Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Posted by bender 04/12/2009 @ 19:09

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Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback race for the starting job is heating up - The Canadian Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Raheem Morris characterizes the competition for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback job in seven words. "One bone. Five dogs," the first-year coach begins. "Best man wins." Luke McCown feels good about his chances....
Bucs' Talib hits teammate with helmet during argument - Yahoo! Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aqib Talib(notes) showed off his hitting ability Wednesday, only he did it with his headgear in his hand and not on his head, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Cornerback Torrie Cox(notes) received a facial laceration when he...
Union head Warns Bucs To Be Wary Of Lockout - The Ledger
Smith was in Tampa officially introducing himself to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since being elected earlier this year. He said his mission was to inform the players of what is believed to be on the horizon. The Bucs are the 11th team he's visited....
Ready to Go: Bucs' Crowell gets back to work after surgery - Winston-Salem Journal
That's how Crowell, a former Bills linebacker now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, spent the 2007 season. He was headed for more of the same in 2008 until, on the eve of the season opener, he finally put a stop to the madness. Against the Bills' wishes,...
Gruden Leaves Sideline for 'Monday Night Football' - New York Times
By RICHARD SANDOMIR Jon Gruden's hiring as Tony Kornheiser's replacement at “Monday Night Football” on ESPN raises a fundamental question: How long will Gruden, the recently fired Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, stay in TV? Jon Gruden will leave the...
Vick deserves a chance ... to do some good - Tampa Tribune
Or is it worse than the sexual assault Jerramy Stevens of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was accused of while at the University of Washington? Or his multiple arrests for DUI and other offenses? He is about to embark on his third season with the Bucs....
Tight fight for QB job in Tampa - Salisbury Post
Raheem Morris characterizes the competition for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback job in seven words. "One bone. Five dogs," the first-year coach begins. "Best man wins." Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, second-year pro Josh...
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow explains his early ... - Tampabay.com
And Winslow addressed the subject of NFL Network commentator and former Tampa Bay defensive lineman Warren Sapp, who called out Winslow for his absence on the first day of OTAs a week ago. Attending practice May 12, Sapp told reporters, "When your team...
Bucs place backup fullback Storer on injured reserve following ... - The Canadian Press
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed backup fullback Byron Storer on injured reserve. The move Tuesday came a week after Storer, recovering from a knee surgery that sidelined him part of last season, was injured during one of the team's...
Odds: Lions a long shot to win Super Bowl 44 - SportingNews.com
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, and Oakland Raiders also are listed 100-1 underdogs. Odds makers also have little faith in the Lions winning the NFC North and NFC Championship, where they are ranked at the bottom of the odds....

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (often shortened as the Bucs) are a professional American football team based in Tampa, Florida, the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area. They are currently members of the Southern Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The team, along with the Seattle Seahawks, joined the NFL in 1976 as expansion teams. They played their first season in the AFC West as part of the 1976 expansion plan. After the season, they switched divisions with the Seattle Seahawks and became part of the NFC. The club is currently owned by Malcolm Glazer and coached by head coach Raheem Morris. When the franchise entered the league in 1976, the Buccaneers lost their first 26 games. After a brief winning era in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the team suffered through fourteen consecutive losing seasons. Since 1996 they have been consistent playoff contenders, and won Super Bowl XXXVII at the end of the 2002 season.

The Buccaneers joined the NFL as members of the AFC West in 1976. The following year, they were moved to the NFC Central, while the other 1976 expansion team, the Seattle Seahawks, switched conferences with Tampa Bay and joined the AFC West. This realignment was dictated by the league as part of the 1976 expansion plan, so that both teams could play each other twice and every other NFL franchise once during their first two seasons. Instead of a traditional division schedule of playing each division opponent twice, The Buccaneers played every conference team once, plus the Seahawks.

The Tampa Bay expansion franchise was originally awarded to Tom McCloskey, a construction company owner from Philadelphia. McCloskey soon entered a financial dispute with the NFL, so the league found a replacement in Hugh Culverhouse, a wealthy tax attorney from Jacksonville well known in NFL circles for brokering an unprecedented franchise swap between the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams. A name-the-team contest resulted in the nickname "Buccaneers", a reference to the pirate legends of Southwest Florida. The team's first home was Tampa Stadium, which had recently been expanded to seat just over 72,500 fans. Steve Spurrier was the quarterback for Tampa Bay during their expansion season.

Tampa Bay did not win their first game until the 13th week of their second season, starting with a record of 0-26 (though the Bucs had beaten the Atlanta Falcons 17-3 in a 1976 pre-season game before their first regular season). Their losing streak caused them to become the butt of late-night television comedians' jokes. Their first win came in 1977 on the road against the New Orleans Saints. Saints Head Coach Hank Stram was fired after losing to the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay only needed one more week to get their second win, a home win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1977 season finale. The Cardinals also fired their coach, Don Coryell, shortly afterward.

The Bucs' situation improved rapidly in 1979. With the maturation of quarterback Doug Williams, the first 1000-yard rushing season from running back Ricky Bell, and a smothering, league-leading defense led by future NFL Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs kicked off the season with five consecutive victories, a stunning performance that landed them on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

With four games left in the season, the Bucs needed to win only one of them to make the playoffs. In the first, STP was put all over the goal posts in Tampa to prevent the goalposts from being ripped down in the event of a celebration. Four blocked kicks later, the Bucs wasted the oily substance, falling to the Minnesota Vikings 23-22. STP was wasted again the following week as the Bucs were shut out 14-0 by the Chicago Bears, and in OJ Simpson's final home game in San Francisco, Tampa Bay won its third straight attempt to clinch a division title against a 49ers team which came in with a 1-13 record. Clinch they did, however, in their final contest at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, which was played in the worst downpour in Bucs history. Finishing with a 10-6 record, the Bucs had their first winning season in franchise history, and also won the Central Division in a tiebreaker over the Chicago Bears. In an upset, the Bucs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-17 in the divisional round of the playoffs. Because the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the other NFC playoff game, the Bucs hosted the NFC Championship Game the following week in Tampa. The Bucs lost to the Rams 9-0, thanks to great defense by the Rams. In their fourth season, the Bucs seemed on the verge of fulfilling McKay's five-year plan.

The Bucs made the playoffs again by winning their division in the 1981 season. The 1981 season came down to a thrilling final game at Detroit. The winner would take the Central Division crown and the loser would miss the playoffs. The Lions had not lost at home all season. Although the Bucs trailed early, an 84-yard touchdown bomb from QB Williams to WR Kevin House and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by DT David Logan sealed the shocking win for the Bucs. The Dallas Cowboys rewarded the Bucs' efforts with a 38-0 blowout in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The 1982 season started just as poorly for the Bucs, as they went 0-3 before a player's strike shut down the NFL for seven weeks. When the league resumed play, the Bucs were nicknamed the "Cardiac Kids" for winning five of their next six games all in the final moments to go 5-4 and qualify for the expanded playoff slate. In the first round, the Bucs once again faced the Cowboys at home in Dallas, but the Bucs put up a much better fight, leading the game at the half. Tampa Bay lost 30-17.

1982 would be the last winning regular season under Culverhouse's ownership. Prior to the 1983 season, The Bucs failed to sign Doug Williams and allowed the Quarterback to bolt to the United States Football League (USFL) and immediately bottomed out at 2-14, starting a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons (the first 12 of which they suffered at least 10 losses). Included in their misery was the drafting of Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson with the first pick in the 1986 draft. Jackson never suited up for the Bucs, instead deciding to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. Jackson would later return for parts of football seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders.

Despite the profitability of the Buccaneers in the 1980s, Culverhouse's death revealed a team close to bankruptcy, which surprised many observers. His son, Miami attorney Hugh Culverhouse, Jr., practically forced the trustees of his father's estate to sell the team, which cast doubt on the future of the franchise in Tampa. Interested parties included New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, the latter of whom publicly declared he would move the team to Baltimore, as the city did not have an NFL franchise at that time. However, in a last-minute surprise, Malcolm Glazer outbid both of them for $192 million, the highest sale price for a professional sports franchise up to that point. Glazer immediately placed his sons Bryan, Edward, and Joel in charge of the team's financial affairs, and the family's deep pockets and serious commitment to fielding a winning team--in Tampa--allowed the Bucs to finally become competitive. The team's performance dramatically improved when the Glazers hired Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy as head coach, jettisoned the old uniform designs (see below), and convinced Hillsborough County voters to raise sales taxes to partially fund the construction of Raymond James Stadium.

During Dungy's first season in 1996, the team continued to struggle, starting the season 1–8. But in the second half of the season they finished 5–2, primarily due to the performance of a defense ranked seventh in the NFL led by Hardy Nickerson and the maturing of Wyche's draftees Brooks, Lynch, and Sapp. Dungy, a devout Christian with an even-tempered personality, quickly brought balance and morale to the team, and his Cover 2 defensive scheme, sharpened to perfection by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and linebackers coach Lovie Smith, became the foundation for Tampa Bay's future success. Their version of Cover 2 was so successful that it became known as the Tampa 2. It has been brought to the Chicago Bears by Smith, Detroit Lions by Rod Marinelli, Kansas City Chiefs by Herman Edwards and to the Indianapolis Colts by Dungy himself, and copied by several other teams.

The team started the season 5–0, picking up where they left off the previous year, and this quick start once again landed them on the cover of Sports Illustrated--not once, but twice. The Bucs went 10–6 for their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1982, as a wild-card team. In the Bucs' final home game at Houlihan's Stadium (formerly Tampa Stadium), the team defeated the Detroit Lions 20-10. They lost at Lambeau Field to the eventual NFC Champion Green Bay Packers 21-7. Still, there was reason for optimism, and the expectations were high for the following season.

The 1998 season, the first to be played in the newly constructed Raymond James Stadium, saw the Bucs lose several close games en route to a disappointing 8-8 record. The Bucs had to play the first 6 football games of the year (including preseason) on the road as the new stadium was not quite finished. The 1999 season brought much better fortune. On the strength of the NFL's number 3 overall defense and a surprising performance by rookie QB Shaun King, the Bucs finished the season with an 11-5 record and won their third NFC Central Division Championship. They beat the Washington Redskins 14-13 in the Divisional round, before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams in an unusually low-scoring NFC Championship Game, 11-6. The Bucs' loss was controversial, highlighted by the unusual reversal of a pass from King to WR Bert Emanuel, which ended the Bucs' chances at continuing their last-minute drive for a possible win. In league meetings later that year, NFL later changed the rules regarding what constituted an incomplete pass, which was considered a backhanded admission that the reversal was incorrect.

Dungy was released by the Buccaneers following a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-9 in the Wildcard Round of 2001 and soon thereafter hired as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, while the Bucs mounted a prolonged and much-maligned search for his replacement. Several potential candidates were offered the job, including University of Florida head coach Steve Spurrier, former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells, and Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Spurrier jumped to the Redskins when he was offered the most lucrative salary package ever offered to an NFL head coach, and Parcells eventually passed on the Bucs' offer--the second time he had done so in the history of the franchise. Bucs general manager Rich McKay threw his support behind Lewis. The Glazer brothers were so displeased with the selection of yet another defensive-minded coach that they overruled McKay and took control of the candidate search themselves. They made it clear that their top choice was Jon Gruden. The problem was that he was still under contract to the Oakland Raiders.

While talks with the Raiders were secretly under way, the Glazers publicly pursued another respected offensive mind, San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci. Just when initial reports indicated that Mariucci had agreed to become both the Bucs' head coach and their general manager, Raiders owner Al Davis agreed to release Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay.

