Starting 2-1 would be big deal for Bucs, and they know it

TAMPA, Fla. -- A large digital clock on a wall in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room counts down the seconds to their kickoff against the Houston Texans on Sunday. It could be marking off time before an extended streak of infamy ends as well.

The Bucs can improve to 2-1 in Week 3, which would give them their first winning record within a season since they were 6-5 before Week 13 in 2012.

"Right now, we understand everybody looks at us as the past Tampa Bay Buccaneers," coach Lovie Smith said Thursday. "We're in a position to do something about it. Guys realize that. It's tough going on the road two weeks in a row and winning. We have an opportunity to do that.

"I feel like we are going to be a good ballclub. So many things we need to tighten up from our last game, but we are seeing that. We have young players and just asking guys not to make the same mistake again [is hard]. It would do a lot for our psyche to get to 2-1, yes."

Consider how rare a winning record -- a basic requirement for sustained success -- has become in Tampa Bay.

In 2012, the Bucs were 6-4 under coach Greg Schiano before losing five of their last six games. In 2013, they started 0-8 and finished 4-12, a wicked slide that led to the firings of Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik. In 2014, their first under Smith and general manager Jason Licht, they started 0-3 before beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4. Their only other victory came in Week 11 against the Washington Redskins.

No one punches tickets to the playoffs after two victories in their first three games. (The Bucs last appeared in the postseason when they reached the wild-card round after the 2007 campaign.) But if nothing else, an early winning record would allow a little more light to shine on Tampa Bay after a gloomy outlook has become all too common.

"You've got to take baby steps," Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "Like I said, 2-14, you've got to work your way up from the bottom. So you can't just have that end goal. You have to have little baby steps to get to that end goal."

Baby steps could lead to a bigger reward, one that might help the Bucs place a frustrating stretch of futility in the past. Tampa Bay has produced four consecutive losing seasons, its longest such stretch since posting losing campaigns each year from 1983 to 1996.

"It would be huge," Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson said of starting 2-1. "We kind of break the season up into quarters, and being 2-1 in this first quarter would be great for us. Obviously, [Houston is] a tough team that's going to have a lot of energy, playing at home. They're 0-2 right now, so we know that we're going to get their best shot. We're going to be prepared for it."

Will their preparation finally lead to a winning record? Time will tell.