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  • McCoy has plenty of QB hurries and hits but no sacks this season. Will Thursday night, against the NFL's best quarterback and the defending Super Bowl champions, be the night for the Bucs' defensive tackle?
By Jonathan Jones
October 05, 2017

No player in the league has more quarterback hits without a sack this season than Gerald McCoy. The Buccaneers’ defensive tackle, who has the most sacks of any player at his position since 2013 with 33 1/3 sacks, has tallied six quarterback hits this season with zero sacks to show for it.

His opponent this week is Tom Brady, who is experiencing his highest sack percentage (7.7) since taking over for Drew Bledsoe and who has been sacked more times this season (13) than all but four quarterbacks so far.

This has to be his week, right?

“We’re three weeks in. I’m not the first player in the history of the NFL who three weeks in didn’t have any sacks after getting to the quarterback,” McCoy says by phone Tuesday. “Just got to keep staying the course, keep getting to the quarterback, keep getting pressure on him and the sacks will come. I’m not worried about that. If we go out there Thursday and I don’t have any sacks again but I look up and we’re winning when that clock ticks zero, I’ll deal with [getting the sacks] later. I’m worried about getting these W’s.”

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The 2–1 Buccaneers host the 2–2 Patriots on Thursday night in what is likely the most anticipated matchup in Tampa since their last playoff game, a January 2008 loss to the Giants. Not only is Tampa Bay hosting the defending Super Bowl champions following New England’s second loss of the year, but the Bucs also get back running back Doug Martin from suspension this week.

HBO’s Hard Knocks lifted the Bucs into the public eye in the preseason, which was preceded by many outlets and writers, including this one, to proclaim 2017 as the Buccaneers’ breakout season. Thursday Night Football be damned, there’s an energy around this team that hasn’t been felt since the Gruden years. Add in the Patriots dynasty coming to town for a primetime matchup, and, well, we’ll let McCoy explain.

“This past Sunday was sold out and this week is sold out as well. Everybody wants to see the champs. Tom Brady’s not a regular guy,” McCoy says. “They’re calling him the GOAT—I’m not saying he’s not, don’t take that the wrong way but that’s what he’s considered as. Who doesn’t want to see him play before he retires? Who doesn’t want to see Belichick and his very popular sweater? Who doesn’t want to see Gronk? Gronk is a very exciting player. He doesn’t just play the game like a monster—he puts on a show.

“Who doesn’t want to see the show come to town? We realize that, but we also realize this is our house and we’ve got to defend it. We have fans as well. And we don’t want to disappoint them at the end of the night on Thursday.”

The script for beating the Patriots has long been to hit Brady and get him off his spot. It’s easier said than done, and even though other teams have been successful at it this season, that’s not the reason for the Patriots surprising 2–2 record. New England has the worse defense in football by a mile—even while Brady is putting up MVP-like numbers without Julian Edelman. Houston sacked Brady five times two weeks ago but gave him the ball back at the end of the fourth quarter. Carolina got to him three times on Sunday and didn’t give him the ball back in the final three minutes. The Pats beat the Texans and lost to the Panthers.

“The Atlanta Falcons sacked him, I think, five times in the Super Bowl, and you saw the result of that game,” McCoy says. “The thing that makes them, them is not how much he gets sacks or the mistakes he makes. They always find a way to finish games. They always find a way to finish plays. And they always find a way to come out on top in the end. That’s what makes them, them is that they finish. We have to out-finish them this game if we want to get a win.”

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