The Glazers' shrewd move eventually paid off in acquiring Gruden, but it cost the team dearly. The team hired Gruden away from the Raiders on February 20, 2002, but the price was four draft picks, including the Bucs' first and second round picks in 2002, their first round pick in 2003, and their second round selection in 2004, along with $8 million in cash; the league as a result prohibited any further trading of draft picks for coaches. Gruden was frustrated by the limitation of his coaching authority by Davis and was more than pleased to return to Tampa Bay. His parents lived in Carrollwood, and he had spent part of his childhood in Tampa in the early 1980s when his father was a running backs coach and later a scout for the Bucs.

Upon his arrival in Tampa, Gruden immediately went to work, retooling a sluggish offense. The league's sweeping realignment sent the Bucs to the new NFC South Division, along with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.

Led by the league's top defense, the 2002 campaign was the Buccaneers' most successful season to date. They won the NFC South title with the team's best ever record, 12-4, and went on to rout Gruden's former team, the Oakland Raiders who had the league's number 1 offense, by a score of 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Soon after the Super Bowl victory, a growing number of press reports indicated Gruden's lack of patience with general manager McKay. McKay was a major architect of the Bucs rebuilding effort over the previous ten years, and he, like Gruden, had long-established ties to the Tampa Bay area. However, during the 2003 season, the Gruden-McKay relationship deteriorated as the Bucs struggled on the field. In November, Keyshawn Johnson was deactivated by the team ten games into the season for his conduct, which included sideline arguments with Bucs coaches and players. Johnson was eventually traded to the Dallas Cowboys for wide receiver Joey Galloway.

In December, the Glazers allowed McKay to leave the Bucs before the end of the regular season, and he promptly joined the Falcons as president and general manager. Thus, McKay watched his first game as a Falcons executive sitting next to owner Arthur Blank in a Raymond James Stadium skybox. The Falcons defeated the Bucs 30-28. The Bucs suffered a sluggish start and finished the season 7–9. Combined with the Raiders' dismal 4–12 performance, neither Super Bowl team reached the playoffs that year.

For 2004, Bruce Allen was hired as general manager. After Allen's arrival, both John Lynch and Warren Sapp were released, stunning many Buccaneer fans. The distracted Buccaneers began the 2004 season with a 1–5 record, their worst start under Gruden. The fading accuracy of kicker Martin Gramatica did not help matters, as the team lost many close games en route to a 5–11 record.

In the 2005 season, the Buccaneers celebrated their 30th season in the league, and returned to their winning ways. The Bucs selected Carnell "Cadillac" Williams in the first round of the 2005 draft, and the rookie would provide a running game the Buccaneers had not possessed since the days of James Wilder in the 1980s. After starting 5–1, the team entered a midseason slump hampered by a season-ending injury to starting QB Brian Griese. Replacement starter Chris Simms struggled early, but came into his own leading to the team to a last-minute win over the Redskins. The Bucs won the NFC South Division finishing 11–5. The season ended abruptly, however, with a 17–10 loss in the Wild Card round, in a rematch with the Redskins.

After winning the division in 2005, the Bucs suffered through an abysmal 2006 season. The season was plagued by injuries, with starters such as G Dan Buenning, WR Michael Clayton, RB Carnell Williams, DE Simeon Rice, CB Brian Kelly, and QB Chris Simms all being placed on injured reserve at some point in the season. The season also saw a lot of rookies starting for the Bucs, such as QB Bruce Gradkowski, T Jeremy Trueblood, and G Davin Joseph.

The Bucs started off the season 0–3, with QB Chris Simms throwing only 1 touchdown to 7 interceptions. In the third game of the season, a last-minute loss to the Panthers, Simms's spleen was ruptured, and he was placed on injured reserve for the balance of the season. After their bye week, the Bucs elected to start rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, a 6th-round pick from Toledo. After nearly beating the Saints, Gradkowski lead the team to last-minute wins over the Bengals and Eagles. The success was short-lived, however, and the Bucs lost five of the next six games. Tim Rattay replaced Gradkowski as quartback late in the season, and the team finished 4–12. The aged defense, with 5 starters who had played there for a decade or more, was ranked 17th overall, the first time a Tampa defense was not ranked in the top ten since 1996.

After a disappointing 4–12 effort in 2006, the Buccaneers for the first time in several seasons had money to spend in free agency. They brought in quarterback Jeff Garcia, offensive tackle Luke Petitgout, defensive end Kevin Carter, and linebacker Cato June. On April 28, the Buccaneers drafted Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams with the 4th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. After the draft the Buccaneers picked up tight end Jerramy Stevens and defensive tackle Ryan Sims.

The offseason changes resulted in the Buccaneers winning the NFC South title in the 2007 season, finishing with a 9–7 record, and the 4th seed in the NFC. The division crown was the 2nd one in three seasons while under Gruden. In the Wild Card round of the playoffs held on January 6, 2008, the Buccaneers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants by a final score of 24–14.

During the 2008 offseason, the Bucs re-signed head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen through the 2011 season. They also acquired former players Warrick Dunn, who had spent the last 6 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, as well as Brian Griese who was the starting quarterback for the team in 2005 until a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Chris Simms was finally released, having not played in a game since his injury in 2006. The Bucs got off to a great start in 2008, with a 9–3 record going into the final month of the season, tied for first place in the division, with a chance at the top seed in the conference. On December 2, it was announced that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would be leaving the team after the season's end, for the same job at the University of Tennessee, serving under his son Lane Kiffin, who had just been named the new head coach at the school. After the announcement, the Buccaneers would lose the final four games of the season to finish 9–7 for the second consecutive season. Unlike 2007, it was not enough to secure the division championship, nor a playoff appearance.

In January of 2009 the Buccaneers fired Jon Gruden and made Raheem Morris the head coach after having just named Morris the replacement of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. Bruce Allen would also be let go, with Mark Dominik his successor at General Manager. On February 25, the Bucs released veterans Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, and Cato June.The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for TE Kellen Winslow Jr. on February 27th for two undisclosed draft picks. They signed RB Derrick Ward, from the New York Giants, to a four-year, $17 million contract.

In 1975, the Buccaneers built a small practice complex with offices near Tampa International Airport called One Buccaneer Place. As other NFL teams upgraded their facilities, Bucs players and coaches stepped up their complaints about the aircraft noise, cramped offices, small locker rooms and run-down condition of One Buc Place. Even head coach Jon Gruden has sarcastically referred to the facility as "The Woodshed." For much of the team's existence, the Bucs held training camp on the University of Tampa campus. However, since 2002, the team has held training camp in Orlando at the expansive and better-equipped Disney's Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.

In August 2006, the Bucs unveiled their new training facility, which had been under construction for the better part of a year. Conveniently located across the street from Raymond James Stadium on the former site of Tampa Bay Center, a large mall that the Glazers purchased in 2002 and later demolished in 2005, this state-of-the-art complex is now the largest for any team in the NFL. Featuring expansive new offices and meeting rooms, two natural grass practice fields, a theatre designed for both team meetings and press conferences, an expanded weight training room, a giant kitchen, a rehabilitation center with three separate pools and a locker room twice the size of the existing one at One Buc Place, the Glazers told building contractors that "money was no object" in the construction of the facility. To that end, plasma televisions are featured throughout--primarily in the offices of the coaching staff--and former head coach Jon Gruden's corner office even features a shower with a view of the practice fields. The building is capped off with a giant five-story glass and steel football as a key design element. A third practice field, featuring artificial turf, will be added in the future.

In the second week of September 2007, statues of important figures from the Bucs 2002 Championship season were moved into the lobby area in an exhibit called "Moment of Victory". The life-size statues included players Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Brad Johnson, John Lynch, Shelton Quarles, Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, and head coach Jon Gruden. The statues are modeled after images from the sideline towards the end of Super Bowl XXXVII.

Practices at the currently-unnamed facility will remain closed to the public, although the existing mall parking on the west side of the property is still available for use on game days. The facility is still referred to as One Buc Place, or sometimes by local media as One Buc Palace.

When the team began play in 1976, Culverhouse initially picked team colors of red, green, orange and white. However, the shade of green was too close to that used by the Miami Dolphins. A medium shade of "Florida Orange" was substituted for green. Home uniforms included orange jerseys with white numerals outlined in red--the now-infamous "Creamsicle" uniforms. Road white jerseys originally had orange numerals outlined in red, but these colors were reversed for year two and beyond. The color swap provided better visibility, especially for television coverage purposes.

In 1992, the Buccaneers introduced orange pants to be worn with the white jerseys. Prior to the team's season finale in 1995 against the Lions, lame-duck coach Sam Wyche suggested that the Buccaneers wear the orange pants with their orange jerseys. The idea was vetoed by, among others, Pro Bowl linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

For the 1997 season, the Glazers worked with the NFL to develop a more marketable and intimidating look in order to improve the team's image. The Buccaneers changed their team colors to red, pewter, black and orange. "Bucco Bruce" was replaced by a red flag displaying a white pirate skull and crossed sabres which is a modified Jolly Roger. The flag was mounted on another sabre. The "Buccaneers" team name was written in a new font, Totally Gothic, and was either red with shadows of pewter or red and white. Orange pinstriping, and an orange football, was used to maintain a visual link to the former colors. Chris Berman nicknamed them "the pirates in pewter pants," a play on the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Pirates of Penzance. The Buccaneers planned to stage a ceremony in which Bruce was to walk the plank of a pirate ship in Tampa Bay, but he was pardoned at the last minute by Governor Lawton Chiles.

The new uniforms were adopted while Raymond James Stadium was still under construction, and the new colors would be prominent at the new facility.

The new uniforms provided a combination of either red or white jerseys with either pewter or white pants. The red-on-white combination has been used sparingly, but was brought back for a SNF game in 2008. In 2003, the Buccaneers introduced a practice jersey that featured orange piping. In 2004, a pewter practice jersey was used, with numerals in the Totally Gothic font.

Like many other NFL teams located in subtropical climates, the Buccaneers traditionally wear their white jerseys at home during the first half of the season — forcing opponents to suffer in the darker colors during the hot summers and autumns in Tampa. Additionally, the visitors' bench of Raymond James Stadium is located on the east side of the stadium, which is in direct sunlight for 1 p.m. eastern games. The west sideline is in the shade. In the 1980s and in 1996, the last year of the original uniforms, the Bucs generally wore white at home for the entire season including preseason. Since the new uniforms were adopted, the Bucs wear the red jerseys for the final four home games, and for nearly all night home games. In the preseason, the Bucs wear white at home in most situations.

The Buccaneers' 1997 uniform change prompted a 2003 lawsuit by the Raiders, who claimed that the NFL and the Buccaneers had infringed upon key trademark elements of the Raiders' brand, including the Raiders' pirate logo. In the same suit, the Raiders challenged the Carolina Panthers' color scheme, which included silver and black. The Raiders wanted the courts to bar the Buccaneers and Panthers from wearing their uniforms while playing in California. However, since the lawsuit was filed in a state California court, the lawsuit was tossed out because only federal courts have jurisdiction on intellectual property issues.

Following the change in 1997, the Buccaneers did not wear the old uniform, even during popular league-sponsored "throwback" weekends. Team merchandise in the old color scheme was also eliminated for several years. In 2008, the team revealed that they would be wearing the orange throwback uniforms for at least one game in the 2009 season. Their use will be in conjunction with the creation of a Buccaneers Ring of Honor, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1979 division championship team.

