(Our latest look at the history of the Bucs and their opponent comes again, from noted Buccaneer historian, Paul Stewart of Bucpower.com in London. Reminder, you can click the score link on each game to see vintage photos and video of the games)
The all-time series with the Bills is one of the three that the Bucs have a winning record (7-3) at the present time. After losing their first meeting in 1976, Tampa Bay then won the next four making Buffalo probably their most favourite opponent over the years.
Due a series of strange scheduling quirks, this Sunday will only be the second time the Bucs have ever played in Buffalo, the first time being during the 2009 season. The two teams have played pre-season games in venues such as Nashville and Orlando.
26 September 1976
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 Buffalo Bills 14
The expansion Bucs had been shut out in their first two games against the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers and came into this home game against the Bills as 10 point underdogs. But once they scored their first-ever points on a 39-yard fieldgoal by K Dave Green, John McKay’s team smelled the chance of an upset and they came close to getting it.
RB OJ Simpson was held to 39 yards on 20 carries and the Bucs led 9-7 early in the fourth quarter until future Tampa Bay QB Joe Ferguson led the Bills on their second scoring drive of the game and threw his second touchdown pass in the process.
The Bucs were inside the Buffalo 25-yard line twice in the final minutes but a fake fieldgoal came up a yard short and a Steve Spurrier incompletion on 4th down halted those chances. Even when the Bills were forced to punt in the waning seconds, the notoriously-mistake prone 1976 Bucs ran into the kicker giving Buffalo an automatic first down to run out the clock. “We could have and should have won” said Coach John McKay after the game.
19 December 1982
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Buffalo Bills 23
The 1982 season was shortened to a nine-game season because of the NFLPA strike and the top eight teams in each conference would make the expanded post-season. At 2-4, the Bucs needed to win their final three games to have a chance and did so in dramatic fashion each week leading to their “Cardiac Kids” nickname.
Tampa Bay held a 24-23 lead inside the final minute in this game but the Bills were driving deep inside Buc territory, all but certain to attempt a game-winning field goal that would extinguish the Bucs’ playoff chances.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and future Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon forced a fumble from RB Roosevelt Leaks at the Tampa 17-yard line. FS Cedric Brown recovered and the victory was secured.
2 November 1986
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 Buffalo Bills 28
In 1985 and 1986, the Buccaneers and Bills were bad. OK really bad. As in 2-14 each season bad. Not surprisingly when they met in the middle of the 1986 season, there was not a lot of NFL interest in the “Game of the Weak” but the two teams provided a real classic for the 32,806 fans who were dragged kicking and screaming into Tampa Stadium to watch it.
Buffalo were on their way up with the arrival of QB Jim Kelly from the USFL and he passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns as the Bills came back from an early 20-0 deficit. The Bucs had their own ex-USFL passer in Steve Young but his supporting cast was limited to say the least after veterans WR Kevin House, TE Jimmie Giles and RB Ron Springs had all been surprisingly cut from the team.
Young scored twice on the ground but it was RB James Wilder’s 45-yard score in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference as Buffalo fought their way back into the contest. It was only when Kelly’s 4th down pass to RB Robb Riddick fell incomplete at the Tampa 3-yard line as time expired that the Bucs were able to do something rare under Coach Leeman Bennett, celebrate a victory.
Pop quiz answer – Byron Leftwich. 2011 and the London game, I was at an NFL Q&A session with Roger Goodell standing with Rick Stroud and Roy Cummings. Some German guy wearing a Leftwich Bucs jersey asked a question. Rick comes out with the immortal line – “There are probably only three such jerseys in existence and Byron has eaten two of them.” Roy and I are laughing so hard, we both got a dirty look from the Commish!
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