TAMPA — Is this really happening?
It feels like a dream.
"Dream? It's the 2018 Bucs," Bucs defensive end Vinny Curry said. "If you're in a dream, keep sleeping."
In the dream, the backup quarterback and the beard he rode in are the talk of the NFL. In the dream, so is Ryan Fitzpatrick's team. In the dream, the Bucs beat the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, 27-21. In the dream, the Bucs are 2-0 for only the second time since 2005.
In the dream, DeSean Jackson is king of the world again, racing to the house for a 75-yard touchdown on his team's first play from scrimmage Sunday afternoon. In the dream, it doesn't matter who's in there. Three rookie cornerbacks, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead and M.J. Stewart (Who, who and who?), step in for Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves and do the job.
"It's why we're here,," Davis said.
In the dream, the Bucs beat the champs Sunday.
Oh, and it wasn't a dream.
This is really happening, and in the same place where 0-3 was supposed to happen without Jameis Winston at quarterback.
In its place, the Bucs shocked the NFL, again, just like last week in New Orleans. In the locker room afterward, it was giddy. Fitzpatrick, in a fit of good, clean fun, wore Jackson's stylish sweat suit top, his bling and his sunglasses to a postgame news conference. In the dream, a whole town is rocking.
And it's not a dream.
"The Super Bowl champs, man," Bucs defensive tackle and leader Gerald McCoy said. "I know it's not last year, but they're not a slouch."
This was just about the biggest home-opening win in Bucs history. Yes, the 1997 opener, the win over the 49ers, signaled a new beginning under Tony Dungy.
What does this signal?
That's why they play the entire season.
But this was a rock concert. The Bucs are headliners again.
It doesn't matter how they got to the stage, either.
It doesn't matter that Philly almost came back. It doesn't matter that the Bucs nearly paid for their mistakes, like blown drives, like O.J. Howard's mistake that turned into an interception, like Mike Evans' drop or his late fumble, like Chandler Catanzaro's missed extra-point try.
Any or all of that could have cost the Bucs the game.
But it doesn't matter how you win in the NFL.
Wins count the same no matter how they arrive.
This is not a time for cynicism. Or to note that the Eagles looked flat and were besieged by injuries. Or that the Saints, outscored last week by the Bucs, barely squeaked past Cleveland on Sunday. Or that the Bucs' next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are now 0-1-1. The world is upside down.
No matter. The Bucs are on top.
Why wake anybody up?
"We won. It doesn't matter how we won," McCoy said.
It will be time to go back to work soon enough. And that goes for your suddenly favorite team.
"When you go home, have your little glass of wine, kick the pinky out," Curry said. "We're going to celebrate this win the next 24 hours, the next 48 hours, then it's on to Pittsburgh."
"We're not really going to say a lot," McCoy said.
McCoy has seen a 2-0 start before, in 2010. The Bucs won 10 games that season under Raheem Morris but didn't make the playoffs. It was fool's gold. Then again, the Bucs began 1-0 the last two seasons only to lose their second game. But not Sunday.
So, they're 2-0 and heading for prime time. They just beat the Super Bowl champs.
"People can talk and talk and talk," McCoy said. "It doesn't matter. We've got to play. Talking don't do nothing. Pittsburgh is 0-1-1, and you think they're not going to try to come in and win again? They're going to bring the noise."
But it's the Bucs who are making the noise right now.
Maybe the alarm clock will ring a week from Monday against the Steelers.
Or maybe an entire town will just keep sleeping.
Enjoy the dream.
Even if it isn't one.
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813)731-8029.