TAMPA —After the smallest crowd in more than eight years witnessed Tampa Bay beat the 49ers last week at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs are offering season pass members two complimentary tickets each for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
The "limited number of tickets are available'' on a first-come, first serve basis, according to a letter sent to season ticket holders Wednesday. But Bucs fans must reserve their two free tickets by Thursday.
Only the Cincinnati Bengals (52,844) and the Los Angeles Chargers (35,202) have a lower average home attendance than the Bucs this season, who have averaged an announced crowd of 55,181.
"Arrive early to get the party started and let's make sure the Panthers know this is OUR house,'' according to the Bucs' email to season ticket holders.
The actual attendance recorded by the Tampa Sports Authority was 40,682 for the Bucs-49ers game Sunday, the lowest for any regular-season home game since November 2010, when a game against the Panthers drew 39,781.
"We have always looked for ways to add to the fan experience, and this offer is just another example of our desire to bring added value to our season pass members," said Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford.
"We have made similar offers over the years, and the holiday seemed like a great opportunity to thank our loyal season pass members with a special opportunity like this."
Dwindling attendance is understandable with the Bucs at 4-7 and having not made the postseason since 2007.
Ford said an added benefit of the giveaway is creating a "homefield environment for our team and our fans in a big divisional game."
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who referenced the small crowd after Sunday's game, said he understood why some had stayed away.
"Definitely, small crowd last week," Pierre-Paul said. "We played our hearts out last week, but it's our homefield so we should have a home advantage. I'm pretty sure we will. If not, we'll make it.
"It's not frustrating because you've got to understand the fans, too. They're tired of losing. If I look at it from a fan's point of view, too, I'd be (hacked) off, too if I think I can contribute to the game better than the players. But I'd be (hacked off), too. But at the end of the day, we still want you all to come out. The more fans there, the better we play. The better I play."