Can the Bucs banish the wildcard blues?
Since coming into the NFL in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only made the Playoffs in 10 seasons. Out of those 10 seasons, the Bucs have played in the Wildcard round in six of them. Now a record breaking season has put them there again. Below is a recap of those Wildcard meetings. With only one win in those six games, it doesn’t make good reading for Tampa fans.
1982 Season – Wildcard Loss
The strike shortened season finished with the Bucs as the seventh seed in the NFC. Which resulted in a road trip to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Despite a spluttering Offense, the Bucs who had the number one ranked Defense that year, led by Buccaneer legend Lee Roy Selmon, still led 17-16 going in to the fourth quarter. The game changed in the fourth quarter as a controversial double penalty went against the Bucs for an illegal block in the back and unsportsmanlike behaviour pushed Tampa deep into their own territory. On the next play, Quarterback Doug Williams, playing in his last game as a Buccaneer, was picked off as the interception was brought back for a Cowboys score as Dallas ran out 30-16 winners. A painful Wildcard loss for Tampa as they would have to wait 15 years until the 1997 for their next Playoff appearance.
1997 Season – Wildcard Win
After years in the doldrums, the Pewter and Red era was ushered in as the Bucs entered their era of one of the dominant teams in the NFL. Tampa’s final game in their old Houlihan’s Stadium was a Wildcard win over then Divisional rivals, the Detroit Lions, and resulted in Tampa’s first Playoff win in 18 years. The late Nineties/early Noughties team was built on a stingy Defense and the Bucs built a 20-0 lead halfway through the 3rd quarter. Despite a mini-comeback by the Lions in the fourth quarter, the Bucs ran out 20-10 winners as the game ended in bizarre circumstances as Detroit’s back-up Quarterback, Frank Reich, accidentally spiked the ball on a 4th down to turn the ball over to the Buccaneers.
2000 Season – Loss
The start of three successive seasons where the Philadelphia Eagles played host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Post-Season. The City of Brotherly Love didn’t hold much love for the Bucs in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons. In the final week of the 2000 regular season, Tampa Bay missed a last second extra point against NFC Central Divisional rivals, the Green Bay Packers, which would have won the game and the Division thus avoiding the Wildcard Round. Still suffering from the previous week loss, Tampa struggled from the off as the Eagles dominated from start to finish under the leadership of star Quarterback, Donovan McNabb. Philadelphia ran out comfortable 21-3 victors as they Bucs only had a first half field goal to show for their efforts.
2001 Season – Loss
Almost a carbon copy of the previous season as yet again the Eagles dominated the Bucs in Veteran’s Stadium. All square at the end of the first quarter, it all went downhill fast for the Buccaneers. Bucs Quarterback, Brad Johnson, was picked off four times as the Eagles completed an easier than expected 31-9 victory against an opponent who always seemed to struggle at the Vet. This game was the end of the road for Tampa’s Hall of Fame Head Coach, Tony Dungy, who was sacked two days after this loss despite leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Post-Season in four out of the six seasons he was in charge.
2005 Season – Loss
This was the Bucs first Playoff game since winning the Super Bowl in 2002. Tampa were playing a Wildcard game at home for only the second time in their history. The visitors on this occasion were the Washington Redskins. Sadly for the Buccaneer faithful, the Bucs Offense yet again failed to show up.
An early first half interception by Washington led to a touchdown for the visitors. Shortly after, a fumble recovery by Washington was taken into the Bucs endzone by legendary Safety, Sean Taylor. Which gave Washington a 14-0 lead. Field goals were swapped before the Bucs Offense finally awoke from their slumber and cut the deficit to 17-10. With 3 minutes to go in the game, Tampa’s Wide Receiver Edell Shepherd apparenlty caught a touchdown pass. Which would have given the Bucs a chance to tie the game. After review, the call was overturned as Shepherd didn’t have full control of the ball. And with that decision went the Bucs Super Bowl chances.
2007 Season – Loss
The Bucs last Playoff game. Similar to the 2005 season, it was at home against an NFC East opponent. But this time it was the New York Giants who were the visitors. Tampa took a 1st quarter lead. But then the Giants ran away with the game by scoring an unanswered 24 points over the course of the next three quarters. It was a familair tale as Tampa’s Offense spluttered and stalled once more. Six successive Offensive possessions consisted of an interception, a fumble and four punts. Tampa were never likely to keep up with the Giants. A Buccaneer touchdown late in the fourth quarter resulted in the final score being a painful 14-24 loss.
Six Wildcard game Summary
Six Wildcard games, five losses (all at the hands of NFC East teams) and zero road wins. This Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are appearing in their first Wildcard game in 13 years. It will be on the road, against an NFC East team. It’s not just the Washington Football Team that the Bucs are up against. It’s the Wildcard demons of their entire existence they are facing.
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