The 1976 Buccaneers lost all 14 games during the regular season and 12 more the following season winning the last two games of the 1977 season for 26 straight loses. Even after the season expanded to 16 games in 1978, they remained the only NFL team in the modern era to experience a winless regular season until the Detroit Lions went 0-16 in 2008 for the second time in their franchise history going 0-11 in 1942. Following the 1942 season the Chicago Cardinals went 0-10 in 1943 and again in 1944 as they merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers also called the Carpets by some totaling a 29 game losing streak starting in 1942 against the Cleveland Rams and ending in 1945 against the Chicago Bears. Before the Lions 2008 season, many teams were close to finishing a 16 game season winless. The New Orleans Saints (1980),Cowboys (1989), Patriots (1990), Jets (1996), Chargers (2000), Panthers (2001), and Dolphins (2007) had come close and lost more games than the Buccaneers, all seven teams finished with a record of 1-15, but only the Saints had a 0-14 start. The Cowboys went 0-11-1 in 1960 during their first year as an expansion team and the Baltimore Colts went 0-8-1 in the strike-shortened 1982 season. A twenty-game road losing streak against AFC teams finally ended with a 17-10 victory over the Denver Broncos on December 26, 1993. In 1980 (against the Bengals at Riverfront Stadium), the Buccaneers began a 27-game losing streak of games played outdoors on AstroTurf. It was not broken until 1995 when the team defeated the Eagles at Veterans Stadium. From their inception, they lost 20 consecutive games in which the temperature at kickoff was below 40 °F (4 °C). The streak was ended in the final week of the 2002 regular season, when they beat the Bears at Champaign.

The Buccaneers' current flagship radio stations are WFUS 103.5 FM and WDAE 620 AM. The play-by-play announcer since 1989 has been Gene Deckerhoff. Former Bucs tight end Dave Moore joined Deckerhoff as analyst for the 2007 season. T. J. Rives works as the sideline reporter.

Broadcast legend and former Green Bay Packers' announcer Ray Scott was the play-by-play man for the Bucs' inaugural season of 1976, and from 1977 to 1988 Mark Champion, who is now the voice of the Detroit Lions, held that position with the Bucs.

Former Buccaneer Hardy Nickerson served as color commentator for one season in 2006, until he signed with the Bears as a linebackers coach on February 23, 2007. Nickerson had replaced Scot Brantley, who was the commentator from 1999 through 2005. Jesse Ventura, the famous professional wrestler, actor, and former governor of Minnesota, was Deckerhoff's partner on the Bucs radio broadcasts for one year, 1990, and former Buc David Logan held that position after Ventura until his death after the 1998 season. Dave Kocerek and Fran Curci were also color commentors for the Buccaneers during their earlier years.

Ronnie Lane previously worked as a sideline reporter.

The Bucs have broadcast on FM radio since signing with Top 40 station WRBQ in 1992. The team moved to WQYK-FM, in 1994, then to WFUS in 2004.

While regular season and post-season games in the NFL are all broadcast by national television contracts on CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN and NFL Network, the television broadcasts are for the most part handled by the individual teams. Preseason games not picked up for national broadcast are seen on WFLA Channel 8, where they have been televised since 2003. WFTV Channel 9 simulcasts the broadcast in the Orlando area. Chris Myers is the play-by-play announcer with Charles Davis as color commentator. Both Myers and Davis work nationally with FOX Sports. Ron Jaworski previously served as color commentator, until he signed with MNF for 2007.

CBS, FOX and NBC games are shown respectively in Tampa Bay on WTSP, WTVT and WFLA, while they are shown respectively in Orlando on WKMG, WOFL and WESH. Monday Night Football games are simulcast locally on WFTS, and NFL Network games can be seen locally on WFLA-TV.

WTOG-TV Channel 44 was the previous home to Buccaneer preseason games for many years, ending in 2002. Former CBS play-by-play and ESPN golf broadcaster Jim Kelly was the play-by-play announcer for many of those games in the 1980s, and Joe Namath was a commentator. In the early years of the franchise, WTVT-13, then a CBS affiliate, broadcast some Buccaneer preseason games. Sports anchor Andy Hardy handled the play-by-play, and for one game in 1978, his broadcast partner was his friend, Florida State alumni and movie actor Burt Reynolds.

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2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season

The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season began with the team trying to improve on a 9-7 season. It was Jon Gruden's first season as the Buccaneers head coach. They won the Super Bowl for the first time in the teams history beating the Oakland Raiders.

Upon his arrival in Tampa, Gruden immediately went to work, acquiring former Jaguars WR Keenan McCardell, and RB Michael Pittman from the Cardinals. The Buccaneers needed to improve their sluggish offense, as the league's sweeping realignment sent them to the new NFC South division, along with Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans.

The offense made slight improvements during the season, but the strength of the team was the defense. The 2002 Buccaneers became the first team to lead the league in total defense, points allowed, and interceptions since the 1985 Bears. They also held opposing quarterbacks to an unbelievable 48.4 passer rating for the season . Led by this dominating defense, the 2002 Buccaneers achieved their most successful season to date. They won the NFC South title with the team's best ever record, 12-4, and then defeated the 49ers in what became coach Steve Mariucci's last game with that franchise. In a surprising upset, the Tampa Bay won their first NFC championship on the road against the Eagles in the last NFL game ever played at Veterans Stadium. Cornerback Ronde Barber capped off the win by intercepting a Donovan McNabb pass and returning it 92 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia fans could only watch in stunned silence.

The Buccaneers went on to rout Gruden's former team, the Oakland Raiders, by a score of 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. Gruden's familiarity with the Raiders' players and playbook paid off, as John Lynch and other Buccaneer players recognized some of Oakland's formations and plays at crucial points in the game . The Bucs became the first team to win the Super Bowl without any picks in the first two rounds of the previous spring's NFL Draft, having traded these picks to the Oakland Raiders for the rights to acquire Gruden. Gruden became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.

During the offseason, the Buccaneers signed a new deal with Walt Disney World, and moved their Training Camp from the University of Tampa to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando.

The Buccaneers played four preseason games (home team in capital letters).

During the first preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night August 12, which served as Jon Gruden's first coached game (albeit preseason), Frank Murphy took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. It was the Buccaneers' fifth kickoff return touchdown in the preseason, however, at the time, the team had still never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the regular season (and would do so not until 2007).

Jon Gruden's era in Tampa Bay began at home against new division rival, the New Orleans Saints. Though heralded for his offensive expertise, the Buccaneers offense sputtered and was anemic for the first three quarters. The Saints held a 20-10 lead late in the fourth quarter, while Tampa Bay's offense had only 161 yards through three periods, and quarterback Brad Johnson was sacked three times, on a hot, humid 90° afternoon.

With just under three minutes remaining, Brad Johnson led the Buccaneers on touchdown drive to narrow the score to 20-17. In the final two minutes, the offense finally performed, as Johnson drove the Buccaneers to the Saints 34 yard line. Tampa Bay faced 4th down with 23 seconds to go and counting, and no timeouts remaining. Martín Gramática hurried onto the field and kicked a game-tying field goal as time expired, and forced overtime.

Tied 20-20 in the overtime period, Tampa Bay received, and quickly drove to the Saints 39 yard line. With the choice of a field goal attempt of over 55 yards, Gruden elected to punt. The teams traded possession twice, and with just over 4 minutes remaining in the overtime, Tampa Bay was pinned back at their own 5 yard line. Tom Tupa attempted to punt on 4th down from the endzone, but Fred McAfee was unblocked. Tupa avoided the tackle, and attempted a desperation shovel pass to John Howell from his non-throwing arm. The ball was intercepted by James Allen, standing in the confines of the endzone, and the Saints were credited with a game-winning touchdown.

Tampa Bay rebounded in week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens. Karl Williams returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown, and Martín Gramática scored three field goals. Derrick Brooks sealed the victory and secured the 25-0 shutout with a 97-yard interception return touchdown with 1:06 to go.

On Monday night, the Buccaneers hosted the Rams, continuing a popular rivalry between the two clubs. The Tampa Bay defense intercepted Kurt Warner four times, and held a 19-14 lead late in the fourth quarter.

With just over a minute to go, Warner drove the Rams to their 34 yard line, but Derrick Brooks intercepted his pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, his second such score in two weeks. Tampa Bay won 26-14, and improved to 2-1.

Tampa Bay crushed the hapless Bengals 35-7. Brad Johnson threw three touchdown passes (of 35 yards, 65 yards and 22 yards, respectively), while Shelton Quarles returned an interception 25 yards for a score (Tampa Bay's third such score in three weeks).

Tampa Bay visited another new division rival, the Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneer defense dominated yet another game, holding the Falcons to only 3 first half points, despite giving up good field position (the Falcons had a 47-yard kickoff return, a fumble recovery and a recovered onside kick).

On the first drive of the third quarter, quarterback Michael Vick was knocked out of the game after a sack by Simeon Rice. Doug Johnson took over at quarterback for the Falcons, and did not fare well. Though the Falcons took a 6-3 lead midway through the third period, the lead was short-lived. Three plays later, Brad Johnson connected on a 76-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson, and a 10-6 lead. After a Martín Gramática field goal stretched the lead to 13-6, Tampa Bay pinned the Falcons on their own 16 yard line with 6:24 to go in the game. Doug Johnson was being sacked but got the ball off, which was, in turn, intercepted by Warren Sapp at the Atlanta 15 yard line. Sapp lateraled to Derrick Brooks who then ran for a touchdown. It was Tampa Bay's fourth consecutive game with a defensive score, and Brook's third of the season.

Tampa Bay won by a final score of 20-6, and improved to 4-1.

Tampa Bay hosted Cleveland, and notched their first ever win against the Browns franchise by a score of 17-3. Fullback Mike Alstott was the most notable of the day, rushing 17 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, Alstott rumbled 19 yards, shaking at least seven tackles, for one of the more memorable plays of his career.

Despite the convincing win, the Buccaneer kicking game suffered several woes. One field goal attempt was blocked, one sailed wide left, and another was foiled by a botched snap.

Derrick Brooks recovered and returned a Donovan McNabb fumble for a touchdown (his fourth defensive score of the season), but Tampa Bay could not prevail over the Eagles at Veterans Stadium, falling 20-10. It marked the third straight loss at Veterans Stadium for the Buccaneers, and the fourth straight loss overall to the Eagles.

Early in the game, quarterback Brad Johnson suffered a rib injury, but managed to stay in the game. With 14 minutes to go, physically beaten and exhausted, Johnson lofted a pass intended for Keyshawn Johnson, and it was intercepted. He lacked strength due to the bruised rib. Brad Johnson was benched and would not return to the game. The turnover sealed the victory for the Eagles.

Rob Johnson started for the injured Brad Johnson, and managed to guide the Buccaneers to a tough 12-9 win over the Carolina Panthers. Martín Gramática hit four field goals (32, 52, 53, and 47 yards respectively) for Tampa Bay's only points.

In the final minute, tied 9-9, Rob Johnson drove the Buccaneers into Carolina territory. With 21 seconds to go, Johnson scrambled for a 9-yard run, and was pushed out of bounds at the Carolina 35. But he was injured on the play. Third-string quarterback Shaun King scurried off the bench cold, and delivered a clutch 7-yard pass to Karl Williams. With 5 seconds to go, Gramatica kicked the game-winning field goal.

Brad Johnson returned to the lineup, throwing five touchdown passes (including three to Keyshawn Johnson), and a total of 313 yards, as the Buccaneers rolled 38-24 over the visiting Vikings.

