Friendship of head coaches put on hold for three hours
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter have known each other since their playing days at Idaho State.
It's a friendship that transcends football.
"Marvin's a year older than me and he came to Idaho State from the Pittsburgh area. He was recruited there as a quarterback," Koetter said. "So Idaho State has an indoor field and my high school team - the high school team I played on - we practiced after them. We would sit in the stands and watch them practice and Marvin was the scout-team quarterback his first year. When I committed to go to Idaho State, I was thinking me and Marvin were going to be competing for the backup quarterback job at that time. They ended up moving Marvin to defense. He became a, I think, three-time all-conference linebacker.
"When he was done playing, Marvin became a coach. By that time, my dad was the head coach at Idaho State. After I finished playing, I was a high school coach. Marvin introduced me to my wife. Marvin's wife went to school with us at Idaho State. Marvin's daughter was the flower girl in our wedding. Marvin and I were in each other's weddings, so we go back a long way. Marvin's a great guy. Anyone who's spent time talking to him, he's a terrific coach and a great guy. But this Sunday we won't be on the same side."
It's the first time Lewis and Koetter will oppose each other as head coaches when the Bucs travel to Cincinnati for a 1 p.m. (EDT) game.
The Bucs (3-3) snapped a three-game losing streak with a sloppy but dramatic overtime win over the Cleveland Browns when Chandler Catanzaro kicked a game-winning 59-yard field goal. He had missed from 40 yards on the final play of regulation
It was the first game with former Bengals assistant Mark Duffner serving as the Bucs defensive coordinator after the firing of Mike Smith from that position.
The Bucs responded, not allowing an offensive point in the first half. But unfortunately, they lost middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to a season-ending torn ACL at the end of the first half.
In addition to being the quarterback of the defense, Alexander is one of the biggest emotional leaders on the team.
The Bucs also could be without two starting defensive linemen who did not play last week against the Browns - Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry.
Beating Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield is one thing, but the Bucs face a much more explosive Bengals offense led by quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green.
Cincinnati is coming off a 45-10 loss to the Chiefs and have lost a lot of players on defense to injury. But their ability to score and create turnovers could be a real advantage against the Bucs.
Meanwhile, the Bucs offense is hard to stop. They rank first in the NFL with 449.5 total yards per game and have the NFL's best passing offense, averaging 376.8 yards per game though the air.
Statistically, quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off one of his worst games with two interceptions and a lost fumble. But he has such a vast array of weapons, it's hard for him not to move the football up and down the field.
"Jameis has come back and played impressively," Lewis said. "Sometimes when you have to take a step back like he had to do after training camp and then watch as everything went on, he came back and used it as a positive. And I think you see that in how he is deliberate in his play. When things are there and break down, he's running with the football and doing things to continue to make first downs. So, you know, I think he's been impressive so far.
"You've got five guys with over 20 catches and everybody has touchdowns and produce vertically down the field. So yeah, they're doing a great job spreading the football around and guys are taking advantage of their opportunities."
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Buccaneers lead series, 7-4 and had a six-game winning streak from 1995-2010. The Bucs .636 winning percentage against Cincinnati is their second-best in club history.