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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opener with 49ers stirs memories of 1997

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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22 years ago, the Tony Dungy led the Buccaneers opened his second season against one of dynasty franchises of the 1980s and early to mid 90s, the 49ers.

When it was all said and done, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and Tampa Bay had upset Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Co. The Bucs became immediate darlings appearing on the prestigious cover of Sports Illustrated later that week and eventually, winning their first five games on their way to a 10-win season and the first playoff berth in over 15 years.

Our colleague Paul Stewart of, the historical site of the franchise, re-lives that day in September of 1997 below:

It proved to be one of the most decisive games in the history of the franchise.

The start of every NFL season sees every team full of hope and expectation. Last year’s record forgotten, draft picks look superb and fans all believe this is their year. Franchises are no different with slogans and marketing catch phrases to capture that enthusiasm such as the 1997 Buccaneers who had “A New Day in Tampa Bay” as their main moniker for the season.

Except it really was. Tony Dungy’s (above) first Tampa team had finished the previous season 5-2 and every pundit was making the Bucs their hot pick. They even had new uniforms as the creamsicles and Buccaneer Bruce had been replaced by Pewter Power. One problem – the San Francisco 49ers were coming into town for the season opener.

Steve Young and Jerry Rice, multiple Super Bowls and a legacy of domination over the past decade and a half. And the Buccaneers won in a game seen by many as the turning point in the franchise’s history that would lead to a Super Bowl victory after the 2002 season.

The Bucs had a defensive superstar on the ascendancy and the third-year Warren Sapp had 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Both Young and Rice went out of the game injured and the Niners gained less than 200 yards in total offense. “You try losing a Hall of Famer and see how you fare,” Bucs linebacker Hardy Nickerson said. “We showed that they’re just an average football team without those two guys.”

The Bucs had squandered multiple scoring chances and still trailed 6-3 in the fourth quarter until QB Trent Dilfer capped a 52-yard, seven-play drive with a one-yard scoring pass to TE Dave Moore. K Michael Husted added an insurance field goal on the next drive and the Bucs won 13-6.

“Since I’ve been here, at least, we’ve never been able to come back from those things,” said Dilfer, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 184 yards and no interceptions. “The greatest thing about today was everything that’s been preached to us under Coach [Tony] Dungy and his staff came true.”

The 1997 Bucs would go on to win five straight games to lead the NFL by the end of September but the arrival of the San Francisco 49ers in Tampa to open the season led to a major turnaround in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “This team grew up today,” Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said.

Yes, they did.

(The full recap with photos is here on Paul’s site:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs pass rusher Barrett named NFC Defensive Player of Week

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Off their impressive Road win last Thursday night against division rival Carolina, the Buccaneers also got an individual accolades on Wednesday morning.

That’s when the NFL announced that edge pass-rusher Shaq Barrett had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week:

Barrett had a tremendous game, or should we say third quarter specificall,  in the win over the Panthers. This as, he registered not one, but three quarterback sacks, in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 20 – 14 victory.

Barrett became the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in their Super Bowl season of 2002 to have that many sacks in a single 15 minute period. He’s also the first Bucs pass rusher to get three sacks in a single game since the 2015 season.

Barrett also had a sack in Tampa Bay’s week one loss against San Francisco and obviously, leads them now with four of them through the first two games. The four sacks in two games has matched the best start in sacking the QB in Buccaneers franchise history.

The last time the Bucs had a defensive player win player of the week honors, was also 2015. That’s when linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each took home the honor in separate weeks.

The six year veteran came to Tampa Bay after having spent his first five years with the Denver Broncos. This included his being part of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning season of 2014.

Barrett had 14 career sacks coming into this season and is already thriving early in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs are pairing him on the outside with Carl Nassib in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.

He is also the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, where he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season and was eventually signed with Denver, as an undrafted free agent.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians rightfully fearing Giants RB Saquon Barkley

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the Giants starting rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows the real key for New York resides deeper in their backfield.

That’s where second-year running back Saquon Barkley is expected to be busy, especially early in the game. And, he may very well be the reason or not that New York has a chance to get their first win of the season Sunday in Tampa.

Arians made it clear right away at his Tuesday press conference that Barkley will be a challenge for a Buccaneer defense that has been stingy so far this year against the run:

“He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” Arians said.  “He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”

The Bucs held the 49ers in check for just 77 yards on the ground in their opening loss two weekends ago, but then, played even better against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers running attack last Thursday night. They held McCaffrey to only 37 yards on 16 carries, including the biggest moment of the game. That’s when DB Vernon Hargreaves stopped McCaffrey one-on-one from getting the one needed yard to keep Carolina’s final drive alive and hopes of winning the game.

As for Barkley, he comes off a tremendous debut season with a 1,300 yards rushing and another 700 receiving. He’s arguably the best dual threat back in football.

And, with a 120 yd rush game on just 11 carries in the opening week game at Dallas, Barkley followed up with another 100 yard game last week against Buffalo registering 107 yards on 18 carries. Still, the Giants dropped both games and at 0- 2 and have decided to shake it up at QB.

Giants second-year coach Pat Shurmur will try to establish the run early on in the game to take the pressure off his rookie quarterback making his debut.

The Bucs know that as well and looked at stuff to run with Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and former first-round pick Vita Vea. Both guys have been big keys in clogging up the middle and helping the Buccaneers stop the 49er and Panther backs.

And if they do so Sunday at home, it will be a big key for a second straight win.

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