Tampa Bay's bye week took place in week 10.

Brad Johnson threw two touchdown passes, and Martín Gramática scored four field goals, in a 23-10 win over the Panthers. The Buccaneers swept the season series with Carolina, and posted a franchise-best 8-2 start.

Longtime rival Green Bay came to Raymond James Stadium, with the best record in the NFC on the line. In the first quarter, Brett Favre connected on a touchdown pass to Donald Driver to take the lead 7-0. Tampa Bay scored a field goal at the end of the first half, and the score was 7-3 at halftime. The Buccaneers scored another field goal in the third quarter, narrowing the deficit to 7-6.

On the first play of the next drive, Favre was intercepted by Brian Kelly, who returned the ball to the Packers 18 yard line. During the return, Chad Clifton was jogging down field, away from the main action, and was blindsided by Warren Sapp. Clifton laid motionless on the field for several minutes, and was carted off the field with a season-ending pelvic injury. The turnover led to a Brad Johnson touchdown pass to Joe Jurevicius, followed by a two-point conversion catch by Keyshawn Johnson, and a 14-7 lead.

Ronde Barber, Dexter Jackson, and Kelly intercepted three more Favre passes, and Tampa Bay won convincingly 21-7. At 9-2, the Buccaneers stood with the best record in the NFC conference. After the game, Sapp and Packers coach Mike Sherman were involved in a confrontation on the field, exchanging heated words. The Sapp hit was regarded by some as a cheap shot, but Clifton would recover fully from the injury, and Sapp defended his actions, and was not penalized by the league.

Mike Alstott scored a 44-yard touchdown catch, and Keenan McCardell caught another late in the game, but the Buccaneers fell to the Saints, 26-20 on Sunday Night Football. Brad Johnson was intercepted once, lost a fumble, and Aaron Stecker lost another fumble, as the Saints swept Tampa Bay for the season.

Falcons quarterback Michael Vick entered the game with considerable pregame hype and an 8-game unbeaten streak. Vick, however, was sacked twice by Tampa Bay, and held to only 125 yards passing and a measley 15 yards rushing. Meanwhile, Brad Johnson connected on four touchdowns (two apiece to Jurevicius and McCardell) as the Buccaneers won 34-10.

Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman each scored a rushing touchdown, but the visiting Buccaneers found themselves still tied 20-20 late in the fourth quarter with the 3-10 Lions. With 3:04 to go, Martín Gramática broke the tie with a 38-yard field goal, and Tampa Bay held on for a 23-20 victory.

Injuries plagued the Buccaneers that week, as John Lynch sat out the game with a neck strain. Keyshawn Johnson left the game with a groin injury, and Anthony McFarland broke his right foot, and would miss the remainder of the season. Most notably, however, was quarterback Brad Johnson, who suffered a back injury during the game. He did not leave the game, but afterwards, the severity of the injury was more significant than originally known. He would be sidelined during practice the following week.

With Brad Johnson sidelined, backup quarterback Shaun King started against the Steelers on Monday night. Tampa Bay was rocked 17-7 by the visiting Steelers, the second consecutive season being beaten soundly at home by Pittsburgh.

On the first play of the game, Tommy Maddox's pass to Plaxico Burress gained 41 yards to the Tampa Bay 40 yard line. The Steelers drove 81 yards in only six plays, as Maddox connected with Antwaan Randle El for an 11-yard touchdown. On the second play of Tampa Bay's first drive, King was intercepted by Chad Scott, who returned the ball 30 yards for a touchdown, and a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.

Trailing 17-0, Tampa Bay kicker Martín Gramática made a 50-yard field goal, but it was negated by a Pittsburgh penalty, and instead Tampa Bay was awarded a first down at the Pittsburgh 28 yard line. Four plays later, however, Mike Alstott lost a fumble at the 7 yard line, and the Steelers took a 17-0 lead into halftime.

Shaun King was finally benched having thrown a pitiful 9-for-26, an interception, and only 73 yards passing. Rob Johnson took over in the second half, and salvaged the remainder of the game. With 1:23 to go, Keyshawn Johnson caught a touchdown pass, and avoided the shutout.

In the final week of the season, Tampa Bay traveled to Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois, to meet the Chicago Bears. A win would secure the #2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Brad Johnson sat out for the second game in a row, and Rob Johnson started the game for Tampa Bay.

The temperature at kickoff was 38°, and Tampa Bay looked to snap a 0-21 record in games under 40°. Rob Johnson passed for 134 yards and no interceptions, and Michael Pittman rushed for 90 yards, but the Buccaneers offense could not score a touchdown. Martín Gramática kicked a franchise-best 5-out-of-5 field goals, and his 15 points were the only scores of the game. Bears quarterback Henry Burris was intercepted four times by Tampa Bay (twice by Brian Kelly, and once each by Brooks and Smith).

With the win, Tampa Bay secured a bye for the wild card round and recorded the club's first win with the temperature under 40°. The Buccaneers finished with a franchise-best 12-4 regular season record along with a club-best 6-2 road record.

The Buccaneers, with the league's top ranked defense during the 2002 regular season, forced five turnovers, sacked quarterback Jeff Garcia four times, and limited the 49ers to only two field goals. Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson, who had been sidelined for a month, returned to throw for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback Mike Alstott scored two touchdowns, while the Buccaneers held onto the ball for 36:46 and held the 49ers to a season low 228 yards. This was San Francisco's first playoff game without a touchdown since 1986.

Tampa Bay won on the road for the first time in playoff history, and in temperatures below 32°F (0°C), in the last football game played at Veterans Stadium. The Eagles were heavy favorites at home going into the game. The Eagles had beaten the Buccaneers four consecutive times, in the wild card round the two previous seasons, and also during regular-season games in 2001 and 2002. During the two playoff losses, both at Veterans Stadium, Tampa Bay had failed to score a single touchdown.

Eagles running back Brian Mitchell returned the opening kickoff 70 yards, setting up a 20-yard touchdown run by Duce Staley less than a minute into the game. Tampa Bay responded with Martín Gramática's 48-yard field goal on their ensuing drive. At the end of Philadelphia's next possession, Lee Johnson's punt pinned the Buccaneers back at their own 4-yard line. But Tampa Bay stormed 96 yards and scored with Mike Alstott's 1-yard touchdown run to take the lead. The key play on the drive was a 71-yard completion from Brad Johnson to Joe Jurevicius on third down and two from their own 24-yard line.

David Akers tied the score, 10-10, with a 30-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, but the Bucs responded with an 80-yard, 12-play drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brad Johnson to Keyshawn Johnson. With time running out in the half, Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to the Tampa Bay 24-yard line, only to lose a fumble while being sacked by his high school teammate Simeon Rice, who stripped the ball away and recovered it himself.

On the Eagles' first drive of the third quarter, McNabb lost another fumble due to a tackle from defensive back Ronde Barber, and Bucs lineman Ellis Wyms recovered it. Later on, with 1:02 left in the third period, Gramatica's 27-yard field goal increased the Tampa Bay lead to 20-10. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles managed to drive 73 yards to Tampa Bay's 10-yard line, but Barber intercepted McNabb's pass with 3:12 left in the game and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown.

This was the last Eagles game ever played at Veterans Stadium which was demolished shortly thereafter.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their first Super Bowl, routing the Oakland Raiders 48-21. The Buccaneers defense intercepted Rich Gannon a Super Bowl record five times, and returned three of the interceptions for touchdowns. Safety Dexter Jackson was named the game's MVP.

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2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season

The 2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season was the 32nd season for the club in the National Football League. On December 16, 2007, they cliched the NFC South division title, and returned to the playoffs after missing it in 2006.

On December 16, in a game against the Atlanta Falcons, Micheal Spurlock scored the first kickoff return touchdown in franchise history, snapping a streak of 32 seasons, 497 games (at 53 stadiums in 38 cities), 139 individuals, and 1,864 unsuccessful attempts. The play earned Spurlock the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.

Head coach Jon Gruden was in his sixth year with the Buccaneers. He was joined by Offensive Coordinator Bill Muir and Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Re-signings After brief stays on the open market, the Buccaneers re-signed CBs Phillip Buchanon and Torrie Cox, the latter known as a special teams standout. They also re-signed fan favorite Mike Alstott to a one-year contract, but ultimately lost him to injured reserve after a neck injury during the preseason.

The 2007 NFL Draft took place in Radio City Music Hall on April 28-29, 2007. The Buccaneers were either to pick third or fourth in the draft, to be determined by a coin flip with the Cleveland Browns because the two teams had identical records and strength of schedule. Buccaneers GM Bruce Allen called heads and the coin landed tails. For the first round, the Buccaneers picked fourth. The two teams alternated picking third and fourth in each round. In addition to their given picks, Tampa Bay also holds the Colts' second round pick, the 64th pick overall (because of a midseason trade for Anthony McFarland), but also lost a sixth round pick in a trade for tight end Doug Jolley formerly of the New York Jets. They also received two compensatory picks, awarded for losses during free agency. During the draft, the Buccaneers swapped fourth-rounders with the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for their pick in the sixth round.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex from July 26 through August 16. They played four preseason games.

The Buccaneers began their 2007 campaign on the road against their fellow 1976 expansion mate, the Seattle Seahawks. In the first quarter, kicker Matt Bryant provided two field goals for Tampa Bay (a 38-yarder and a 32-yarder) to begin the game. In the second quarter, the Seahawks took the lead with kicker Josh Brown getting a 28-yard field goal, while RB Shaun Alexander got a 1-yard TD run. During a scoreless third quarter, injuries sidelined Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams (ribs) and quarterback Jeff Garcia (head). Garcia, however, would return to the game. Seattle would wrap up the win with Brown kicking a 46-yard field goal, while QB Matt Hasselbeck completed a 34-yard TD pass to RB Maurice Morris.

With the loss, the Buccaneers began their season at 0-1, their third opening day defeat in the past four seasons.

The Buccaneers played their home opener against the 2006 NFC South champion New Orleans Saints. After scoring only 6 points the week before, the Buccaneers dominated the Saints, on offense and defense, at one point taking a 28-0 lead. Early in the first quarter, Barrett Ruud recovered a Deuce McAllister fumble, which set up a Tampa Bay scoring drive. Carnell Williams, who was back in the lineup after injuring his ribs the week before, capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Early in the second quarter, Joey Galloway scored on a 69-yard catch and run from quarterback Jeff Garcia. Inside the two-minute warning, Garcia and Galloway scored again, this time with a 24-yard touchdown, to take a 21-0 halftime lead. Halfway through the third quarter, Cato June intercepted a pass from Drew Brees. Two plays later, Garcia and Galloway connected for yet another big play, a 41-yard completion to the New Orleans 9 yard line. Williams capped off the drive with his second 1-yard touchdown. New Orleans' first score finally came with a 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Karney, aided by a 58-yard catch by Phillip Buchanon moments earlier. The Buccaneers improved to 1-1, into a tie for the NFC South lead. New Orleans fell to 0-2.

Following the game, with 16 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles, middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday September 19.

The Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams renewed a rivalry that was popular from 1999-2004. The early part of the game was a field position battle, with Rams running back Steven Jackson rushing effectively in the first half. All of St. Louis' first half drives, however, came up empty on the scoreboard. Tampa Bay's first quarter drivers were also scoreless, with kicker Matt Bryant missing a 54-yard field goal short after slipping in the damp grass. Just before the two-minute warning, Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins missed a 42-yard field goal, setting up Tampa Bay's first score. After driving to the 17 yard line, a heavy downpour drenched the stadium. Matt Bryant connected on 27-yard field goal for the game's first points and concluded the first half. Tampa Bay received the second half kickoff, and rolled into the endzone with a 7-yard touchdown run by Carnell Williams. St. Louis drove to the Tampa Bay 10 yard line, aided by two uncharactaristic defensive penalties by Derrick Brooks (late hit) and Ronde Barber (taunting). The threat was moot, however, as Phillip Buchanon intercepted Marc Bulger in the endzone. In the fourth quarter, Carnell Williams, aggravated his sore ribs, and fumbled the ball while Oshiomogho Atogwe recovered for St. Louis. The Rams finally got on the scoreboard with a 25-yard field goal, narrowing the lead to 10-3 with 12 minutes to play. Back up running back Earnest Graham took over for Williams, and iced the game with two rushing touchdowns, the first of his career outside of the preseason.

The Buccaneers and Panthers met for the first time this season, with first place in the NFC South on the line. Carolina starting quarterback Jake Delhomme sat out the game with an elbow injury, and was replaced by David Carr. The Buccaneer offense started the game with an exhausting, 11-play, 71-yard drive, capped off by a 3-yard scramble by Jeff Garcia for a touchdown. With 3 minutes left in the first quarter, running back Carnell Williams blasted down the field for an 18-yard run, but his right leg buckled, seriously injuring his knee. As he was being carted off the field, nearly the entire Buccaneers team, along with several Panthers players, huddled around Williams in support. After the injury timeout, Earnest Graham salvaged the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Tampa Bay extended their halftime lead to 17-0 after a Matt Bryant field goal, meanwhile, Carolina's offense was sputtering, blasted by the Buccaneers defense, who sacked Carr three times, and intercepeted him once. Carr completed only 19 of 41 pass attempts, and Carolina was facing their first shutout in five seasons. With 23 seconds left in regulation, Carolina finally got on the board with a touchdown pass to DeAngelo Williams. An onside kick was unsuccessful, and the Buccaneers won their third straight game.

Through four games, the Buccaneers have not given up any points in the first quarter, and quarterback Jeff Garcia has not yet thrown a single interception. After the game, the Buccaneers announced that running back Carnell Williams (torn patellar ligament) and left tackle Luke Petitgout (torn ACL) would both face season-ending surgery. On Wednesday October 3, linebacker Barrett Ruud was named the NFC Defensive Player of Month for September with a league-leading 51 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one interception.

The Buccaneers faced former head coach Tony Dungy for the second time. The previous meeting between the two teams in 2003 saw the Colts erase a 21-point deficit in the final four minutes to win the game in overtime. Both teams entered the game with players sidelined by injuries. Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai sat out for Indianapolis, while Carnell Williams and Luke Petitgout were placed on injured reserve for Tampa Bay.

The Colts controlled the tempo of most of the game, with a time of possession of over 38 minutes and 400 yards of offense. The Buccaneers were held to only 177 total yards and only 17 yards rushing. The first three Buccaneers possessions were 3-and-outs. Meanwhile, Indianapolis pulled out to a 13-0 lead. In the second quarter, Tanard Jackson intercepted Peyton Manning and set up the Buccaneers' first scoring drive. During the drive, running back Michael Pittman left the game with an injured ankle. Two plays later Tampa Bay got on the board with a Jeff Garcia touchdown pass to Alex Smith, and narrowed the score to 13-7.

In the second half, Indianapolis continued to dominate both sides of the ball, and stretched their lead to 30-7. Garcia and Smith connected for a second touchdown pass with just over 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and made the score 30-14. Hoping to spark a comeback, Tampa Bay attempted a surprise onside kick, but it was called back by a penalty. Indianapolis then took the re-kick, and put three more points on the board with an Adam Vinatieri field goal. Bruce Gradkowski took over as quarterback for Tampa Bay, and subsequently threw an interception to seal the victory for the Colts.

The following day, on Monday October 8, the Buccaneers announced that Michael Pittman would miss 6-8 weeks with a cracked fibula.

The Buccaneers hosted the Titans at Raymond James Stadium, their second inter-conference matchup in two weeks. Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham was a part of the starting lineup for the first time in his career, replacing the injured Michael Pittman, who sat out the game.

The first half was a defensive struggle, with neither team scoring in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, Tennessee drove to the Buccaneers 32 yard line, but quarterback Vince Young fumbled the ball and the Buccaneers recovered. Jeff Garcia connected on a 39-yard pass play to Michael Clayton, to help set up a 23-yard Matt Bryant field goal, the first points of the game. Moments later, Phillip Buchanon intercepted Vince Young with 1:29 remainging in the half, to maintain a 3-0 halftime lead.

Tennessee took the second half kickoff, and executed a 12-play, 45-yard drive which resulted in a 48-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. On their next possession, Vince Young ran out of bounds, and suffered a strained quad. He would have to leave the game, and was replaced by Kerry Collins. On Tampa Bay's next drive, Garcia connected with Joey Galloway for a 69-yard touchdown catch. On the ensuing drive Ronde Barber intercepted a pass by Kerry Collins, but it ruled incomplete after review.

With less than four minutes remaining in regulation, Collins drove the Titans to the Buccaneers 23 yard line. For the second time, Ronde Barber intercepted Collins, this time in the endzone, but it was again ruled incomplete after review. The drive continued, and with 1:24 remaining, LenDale White tied the game 10-10 with a touchdown run. With only one timeout, Garcia drove the Buccaneers 55 yards on seven plays. With 11 seconds remaining, Matt Bryant kicked a game-winning 43-yard field goal.

The Tampa Bay racked up 422 yards of offense against Detroit, and quarterback Jeff Garcia passed for 316 yards, but two costly fumbles and one blocked punt allowed the Lions to take the victory. In the first quarter, Tampa Bay and Detroit began what would be a physical game. Tampa Bay suffered injuries to Mark Jones(knee) and Michael Clayton(ankle), and neither would return. On the sixth play of the game, Detroit forced a fumble for a loss of 23 yards. However, an instant replay ruled the play an incomplete pass instead. Moments later, the Lions blocked a punt by Josh Bidwell, and the turnover led to a field goal. On the next drive, the Buccaneers drove 43 yards to the Lions 37 yard line, but a fumble between the exchange from Garcia to Earnest Grahamwas recovered by the Lions. Detroit moved quickly down the field and Kevin Jonesscored the first touchdown of the game. Early in the second quarter, Garcia capped off an 81-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard. Their next possession, a 16-play, 58-yard drive, covered over 9 minutes. It came up empty, as Matt Bryantmissed a field goal. Detroit moved quickly to score a field goal just before halftime. Late in the third quarter, and early in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay started another long drive. A 15-play, 73-yard drive of over 7 minutes drove the Buccaneers to the Detroit 1 yard line. Tampa Bay had converted on two third downs, and one fourth down. But Garcia fumbled the handoff on a first and goal at the 1 yard line, and Detroit recovered. They would drive 93 yard for their second touchdown. Trailing by 16, Tampa Bay drove 78 yards in 16 plays, and Maurice Stovall caught Garcia's second touchdown pass. A two-point coversion failed, but Bryant performed and onside kick, which Tampa Bay recovered. The Buccaneers managed to trim the deficit to 7, but a second onside kick failed, and Detroit took the victory.

Tampa bay faced in-state rival Jacksonville Jaguars for the fourth time in the regular season. Injured Jacksonville starting quarterback David Garrard was replaced by Quinn Gray, while Jeff Garcia hoped to extend on a 217-consecutive passing streak without an interception.

In the first half, Jacksonville's running attack of Fred Taylor, LaBrandon Toefield and Maurice Jones-Drew rushed 15 times in their first 16 plays from scrimmage, and eventually set up a 10-3 lead. In the second quarter, Garcia threw his first interception of the season, which was returned for a Jacksonville score. Tampa Bay quickly responded, however, driving 81 yards in three plays, capped off with Garcia and Joey Galloway connecting for a 58-yard touchdown.

A momentum shift appeared to occur near the end of the second quarter, as Tampa Bay forced Jacksonville into a 3-and-out. Inside the two-minute warning, Garcia drove the Buccaneers to the 4 yard line. Garcia scrambled on 3rd & 10, colliding with Reggie Nelson, losing his helmet, but fell one yard short of the first down. Tampa Bay settled for a Matt Bryant field goal, and a 13-17 halftime deficit.

Tampa Bay's defense dominated the third quarter, forcing Jacksonville a turnover on downs, a fumble in the endzone (recovered by Gray on the 1 yard line), and a blocked punt. The good field position led to Michael Bennett's first touchdown as a Buccaneer.

The fourth quarter saw Jacksonville re-take the lead with an 8-yard touchdown pass. Despite two late drives starting with decent field position, Tampa Bay's effort died when Garcia's pass was deflected and intercepted with 19 seconds remaining, his third pick of the game. The loss dropped Tampa Bay to 4-4, second place in the NFC South.

The Buccaneers beat the visiting Arizona Cardinals, snapping a two-game losing streak, and regained first place in the NFC South. Tampa Bay dominated the game, maintaining a time of possession of over 43 minutes with running back Earnest Graham rushing for 124 yards and one touchdown. Tampa Bay's defense held Arizona to only 23 yards rushing, and held them to 2 of 10 third down conversions.

In the first quarter, Arizona quickly drove down the field, connecting on a 47-yard pass from Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald. The drive stalled, however, and they settled for 43-yard Neil Rackers field goal. Tampa bay answered on the ensuing drive. On 3rd and 1, from the 42 yard line, Jeff Garcia fell, but avoided a sack, and scrambled for a first down. Two plays later he scored a 37-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway.

On the first play of the second quarter, Tanard Jackson intercepted Warner's pass, and Arizona was penalized 15 yards for a facemask, setting up the Buccaneers on the Arizona 27 yard line. Tampa Bay suffered two false start penalties, and settled for a field goal and took a 10-3 lead into halftime.

Tampa Bay took the second half kickoff and drove 64 yards in ten plays. The drive was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Earnest Graham. Late in the third quarter, the Buccaneers started a 19-play, 86-yard drive, lasting nearly 9 minutes. At the 8 yard line, Garcia threw to Alex Smith but the pass was incomplete in the endzone. The drive came up empty when Matt Bryant missed a 26-yard field goal. Arizona quickly drove down the field and scored a touchdown by Edgerrin James, narrowing the margin to 17-10.

With 2:43 remaining in the game, Tampa Bay punted to Arizona. Maurice Stovall de-cleated receiver Steve Breaston at the Arizona 16 yard line, preventing a return. On the very next play, Jermaine Phillips intercepted Warner's pass, sealing the victory for Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers had their scheduled bye the weekend of November 11. In week 10 action, Atlanta defeated Carolina, and St. Louis upset New Orleans, giving Tampa Bay sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Tampa Bay faced their heated division rival for the first time this season, at the Georgia Dome. Tampa Bay dominated, and enjoyed the return of Michael Pittman from injury. Atlanta started quarterback Byron Leftwich. Atlanta suffered four turnovers, and 11 penalties for 105 yards in the loss.

In the first quarter, both teams traded punts on their opening drive. On Tampa Bay's second drive, Pittman caught an 11-yard pass but fumbled and it was recovered by Keith Brooking. An instant replay challenge upheld the ruling on the field. On the very next play, Byron Leftwich was hit as he released the ball, and it was intercepted by Barrett Ruud, who returned the ball to the 28 yard line. Tampa Bay drove 72 yards in three plays, as Joey Galloway caught a 44-yard touchdown.

