Our pleasure to welcome guest columnist/writer Paul Stewart of BucPower.com, the premier historical site of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Paul is actually based in London, England but knows, has watched and written on everything Bucs for over 30 years. Each week in conjunction with his site, he’ll feature his top games the Buccaneers have played in their history against that week’s opponent for us. Enjoy!
THE BUCS AND THE BEARS
The Bucs and Bears have met 57 times in all dating back to the 1977 season, most of those being the twice-yearly NFC Central showdowns when the two teams were part of the same division. Chicago leads the overall series 38-19 but the Bucs won the most recent meeting in November 2016 by a score of 36-10.
The Bears won 12 straight games between 1983 and 1988 with the Bucs owning a six-game win streak from 1997 to 2000. The 2011 game was played in London, England as part of the NFL’s International Series.
30 September 1979
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Chicago Bears 13
Sports Illustrated had made the 1979 Bucs their cover story after the previous week’s win over the Rams. “Unbeaten, untied, unbelievable” was the headline as LB Dewey Selmon flattened another Ram player. Now came a trip to Soldier Field and for the first time probably in their four-year history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected to win.
And thanks to a 54-yard, 10-play drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Doug Williams 8-yard scoring pass to Isaac Hagins with 5:07 remaining, the Bucs made it to 5-0. RB Jerry Eckwood rushed for 120 yards including a 61-yard scoring run in the second quarter on Coach John McKay’s famous “Student Body Right” play from his days at USC.
Interceptions by CB Jeris White and S Cedric Brown stopped the final two Chicago drives to secure a win that proved decisive in tie-breaker scenarios at the end of the season.
2 January 1983
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 Chicago Bears 23
The strike-shortened 1982 season saw a nine-game regular season and eight teams in each conference making an enlarged post-season tournament. The 4-4 Bucs had to win to qualify but found themselves 23-6 down midway through the third quarter of the final game at home to the Bears.
QB Doug Williams passed for 367 yards, with two scores to TE Jimmie Giles. K Bill Capece tied the score with a 40-yard fieldgoal with 26 seconds remaining and after RB James Wilder rushed 47 yards on the Bucs’ first play of overtime, Capece converted a 33-yarder to win it for Tampa Bay.
One of the key plays in the game came late in the first quarter when Doug Williams was hit and fumbled but then chased down DT Steve McMichael after a 64-yard return to the Tampa 8. The Buc defense held the the Bears to a fieldgoal which turned out to be decisive in the long run.
“We got another heart check and we got another gut check today,” Coach John McKay said. “I believe I am the oldest coach in this league. I was 29 when the season started.”
8 October 1989
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 42 Chicago Bears 35
The Bucs had waited six years for success since Doug Williams had left and the 1989 season was supposed to be when it happened. Ray Perkins’ team was in its third season and Vinny Testaverde had apparently turned a corner and become the franchise quarterback the No.1 overall selection was expected to be.
And on a hot October afternoon in Tampa, it all came good for the Buccaneer offense. Six touchdowns, three through the air from Testaverde and a 100-yard ground game from Lars Tate and the Bucs put 42 points up on the once-great Chicago defense. The NFL awared their NFC Offensive Player of the Week award to the entire Tampa Bay offense.
The Bears did come back to make the score more respectable with Jim Harbaugh leading a fourth quarter revival but this was Tampa’s day as was the return game later in the season when the two offenses exploded in the final five minutes in a wild 32-31 Buccaneer victory.
“This was a great win for the franchise and for the team,” Ray Perkins said after the game. “This kind of win can go a long way toward getting us over the hump. This is the kind of win you build on.”
Unfortunately the hump returned a week later when the Bucs surprisingly lost at home to a poor Detroit team and embarked on a five-game losing streak that ruined another season of dreams for Buccaneer fans.
The Bucs and Bears in Hollywood
The long-running success the Bears had over the Buccaneers in those years led to a story line in a 1990 episode of the TV show “L.A.Law” when a supposed Bears season ticket holder sued the franchise for a refund on his tickets saying that he had been promised a successful playoff team. “They even lost to Tampa Bay … twice” was one of the immortal lines that also had Mike Ditka making a cameo appearance.