(It’s the final regular season game for the Buccaneers and the Saints. Two long time NFC South rivals meeting, yet again. Our resident Bucs historian, Paul Stewart of BucPower.com in London, is back one last time some of his favorite games in in Tampa the series. As always, click the score of the game for photos and videos on his site of the games he recaps.)
THE BUCS AT HOME TO THE SAINTS
This will be the Saints’ 23rd trip to Tampa dating back to the final game of the 1978 season with the Bucs currently trailing 8-14 in this home series. We looked at three of the best road games with the Bucs’ division rivals earlier in the year, so we now feature a trio of games played in Tampa.
Sunday 23 December 2001 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48 New Orleans Saints 21
The most well-known statistic about the Buccaneers for their first 30+ years was not being able to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Until Micheal Spurlock ended the great curse in 2007, this game with the Saints was the closest they came. RB Aaron Stecker took the opening kick and returned it 86 yards, weaving and dodgying multiple attempted tackles (and blatant blocks in the back) on his way to within 15 yards of the New Orleans goal-line. Close but no cigar.
“How many tackles did he break in that thing? It would’ve been easy for him to go down, he almost slipped the first part of the run,” Ronde Barber said. “The desire, the resolve, the urgency to make a play and do your part, it stood out today. He’s just one example of it.”
WR Karl Williams caught the first of Brad Johnson’s three touchdown passes to put points on the board from Stecker’s heroics and then it was all Tampa Bay as they tied their franchise records for points scored in a game set in the 1987 season opener against Atlanta. Mike Alstott had a 100-yard game, Ronde Barber had a pick six and after K Martin Gramatica was injured, S John Lynch found himself kicking off during the fourth quarter.
“Our death has been greatly exaggerated,” said Warren Sapp, who helped the defense allow one first down in the first half. “We’ve still got a lot of air in this ball club and a lot of good players, and we’re going to keep plugging. It was head to head. It was either them going or us going. You can’t have a better situation than that in this league. The team that you’re facing, for the last playoff spot, coming into your house and they’ve got to beat you? It’s not going down, daddy. It’s not going down.”
Sunday 8 September 2002 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 New Orleans Saints 26
Less than a year later, the two teams met again in Tampa but this time with a new Buccaneer coach on the sideline. Jon Gruden had taken over from Tony Dungy and was making his debut in front of expectant fans. The result did not go their way but in spite of losing the battle, the end of the season saw them win the war.
The Bucs found themselves down by 10 with under three minutes left but a Brad Johnson to Joe Jurevicius touchdown pass brought them to within a fieldgoal and Martin Gramatica delivered a 41-yarder to tie the scores as time expired. Overtime saw neither team able to move the ball put a potential punt block led punter Tom Tupa to attempt a left-handed pass out of his own endzone only to find James Allen catch the wobbly throw for the winning touchdown.
“All those flags, those penalties, those plays, they may not show up in the stat sheet,” Gruden said. “But they were costly. And I’m disappointed. But I’m not going to let this one fester for very long. We have a good football team and we’re going to come back from this.”
Sunday 21 October 2012 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 New Orleans Saints 35
In 2009 the Buccaneers introduced an annual Throwback game in which they wore their original orange jerseys and Raymond James Stadium changed color scheme for one day. The NFL rule changes on helmets put an end to that after just four years but the final game (for now) in the Bucco Bruce throwbacks was against the Saints and turned into a true offensive shootout.
Josh Freeman had one of the greatest statistical passing games in Tampa Bay history throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns with WR Vincent Jackson recording the third 200-yard game in team history. He though had the decisive play when he went 95 yards on a pass down the Buc sideline but was tackled at the one-yard line. The Bucs failed to score and those seven points proved to be the difference in the final scoreline. “You talk about a game-changing play,” Saints coach Aaron Kromer said. “An unbelievable individual effort,” QB Drew Brees.
The final play proved controversial as Mike Williams seemed to catch a Freeman pass in the endzone but was penalised for illegal touching despite having been clearly pushed out of the endzone by Saints’ DB Patrick Robinson. The rule was complicated but the call was unfortunately correct for Tampa Bay fans.
Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?
(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)
It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.
Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.
So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.
If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.
The reasons are apparent.
McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.
Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.
And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.
This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.
Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.
However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.
Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa
Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.
As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.
Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.
Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) July 10, 2018
“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station. “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”
Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.
He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.
Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.
As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.
“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of job.”
At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.
New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety
The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.
One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.
It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.
But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.
The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.
This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.
After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.
Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.
Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.
That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.
The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.
He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:
The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.
Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.
So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.
It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.
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