In the second quarter, Leftwich was sacked from behind and fumbled the ball. Ronde Barber picked up the ball, and ran 41 yards for Tampa Bay's second touchdown. On Atlanta's next drive, Warrick Dunn fumbled at the 45 yard line. Atlanta challenged the ruling, and the call on the field was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass. The following play, Roddy White fumbled, and Brian Kelly recovered for Tampa Bay. He lateraled to Cato June, who then lost the ball. Despite an instant replay challenge by Tampa Bay, the ruling on the field was upheld. Atlanta, however, was unable to move down the field, and Tampa Bay took a 14-0 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Tampa Bay added a field goal, then Gaines Adams chopped Leftwich's arm as he threw and his floating pass was intercepted by Chris Hovan (later in the week NFL officials revised the play to a sack & fumble recovery). Tampa Bay quickly scored another touchdown catch by Alex Smith. In the fourth quarter, Earnest Graham took over the offense for Tampa Bay, rushing 102 yards total, and a touchdown score. Atlanta avoided the shutout, replacing Leftwich with Joey Harrington, and scored a touchdown with 1:10 to go.

Tampa Bay hosted Washington for the third time in three seasons during the month of November. Tampa Bay's defense dominated a good part of the game, forcing six turnovers, and despite quarterback Jeff Garcia sitting out most of the game, the Buccaneers held on for a 19-13 victory.

On the game's first play, Garcia tried to scramble, but injured his back upon being tackled by Cornelius Griffin. He would last only two more plays, and was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski until early in the 4th quarter. Garcia's injury seemingly galvanized the Tampa Bay defense, who went on to cause 4 turnovers in the first half. Phillip Buchanon forced a fumble off the Redskins' first pass which was recovered by Tanard Jackson who advanced it 8 yards to the Washington 19. Three plays later, Earnest Graham scored a 1 yard touchdown run. On the third play of Washington's next drive, Greg White hit Clinton Portis hard, forcing a fumble which Jackson recovered at the 19 yard line. Tampa took a 10-0 lead after a Matt Bryant field goal.

Early in the second quarter, Greg White forced yet another fumble as he sacked Jason Campbell which Kevin Carter recovered. The turnover led to another field goal. Portis fumbled again on the following drive as he took a bone-jarring hit from Jermaine Phillips and Tampa Bay capitalized with a third field goal. Before the half, Washington managed to get on the board with a field goal, then Tampa Bay kicked a fourth field goal as the half expired to lead 19-3.

The second half saw Washington attempt a comeback. Despite injuring his hand, Campbell stayed in the game, and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley. Meanwhile, Gradkowski stayed in at quarterback for Tampa Bay, and continued to perform poorly. Tampa Bay managed only 9 yards of offense in the third quarter, and 0 yards passing. The Redskins drove 66 yards in 13 plays and over nine minutes to the Tampa Bay 4 yard line. Tampa Bay's defense held on 4th and 1 at the 4, however, as linebacker Derrick Brooks shed several blockers to down Portis for no gain.

Washington narrowed the score to 19-13 in the fourth quarter. With about 11 minutes to go, Jeff Garcia returned to the game, hoping to spark Tampa Bay's offense, and hold on for the win. He was unable to do much against the Redskins' well-rested and fired up defense, however, and Tampa Bay ended up having to punt. Josh Bidwell pinned the Redskins at their own 9 yard line, and Campbell drove them to the Tampa Bay 32 yard line. Ronde Barber stopped the threat when he intercepted the ball at the 28 yard line. With less than a minute to go, Campbell drove the Redskins to the Tampa Bay 16 yard line, but Brian Kelly intercepted the pass in the endzone with 17 seconds remaining, to clinch the victory for the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay took on the New Orleans Saints for the second time this season, this time at the Superdome. Luke McCown started at quarterback for the Buccaneers in place of the injured Jeff Garcia. McCown would pass for 313 yards, and connectd on his first 15 consecutive passes of the game.

The Buccaneers scored the first points of the game with Matt Bryant's 27-yard field goal. New Orleans answered with WR Terrance Copper catching a 4-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees. Late in the first quarter, McCown connected with Joey Galloway for a 60-yard catch which set Tampa Bay up on the 1 yard line.

Tampa Bay retook the lead early in the second quarter with TE Anthony Becht catching a 1-yard TD, and Matt Bryant making another field goal to increase the Tampa Bay lead to 13-7. New Orleans scored a touchdown just before halftime, a 45-yard pass to WR Devery Henderson, to make it 13-14 at halftime.

In the second half, RB Earnest Graham scored a 25-yard touchdown run. New Orleans had to punt on their ensuing possession, but disaster struck with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter as miscommunications between McCown and WR Joey Galloway led to a Saints interception which was returned for a touchdown.

Leading 21-20 with 4 minutes remaining in the game, Saints P Steve Weatherford made a successful coffin corner punt which pinned the Buccaneers at their own 2-yard line. Two plays later, DE Will Smith sacked McCown for a safety. After the safety kick, New Orleans looked to run the clock out and seal the victory. However, in an unexpected and perhaps season-altering mistake, Reggie Bush fumbled a double reverse intended for WR Devery Henderson and Jovan Haye recovered for Tampa Bay at the New Orleans 37-yard line. Three plays later, the Buccaneers found themselves in a predicament as they faced a 4th and 1 at the New Orleans 28. Instead of attempting a game-tying field goal, however, coach Jon Gruden went for it on fourth down, calling a run around right tackle which Graham converted for a first down. Three plays later, McCown found TE Jerramy Stevens for a 4-yard touchdown to win the game.

With the win, Tampa Bay improved to 8-4 and maintained a perfect division record. Tampa Bay only needed to win one game in the final four weeks to clinch the NFC South division crown.

Tampa Bay faced the Texans for only the second time in the regular season, and for the first time during the regular season at Reliant Stadium. With a win, or losses by New Orleans and Carolina, Tampa Bay would clinch the NFC South division title. Tampa Bay's postseason berth, however, would have to wait at least another night, as the Texans capitalized on a sluggish Buccaneers squad.

For the second week in a row, Luke McCown started in place of injured Jeff Garcia. Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Sage Rosenfels led the Texans. Tampa Bay took the opening kickoff, and drove to the Houston 34 yard line. Coach Jon Gruden elected to go for it on 4th down and 2, but running back Earnest Graham was tackled for no gain. Houston took over on downs, and scored a quick and convincing touchdown pass. On the ensuing kickoff, Tampa Bay's Micheal Spurlock returned the ball 45 yards to the Houston 47. Even though the drive ended in a punt, the good field position helped pin the Texans deep on their next drive. Greg White sacked Rosenfels and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Jovan Haye the Houston 25. Five plays later, Earnest Graham scored his first rushing touchdown to tie the score 7-7.

Later in the second quarter, Ike Hilliard caught a pass for a first down at the Houston 28, but Will Demps hit Hillard in an apparent helmet-to-helmet and forced a fumble, but did not draw a penalty. Houston recovered, and soon scored a second touchdown to lead 14-7 at halftime.

Houston received the second half kickoff, which Andre Davis returned 97 yards for a touchdown. Just over two minutes later, Tampa Bay responded with a 4-play, 69-yard drive, capped off by Graham's second rushing touchdown. Tampa Bay, however, would not score again.

Houston added another score early in the fourth quarter, and held on for a 28-14 victory. Tampa Bay fell to 8-5, but still controls their own destiny for the division championship and overall playoff picture. A single victory in the final three weeks will clinch the NFC South championship. In other week 14 action, Carolina lost to Jacksonville, eliminating them from the division race, and New Orleans defeated Atlanta, keeping themselves mathematically alive for the division title.

The Buccaneers stayed home this week for a rematch against their division rivals the Atlanta Falcons. With the convincing victory, Tampa Bay clinched the NFC South division title, maintained a perfect 5-0 division record, and scored their first kickoff return touchdown in franchise history.

Tampa Bay's defense recorded the first points of the game, as Ronde Barber intercepted Chris Redman's pass on the third play of the game and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Atlanta got on the board next with kicker Morten Andersen making a 33-yard field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Micheal Spurlock made team history by becoming the first Buccaneer player to return a kickoff for a touchdown. It was the first kickoff return touchdown for Tampa Bay in 32 seasons, 498 games, and 1,865 attempts.

After the Buccaneer defense forced a Falcons punt, Jeff Garcia commandeered a long, clock-eating 10-minute drive ending in a 33-yard field goal by Matt Bryant to make the score 17-3. With just over five minutes remaining in the first half, Tampa bay recovered an Atlanta fumble, and Earnest Graham scored a 1-yard TD run. Graham became the first player in club history to score a touchdown in six consecutive games. With a 24-3 lead, Tampa Bay performed a pooch kickoff, and Atlanta muffed the return, while Kalvin Pearson recovered. Tampa Bay drove to the 24 yard line, but DeAngelo Hall intercepted a pass intended for Joey Galloway at the Atlanta 11-yard line. The Buccaneers would immediately regain possession as Greg White forced and recovered a fumble on the next play. Matt Bryant then easily converted a 28-yard field goal to take a 27-3 lead into halftime.

Tampa Bay would receive the second half's opening kickoff, but was forced to punt after a 7-minute drive. On Atlanta's third play, Jermaine Phillips intercepted a pass intended for Jerious Norwood which set Tampa Bay up at the Atlanta 23-yard line. Matt Bryant then scored the half's first points with a 34-yard field goal to make the score 30-3. In the fourth quarter, punter Josh Bidwell successfully pinned Atlanta at their own 6 yard line. The resulting poor field position eventually led to Tampa Bay taking over near midfield. Michael Bennett carried six times all the way to the Atlanta 1-yard line, from which Anthony Becht scored the game's final points off a 1-yard TD catch.

Statistically, Tampa Bay's defense dominated Atlanta. The Falcons managed only 133 yards of total offense, committed five turnovers, and were 0-for-9 on third down conversions. The Falcons crossed midfield only once, and Tampa Bay's time of possession was 43 minutes. On the following Wednesday, the kickoff return touchdown earned Spurlock the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.

Tampa Bay traveled west to San Francisco for the third time in five seasons. Tampa Bay lost their eight consecutive meeting at Monster Park, dating to 1980. This game was originally scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on NBC's Sunday Night Football, but on December 10, in accordance with flex-scheduling, the game was moved to the afternoon. Having already clinched a playoff berth, Tampa Bay rested most of their starters in the second half. Despite a late rally, the Buccaneers fell two points short of victory.

Tampa Bay controlled most of the first half, capping off their first two drives of the first quarter with field goals by Matt Bryant. On the first play of the second quarter, Shaun Hill connected with Darrell Jackson on a 21-yard touchdown.

San Francisco punted on their next drive, and Micheal Spurlock fielded the ball at the 19 yard line. He was tackled and fumbled, while the 49ers recovered. After an instant replay challenge, it was determined that Spurlock was down by contact, and Tampa Bay maintained possession. The drive fizzled though, and ended with a punt. Late in the fourth quarter, Barrett Ruud recovered a 49ers fumble, setting the Buccaneers up on the San Francisco 36 yard line. Four plays later, Jerramy Stevens caught a touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia. Tampa Bay took a 13-7 lead into halftime.

