The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFC Championship Game History

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFC Championship Game History
Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Tonight marks the fourth time that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played in the NFC Championship Game. Below is a re-cap of the previous three match-ups.

Season 1979

After three successive losing seasons since entering the NFL in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers incredibly found themselves one game away from reaching the Super Bowl in the 1979 Season.

The original Tampa Stadium was jam-packed as a noisy home crowd hoped they would see their favourites clinch the NFC Championship. Securing a Super Bowl appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Bucs opponents on that sunny January early evening were the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams were serial Playoff contenders. Having lost in the Post-Season in each of their previous six seasons. At the hands of either the Minnesota Vikings or the Dallas Cowboys.

Tampa had already beaten the Rams 21-6 in the regular season in week 4. Because of this expectations were high for the home team. Sadly for the Bucs, it was a day to forget. As Los Angeles would shut out the Bucs in their own backyard.

Both Offences struggled to move the ball effectively. Although Los Angeles were able to run the ball better than their inexperienced counterparts.

Tampa’s passing game never got going. Ultimately, their chances were eliminated when Bucs Quarterback, Doug Williams, suffered an arm injury in the third quarter. Which ended his game prematurely.

Los Angeles were up 6-0 at half-time courtesy of two 2nd quarter field goals. Another Rams field goal in the 4th quarter gave the Rams an unassailable 9-0 lead. Especially as the Bucs ended the game with less than 200 overall yards on Offense.

It would be another 20 years before the Buccaneers made the NFC Championship game. Where a familiar foe awaiting for them.

Season 1999

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were back in the NFC Championship game and their opponents were again the Rams. But this time the Rams from St Louis and the Greatest Show On Turf.

It was a showdown between the Number one Defense of the Bucs against the number one Offense of the Rams. As well as having the number one Offense, the Rams also boasted the number two Defense in the league.

Perfect at home, St Louis had won all nine home games in 1999 by an average margin of 23 points. Despite Tampa’s dominating Defense, the Rams were highly fancied favourites.

What followed was a masterclass in Defense as both sides were shutdown. Rams’ Runningback, Marshall Faulk was voted the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. But here he was virtually anonymous as Tampa limited him to 44 rushing yards. Not to be outdone, the Rams Defense shut down the Bucs backfield duo of Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn. Held to a not so grand total of 74 rushing yards.

The Bucs were leading 6-5 with less than 5 minutes left in the game. When Rams Quarterback and league MVP Kurt Warner threw a touchdown pass to Wide Receiver Ricky Proehl to break Tampa hearts. Sending the Greatest Show on Turf to the Super Bowl at the expense of the Buccaneers.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an NFC Championship game without some sort of controversy.

Was it a catch or not?

The Bucs down by five were looking for a game winning touchdown. Tampa’s Wide Receiver Bert Emanuel caught a pass from Quarterback Shawn King on the Rams 22 yard line with 47 seconds remaining.

The ruling on the field was called a complete pass. However, the booth replay official called for a review of the play. After review, despite Emanuel maintaining possession of the ball throughout the entire catch process, the ruling on the field of a completed pass was overturned. And with it went the Bucs’ chances of their first Super Bowl appearance.

Due to the catch/no catch controversy, the NFL were forced to clarify the rules regarding what is a catch. The new ruling became known as the ‘Bert Emanuel Rule’. And Dez thinks that he caught it……..

Season 2002

Three years later, and Tampa finally won an NFC Championship game. Not only were the Bucs responsible for one of the lowest moments in Philadelphia Eagles history. This game also gave birth to the Bucs most iconic play in their NFL history.

It was 1st seed against 2nd seed in Philadelphia with the Eagles having home advantage. The Eagles had beaten the Bucs in the Playoffs the previous two years. So, Philadelphia were favourites to make it to their second Super Bowl.

This NFC Championship game was the last ever game to be played at the Eagles’ Veterans Stadium. And the locals of the City of Brotherly Love were looking forward to saying goodbye to the old stadium. Particularly with a third successive Playoff win over the Bucs.

Philadelphia had beat the Bucs at home in the regular season in Week 7. And started the NFC Championship game in formidable fashion. They went up early on the first quarter. Much to the delight of the Eagles fans who were already in celebratory mood.

The party mood of the home fans changed at the end of the first quarter. When Bucs Quarterback Brad Johnson found Wide Receiver Joe Jurevicius for a 71 yard gain on a 3rd and short. A play that was all the more remarkable due to the fact that the Bucs didn’t even know if Jurevicius was going to be playing. Due to his newly born Son being serious ill in hospital.

Jurevicius catch and subsequent run resulted in a one yard touchdown score by Mike Alstott. This was a lead which the Bucs would not relinquish.

Up 17-10 at the half, Tampa added a field goal in the 3rd quarter to go up by 10.

Finally Going to the Show

With the Eagles on the attack late in the 4th quarter, up stepped Bucs Cornerback Ronde Barber. On a 1st and 10 deep in Bucs territory, Barber faked a blitz and dropped back into coverage. Unseen by Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb, Barber intercepted the former first round draft pick. And returned the pick 92 yards to the house much to the disbelief of the locals.

Barber, with a huge grin across his face, dodged the missiles as he celebrated his pick 6 in the opposition end zone. This score secured the Bucs first ever Super Bowl appearance. And at the home of the team which had caused Tampa so much pain over the previous two years.

By all accounts, this was the first ever loss in Veterans stadium which wasn’t greeted by a chorus of boos from the Eagles fans. Who were sat in disbelief at what had just happened to their favourites.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a record of 1-2 in the NFC Championship games. And will be looking at getting back to an even 2-2. They have the prospect of making history. By becoming the first ever team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. Greatness awaits these Buccaneers. If they can topple the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field in this years NFC Championship showdown.

Image copyright – Buccaneers.com

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