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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opener with 49ers stirs memories of 1997

Florida Football Insiders

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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 Bucpower.com, 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 They even had new uniforms as the creamsicles and Buccaneer Bruce had been replaced by Pewter Power.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: www.bucpower.com/1997game1.htm)

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs moving up in our latest power rankings

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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With conference championships now over, all focus will shift to bowl games in college. Florida Atlantic was the lone state team playing for a title last week, defeating the UAB Blazers in blowout fashion. In the NFL, the Bucs made it three straight victories.

The Dolphins almost made it two in a row before the late-game drama. The Jacksonville Jaguars offense fell flat at home in a blowout defeat. That all leads into how our top 5 looks heading into this weekend:

Florida Gators- The Gators stay on top despite not participating in the SEC title game. They may not have played a game, but they still got a win by being selected to the Orange Bowl. Dan Mullen is now two for two in his Gators career in gaining entry into the “New Years Six.” Two seasons of a row with a big bowl win can only help the gators getting back to where they want to be, and that is competing for championships.

Florida Atlantic- The Owls were able to win the C-USA championship destroying UAB 49-6. This was the second title in three years for the Owls, and their great success under Lane Kiffin. All good things come to an end in this day and age in college football for non-power five schools. And so, Kiffin is now on his way to “the Grove” and will be the head coach of Ole Miss. The Owls reward is to play host to SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs are riding a hot streak right now. They are now on a three-game winning streak. The offense continues to put up big numbers behind QB Jameis Winston. Winston, who threw for a career hight 456 yards Sunday, has the second-most yards and touchdowns, but leads the league in INTs by a large margin.

The defense has been playing very well during this winning streak. Next, the Bucs will go on the road to face a struggling Detroit Lions team.

UCF Knights- The Knights had a rare off week during the AAC Title game. They had won the previous two and Saturday the Memphis Tigers won this one, avoiding the Knights. UCF, however, still won 9 games and will look to make it 10 in the bowl game. They will head an hour south to play Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

Many wanted the Knights to draw an in-state team like FSU or Miami; instead, it will be Marshall. It is important for UCF to end the year strong with a decisive victory.

Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins didn’t win this past weekend over the New York Jets. They did, though, show a lot in this contest. For a team that looked down and out the whole first half of the season, they have completely turned it around.

If it wasn’t for a late review on pass interference, the Dolphins likely would have won their fourth game in their last six. Head coach Brian Flores was livid after the game, and that heart and passion has put his name in the running for coach of the year.

No, he won’t win the award, but what he and this team have done has been impressive with the lack of talent on the roster.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs QB Winston in limbo with injured thumb

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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The Bucs are very much concerned and waiting to see the status of quarterback Jameis Winston injured thumb suffered in Sunday’s wild victory over the Colts.

And they have to be prepared to be without their starting quarterback this weekend in Detroit.

First, credit to Pewterreport.com which was at teammate Mike Evans’ charity bowling event Monday evening, and where the fifth year quarterback participated bowling left-handed with a brace seen on his right hand and thumb:

Winston injured the thumb at some point late in the second quarter of the 38 – 35 victory over Indianapolis. Coach Bruce Arians relayed after the game that Winston came out for the second half warm up and couldn’t grip the ball, when he was trying to get ready for the third quarter.

He went inside for an x-ray and backup quarterback Ryan Griffin ran the team for the first series of the second half. Winston returned and threw for over 200 yards in the second half including the game-winning touchdown to Breshad Perriman in the final five minutes of the game.

After the game Arians revealed that Winston had what he described as “a slight, slight crack in the thumb” that showed up on the X-ray.

On Monday afternoon at his regular news conference, the Buccaneers coach said that it would be day by day evaluation, that Winston had swelling on the thumb and would be getting a second opinion from a specialist:

The injury comes at a time of great debate about whether Winston will be kept on for the Buccaneers beyond this season.? He’s currently playing on the 5th year option of his rookie contract for $20 million.

As we wrote last week, Arians made it clear that the evaluation will begin after the season as to whether Winston will be back for 2020 and long-term.

The former number one overall pick is still leading the NFL in interceptions this season with 23, but he is also second in the NFL in touchdown passes and yardage. And, the Bucs have responded with three straight wins late in the year to keep their NFC wild-card hopes barely alive.

Tampa Bay had hoped use veteran Blaine Gabbert, if something happened to Winston, but Gabbert was hurt in the preseason with a separated left shoulder, placed on injured reserve and will not be able to be activated down the stretch of the season.

So that means if Winston cannot play, Griffin, a six year veteran who has played well in the last two preseasons, will be expected to get his first start Sunday.

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