On the second-half kickoff, San Francisco recovered a surprise onside kick. The drive came up empty, as they were forced to punt. On Tampa Bay's next possession, however, Luke McCown (who had taken over for the benched Garcia) fumbled and the 49ers recovered at the 14 yard line. In four plays, San Francisco scored a touchdown.

Early in the fourth quarter, Nate Clements intercepted a McCown pass, and led to another 49ers touchdown. The 49ers led 21-13, but Tampa Bay still kept hopes alive for a rally. With less than six minutes left in the game, the Buccaneers drove to the 49ers 25 yard line. On 4th down and 6, McCown threw to Michael Clayton for an apparent one-handed touchdown catch, but the ball fell incomplete, and the drive turned over on downs. Tampa Bay managed one final chance to tie the score. Inside the two-minute warning, Tampa Bay drove to the 49ers 24 yard line. McCown rolled out wide to his right, and connected with Stevens for a 24-yard touchdown. McCown then attempted a game-tying two-point conversion. Michael Clayton caught the pass, but one of his feet touched out-of-bounds in the back of the endzone, sealing the game for San Francisco.

Tampa Bay concluded the regular season at home against the Panthers. They dropped the season finale, and their second-straight game, but rested most of their starters (including Garcia, Graham, Galloway and Ruud). Luke McCown started at quarterback.

On their opening drive, McCown drove the Buccaneers for the game's first score, a touchdown pass to Jerramy Stevens. The drive included a 52-yard catch by Chad Lucas. Carolina responded by driving to the Tampa Bay 4 yard line. A field goal kick was good, but a holding penalty by Derrick Brooks gave the Panthers a first down. They capitalized by scoring a touchdown.

In the second quarter, an interception by Phillip Buchanon led to a Tampa Bay field goal. Late in the second quarter, Josh Bidwell punted to Carolina, but a fumble on the return was recovered by the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay tacked on another field goal before halftime, and trailed 14-13 at the half.

Midway through the third quarter, Carolina punted and pinned the Buccaneers on their own 2 yard line. McCown then led the Buccaneers on a 10-play, 98-yard touchdown drive, the longest such scoring drive in franchise history. Carolina kept themselves in the game, however, quickly following up with a 46-yard reception to Drew Carter, and then a 1-yard touchdown run.

Trailing 31-23 late in the fourth quarter, McCown drove the Buccaneers to the Carolina 36 yard line, but was intercepted by Richard Marshall. The Buccaneers finished the regular season 9-7 (5-1 division, 6-2 home).

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2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season


The 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season was the 33rd season for the club in the National Football League. Though the team finished with a winning record (9-7), they failed to defend their 2007 NFC South championship and did not qualify for the playoffs. Just weeks after the conclusion of the regular season, head coach Jon Gruden was fired, a move that came as a surprise both to sports writers and Gruden himself. General manager Bruce Allen was also fired.

The failure of the Buccaneers to return to the Super Bowl marked the 43rd consecutive year in which the Super Bowl did not include the team on whose home field the game was being played.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers resigned free agents Michael Bennett (cut November 12), Kevin Carter, Antoine Cash, Sammy Davis, Jerramy Stevens. On June 11, the team settled with estranged quarterback Jake Plummer for $3.5 million.

Free agent acquisitions include former team players Warrick Dunn (Falcons) and Brian Griese (Bears).

Tampa Bay's offseason gained attention when they expressed interest in free agent quarterback Brett Favre. After Favre signed with the Jets, tension was reported between head coach Jon Gruden and incumbent quarterback Jeff Garcia. Garcia was recovering from a preseason injury, but was still named the starter. After dropping the season opener, Garcia was benched in favor of Brian Griese.

Griese helped the team to victories in the next three games. With Garcia back as the starter for week 6, the Buccaneers went 6-1 over the next 7 games. At the end of November, Tampa Bay found themselves in first place in the NFC South. They tied a franchise best start of 9-3, were undefeated at home (6-0), and controlled their own destiny for a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The month of December, however, saw the Buccaneers season collapse. A humiliating loss on Monday Night Football against Carolina took away their hopes of a division title. Meanwhile, longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin announced he was leaving to join his son Lane at Tennessee. The defense began to struggle mightily, especially against the run. An overtime loss at Atlanta, followed by two home losses, dropped the Bucs to 9-7, and out of the playoffs. Less than three weeks later, head coach Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were fired.

NOTE: Due to NBC's coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics, two of the Buccaneers' pre-season games were telecast on WTVT as WFLA broadcast the Olympics.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held Training Camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex from July 26 through August 14. They played four preseason games, and finished with a record of 3-1.

During the month of July, and into the early stages of training camp, the Buccaneers were one of the teams in the running to sign Brett Favre (who ended his 6-month-long retirement). Favre ultimately signed with the Jets. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Jeff Garcia suffered a calf injury during the first week of camp. Quarterback duties were shared among five players for the preseason, with Garcia named the starter for the regular season. On the final day of cuts, Tampa Bay finally waived quarterback Chris Simms, who had played sparsely since injuring his spleen in week 3 of 2006.

The Buccaneers began their 2008 campaign on the road against their NFC South foe, the New Orleans Saints. In the first quarter, Tampa Bay trailed as Saints QB Drew Brees completed a 39-yard TD pass to WR David Patten. The Bucs would respond with CB Phillip Buchanon returning an interception 26 yards for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Tampa Bay took the lead with kicker Matt Bryant getting a 37-yard field goal. In the third quarter, New Orleans would reply with kicker Martín Gramática getting a 34-yard field goal, yet the Buccaneers replied with Bryant nailing a 33-yard field goal. Afterwards, the Saints got their lead back with Brees completing an 84-yard TD pass to WR Devery Henderson. In the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay would go ahead again as QB Jeff Garcia completing a 2-yard TD pass to WR Ike Hilliard. However, New Orleans regained the lead after Brees completing a 42-yard TD pass to RB Reggie Bush.

Inside the final minute, Garcia drove the Buccaneers to the Saints 24 yard line. Facing 4th down & 6, Garcia threw an interception, and the Saints clinched the victory. With the loss, the Buccaneers began their season at 0-1 and lost on opening day for the third straight year.

Tampa Bay held their home opener facing their second division game, against the Atlanta Falcons. Quarterback Jeff Garcia was inactive due to an ankle injury. However, rumors persisted during the week that the relationship between head coach Jon Gruden and Garcia had broken down after a poor performance the week before, and after preseason distractions due to a nagging injury, and the team's rumored interest in acquiring Brett Favre. Back-up quarterback Brian Griese, who last played at Tampa Bay in 2005, started. Derrick Brooks, who also was nursing injury, was activated and started the game to keep his consecutive games started streak (209) alive.

On the first drive of the game, Atlanta started at their own 23. On the third play of the game, Aqib Talib intercepted Matt Ryan, and returned the ball to the 19. Five plays later, Brian Griese connected with John Gilmore for a 5-yard touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, Tampa Bay started a 12-play, 81 yard drive at their own 19 yard line. On first & goal at the Atlanta 8 yard line, Earnest Graham rushed for an apparent 8-yard touchdown, but it was called back for a holding penalty. After losing ground and facing 3rd & goal at the 17, Warrick Dunn rumbled 17 yards, breaking several tackles for a touchdown. It was Dunn's first score since returning to the team. After a kickoff, Atlanta started their next drive at the 22 yard line. After two incompletions, on third down, Ryan was intercepted by Sabby Piscitelli, who returned the ball to the 17 yard line. Matt Bryant capped off the turnover with a field goal, and a 17-0 lead. Atlanta finally got onto the scoreboard with 12 seconds remaining in the half, with a Jason Elam field goal.

Early in the fourth quarter, Atlanta trailed 17-6. Facing 3rd & 8 at their own 19 yard line, an unusual play occurred. Matt Ryan completed a 20-yard pass to Roddy White. White fumbled, and it was recovered by Sabby Piscitelli of the Buccaneers. Piscitelli then ran 3 yards and attempted a lateral to Cato June. The lateral was actually an illegal forward pass, and fell incomplete to the ground. Thought to be a live ball, it was recovered once more by Atlanta, meanwhile a flag for a personal foul by Tampa Bay was also on the field. After several minutes of confusion and discussion by the officials, they awarded the ball to Atlanta at the Tampa Bay 48 yard line. Atlanta continued the drive and managed a field goal, trimming the lead to 17-9.

Late in the fourth quarter, Earnest Graham iced the game with a 68-yard touchdown run, and a final score of 24-9.

In the first quarter, both Tampa Bay and Chicago were fired up and committed several skirmishes. On the second play of the game, Brian Griese's pass was tipped and intercepted by Lance Briggs. The Bears capitalized on the turnover with a field goal. A field position battle saw the Bears kick another field goal, and hold a 6-0 lead early. After the early turnover, Brian Griese led the Buccaneers on an 8-play, 81-yard scoring drive. The drive was capped off by a touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard.

Early in the second quarter, Griese completed a pass to Maurice Stovall, but Stovall fumbled the ball with Chicago recovering at the 38 yard line. Attempting to score quickly, Kyle Orton threw deep to the endzone on the next play. The pass was broken up in the endzone, and bounced into the hands of Barrett Ruud for an improbable interception. The teams traded possessions twice, and the Bears found themselves driving across midfield with about 6 minutes left in the half. After a sack, Orton was again pressured, and threw a screen pass which was intercepted. Gaines Adams returned the ball 45 yards to the goal line, and after review, was awarded a touchdown. The Bears regrouped and drove to their own 44 yard line. On fourth down, a well-executed fake punt resulted in a 38-yard run by Garrett Wolfe. The Bears scored a third field goal as time expired in the half, and Tampa Bay took a 14-9 lead into halftime.

After an interception midway through the third quarter, Chicago scored their first touchdown (and added a two-point conversion) for a 17-14 lead. With less than 7 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, hoping to put the game out of reach, a fourth field goal by Gould put the Bears up by ten points.

Brian Griese drove the Buccaneers 63 yards in 12 plays, and set up a 35-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. The kick narrowed the deficit to 7 points. The Buccaneer defense held Chicago to a 3-and-out, and the Bears punted to Tampa Bay immediately after the two-minute warning. In just over a minute and a half, Griese drove the Buccaneers 81 yards in 11 plays. Jerramy Stevens caught a 1-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the score and force overtime.

In the overtime period, Tampa Bay won the coin toss and received. They quickly drove to the Chicago 39 yard line, but an intentional grounding penalty stalled the drive. Chicago received a punt, but was unable to cross midfield. Brad Maynard punted, and pinned the Buccaneers at their own 7 yard line.

Facing 3rd & 9 at their own 8 yard line, Griese passed to Jerramy Stevens for a short 2-yard gain. The drive, however, was given new life when a skirmish broke out and Charles Tillman of the Bears was called for unnecessary roughness. In seven plays, Griese drove the Buccaneers to the Chicago 44 yard line. With just over 5 minutes left in the overtime period, Griese connected with Antonio Bryant for a 38-yard pass, and a first & goal at the Chicago 6. Two plays later, Matt Bryant came on the field, and kicked a game-winning field goal.

Brian Griese set a franchise record for most pass attempts (67, fourth most in NFL history). His passing yards (407) was the third-most in team history.

Green Bay took the opening drive 58 yards for a touchdown, and the first score of the game. The remainder of the Packers' drives in the first half were largely unsuccessful. On the first play of the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers pass was tipped and then intercepted by Derrick Brooks. The turnover set the Buccaneers up on the Packers 32 yard line. Shortly thereafter, Brian Griese connected to Alex Smith to tie the score at 7.

