattle, Gerald McCoy, just plain tired.
“We made a decision that this has to stop,” McCoy said.
And it has, for now.
Suddenly the Bucs have themselves a winning streak. Suddenly, from nowhere, there's this running back, this wunderkind Rainey. Suddenly the head coach is named Beauregard Schiano, riverboat gambler, onside kick, direct-snap runs, tailbacks throwing passes, punters throwing passes ... why not?
“It comes down to the players and will and just getting it done,” McCoy said.
McCoy led the way, that first series, those sacks.
He was just tired of this.
Bobby Rainey is a Bucs sensation, a headline.
Gerald McCoy is going to be a Bucs career.
He was a Pro Bowler last season and he should be one this season.
On a franchise where the only two Hall of Famers played McCoy's position, whose shadows are larger than large — Lee Roy Selmon and Sapp — McCoy has made his own place. Last Monday night, on Warren Sapp Ring of Honor night, McCoy tore the Dolphins to pieces.
He's a leader on this Bucs team, by word, by deed, a captain in every sense. As the losses piled up, you wondered about McCoy. If the Bucs ever lost him, if Schiano ever lost him, that would be trouble for this team.
He was just tired of this, after all.
But McCoy has found his way, and so has his team.
It's like Bucs defensive line coach Randy Melvin tells McCoy all the time:
“Bring them with you.”
People follow Gerald McCoy for a lot of reasons. He leads from a lot of directions.
“No. 1, he's a strong man of faith,” Schiano said. “His integrity is unquestioned. Second, he works incredibly hard in practice, yet he keeps it loose. He's a guy who's always joking around with the fellas. He works hard, he sets the tone and yet he jokes around with everybody.”
“But let's never lose sight: the biggest reason is because of the plays he makes. That's who people follow. They follow the guys who produce. And he's producing.”
That day in Seattle, McCoy was tired of losing.
“Yeah, I was, man,” he said. “I kind of think that happened with us Monday night. We're entirely too good to not have a win yet.”
Now they have two.
It's not earth shaking or standings shaking or anything.
But it's a step forward instead of another one back.
Gerald McCoy led the way.
Leaders, they do that.