Later in the second quarter, Green Bay faced 4th & 15 at their own 5 yard line. Derrick Frost punted from the back of the endzone, but the punt took a "Buccaneer bounce" and was downed at the Green Bay 41 yard line. The resulting good field position led to a Matt Bryant field goal, and a 10-7 lead. Earlier in the week, Bryant suffered tragedy off the field, with the death of his 3-month old son Tryson. Four plays later, Rodgers was intercepted again, this time by Barrett Ruud. Before the end of the second quarter, Bryant kicked another field goal, and the Buccaneers led 13-7 at halftime.

Tampa Bay took the second half kickoff, and drove to the Packers 17 yard line. A play later, however, Griese's pass was bobbled by Michael Clayton at the 5, and intercepted by Tramon Williams. After trading possessions, midway through the third quarter, Green Bay was at their own 40 yard line. Ryan Grant fumbled, and Jermaine Phillips recovered for a 38-yard Buccaneer touchdown.

On the second play of Tampa Bay's next drive, Griese threw his second interception, which was returned to the 42 yard line. Aaron Rodgers threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings to trim the score to 20-14. Rodgers, however, appeared to injure his throwing arm on the play.

Early in the fourth quarter, Griese threw his second straight interception (and third overall), which was returned 62 yards by Charles Woodson for a touchdown. The Packers took a 21-20 lead with just under 14 minutes to go, while rookie back-up quarterback Matt Flynn took over for the next drive.

With just over 8 minutes remaining, Griese led the Buccaneers on a 10-play, 58-yard drive, capped off by Matt Bryant's third field goal, and a 23-21 lead. Green Bay started with 2:26 remaining. On the drive's second play, Rodgers was intercepted by Gaines Adams. Earnest Graham iced the game with a 47-yard rush, followed by a 1-yard touchdown.

The Buccaneers traveled to Denver for the first time since 1996, and lost their second game of the 2008 season. Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 227 yards and one touchdown.

After trading possessions twice to start the game, Tampa Bay drove 65 yards on 7 plays, taking the lead 3-0. On the next possession, Denver managed to tie the score with a 55-yard field goal.

Later in the second quarter, Denver made a 9-play drive, capped off by a field goal, and a 6-3 lead. Tampa Bay took over with 2:21 left in the half. Brian Griese drove the Buccaneers in 11 plays to the Denver 11 yard line. As time ran out in the half, Matt Bryant kicked another field goal, and the game was tied 6-6 at halftime.

Tampa Bay took the second half kickoff, but was forced to punt. Josh Bidwell pinned the Broncos at their own 4 yard line. On the first play of the drive, however, Cutler connected with Tony Scheffler for 33 yards, and dug themselves out of the hole. The resulting good field possession allowed Denver to punt, and pin Tampa Bay at their own 11. Brian Griese threw an incompletion, and suffered an injured shoulder on the play. Jeff Garcia took over at quarterback.

With a short field, Denver drove 47 yards on only five plays, and took the lead again with a 10-yard touchdown pass by Cutler. They followed up with a field goal early in the fourth quarter, and held a 16-6 lead.

Late in the fourth quarter, Jeff Garcia drove the Buccaneers 90 yards in 13 plays. The drive was capped off with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard. The touchdown trimmed the deficit to 16-13. Rather than an onside, Tampa Bay elected to squib kick, and Denver recovered. The Broncos managed two first downs, and ran out the clock to secure the victory.

Hoping to rebound from their road loss to the Broncos, the Buccaneers went home for a Week 6 NFC South duel with the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina received the opening kickoff, but their opening drive was short-lived. At their own 41 yard line, Jason Baker's punt was blocked, and LB Geno Hayes returned the ball 22 yards for a touchdown, which was the first time that Tampa Bay returned a blocked punt for a touchdown since December 2, 2001 against the Bengals. Later in the first quarter, Jake Delhomme was intercepted by Tanard Jackson at the Carolina 36. Jeff Garcia drove the Buccaneers in five plays for a touchdown, and a 14-0 lead.

Carolina got on the board early in the second quarter, with a 20-yard field goal. The Panthers had 1st & goal at the Tampa Bay 3, and nearly suffered a fumble. After review, the ruling on the field (down by contact) was upheld, and the Pathers trimmed the deficit to 14-3.

On the next drive, Garcia connected deep to Michael Clayton, and a Matt Bryant field goal put the Buccaneers up 17-3. After trading possessions, Carolina was pinned back at their own 6 yard line. Delhomme drove the Panthers into Tampa territory, but was intercepted in the endzone by Jermaine Phillips. The turnover came up short, however, as Bryant missed a field goal to end the half.

Tampa Bay took the second half kickoff. Josh Bidwell punted, and the ball appeared to be downed at the 1 yard line, but officials ruled a touchback. After a replay challenge, the ruling was overturned, and Carolina took over inside their own 1. The poor field position led to another Tampa Bay field goal, and a 20-3 lead. Carolina's next drive went 3-and-out, and a poor punt set up the Buccaneers up at the 41. Jeff Garcia drove the Buccaneers to the 1 yard line, including a 3rd down scramble at the 2. Earnest Graham capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown.

All of Carolina's fourth quarter drives came up empty, and Tampa Bay ran out the clock to seal the victory. The win snapped a 5-game losing streak to Carolina at Raymond James Stadium.

With the win, the Buccaneers improved to 4-2.

Tampa Bay appeared on NBC's Sunday Night Football for the first time, and hosted a primetime home game for the first time since 2003. At halftime, festivties were scheduled honoring retired player Mike Alstott, as his #40 jersey was retired.

Seattle took the opening kickoff, but the Buccaneer defense forced a punt. Jeff Garcia led the Buccaneers to a 7-0 lead on their first drive after a 47-yard touchdown pass. Seattle's two other first quarter drives were 3 & outs.

Early in the second quarter, Garcia drove the Buccaneers to the Seattle 4 yard line. Ike Hilliard caught a pass, but was knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit. After a replay challenge, it was determined that Hilliard also fumbled the ball. Seattle took over possession, but the drive went 3 & out. Seattle's punt was received by Tampa Bay at their own 41. Garcia quickly drove the Buccaneers to the endzone, with Earnest Graham upping the lead to 14-0.

Justin Forsett returned the ensuing kickoff for Seattle all the way to the Tampa Bay 31. On the first play of the drive, however, Seneca Wallace was intercepted by Aqib Talib. The turnover led to a Matt Bryant field goal and a 17-0 lead. With just over 2 minutes remaining, Seneca Wallace fumbled the center exchange at the snap, and Tampa Bay recovered. As time expired in the half, Matt Bryant attempted a 47-yard field goal into the wind, but it fell short.

Seattle earned good field position early in the third quarter, which led to an Olindo Mare field goal. On their next drive, Maurice Morris broke for a 45-yard rush. The Buccaneer defense stiffened in the red zone, however, and Seattle missed a field goal.

Tampa Bay dominated the fourth quarter, executing a clock-eating, 16-play, 9½-minute drive, culminating with a Matt Bryant field goal and a 20-3 lead. A late touchdown pass by Seattle trimmed the lead to 20-10, but an ensuing onside kick failed. Tampa Bay ran the clock down, and improved to 4-0 at home with the victory.

With the win, the Buccaneers improved to 5-2.

Tampa Bay traveled to Dallas, for what will be their final regular season game at Texas Stadium. Jeff Garcia passed for 227 yards and no interceptions, and the Buccaneer defense held the Cowboys to only 172 yards, but the team fell by a score of 13-9.

With Tony Romo on the sidelines with a broken finger, former Buccaneer Brad Johnson started at quarterback for the Cowboys. Dallas' first three drives went 3-and-out, and Johnson's passing game sputtered. Meanwhile, Jeff Garcia twice drove the Buccaneers into the red zone, and two Matt Bryant field goals put Tampa Bay ahead 6-0.

Dallas got onto the scoreboard in the second quarter with a field goal. On the next drive, Tampa Bay drove 48 yards in 14 plays, but missed a 51-yard field goal. The Cowboys took the good field position, and drove into Tampa Bay territory. With 47 seconds left in the half, facing 3rd & 12 at the 49, the Cowboys' drive appeared to be halted. However, Ronde Barber was called for a horse-collar penalty, and the drive continued. Johnson capitalized on the penalty, and scored a touchdown pass to Roy Williams with 4 seconds left in the half.

Clifton Smith fumbled away the second half kickoff for Tampa Bay, setting up a field position battle in the third quarter. Each team added another field goal, and the score stood at 13-9 late in the fourth quarter. Garcia drove the Buccaneers 56 yards in 16 plays, to the Dallas 18 yard line. Facing 4th & 5 with 19 seconds to go, Garcia's pass fell incomplete, and Dallas held on for the victory.

With the loss, the Buccaneers fell to 5-3.

Tampa Bay got off to a slow start as Kansas City took the opening drive 69 yards for a touchdown. On Tampa Bay's first play from scrimmage, Earnest Graham fumbled and the Chiefs recovered. The turnover led to another Kansas City touchdown, and a 14-0 lead.

Early in the second quarter, Tampa Bay drove into the red zone, and scored a field goal. On the following drive, the Chiefs executed a flea-flicker play and quarterback Tyler Thigpen caught an improbable 37-yard touchdown pass. Late in the second quarter, the Chiefs added a field goal, to stretch the lead to 24-3. On the ensuing kickoff, Clifton Smith scored a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown, the second such in franchise history. The Buccaneer defense held the Chiefs to a 3-and-out, and the offense took over with 1:08 to go. As time expired in the half, Matt Bryant's second field goal trimmed the deficit to 24-13.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, and all drives ended in punts. Early in the fourth quarter, Jeff Garcia again drove Tampa Bay into the red zone. Clifton Smith caught a pass, but fumbled at the 13. Kansas City recovered at their own 10. On the very next play, Jamaal Charles fumbled away a pitch in the backfield, and Tampa Bay recovered inside the 3. In a trick play, Jeff Garcia handed off to Earnest Graham, who passed to Alex Smith for a touchdown. A two-point conversion failed, and the score trimmed to 24-19.

With 3:34 to go, the Buccaneers drove to the Kansas City 3, and Earnest Graham appeared to be heading for a potential game-tying score. The ball was fumbled, however, and the Chiefs took over on a touchback. The Buccaneer defense forced a punt, and they took over with 1:50 to go. Jeff Garcia quickly drove the Buccaneers to a 25-yard touchdown, and a two-point conversion catch by Alex Smith sent the game to overtime.

In the overtime period, Tampa Bay won the coin toss. They drove to the Kansas City 15 yard line, and Matt Bryant won the game on a 34-yard field goal. The victory marked the largest comeback (from 21 points behind to win) in franchise history.

With the win, the Buccaneers went into their bye week at 6-3.

The Tampa Bay defense sacked quarterback Gus Frerotte five times, and kicker Matt Bryant scored four field goals, as the Buccaneers prevailed over the visiting Vikings. Running back Adrian Peterson was held to only 85 yards, and the Vikings lost two fumbles.

On the second play of their first drive, running back Earnest Graham suffered an injured ankle, and sat out the remainder of the game. Both teams traded field goals, and the first quarter was tied 3-3.

Two costly Tampa Bay penalties set the Vikings up at the Tampa Bay 12. Three plays later, a touchdown gave Minnesota a 10-3 lead. On the following drive, Jeff Garcia drove the Buccaneers into Vikings territory. A roughing the passser penalty on Ray Edwards then gave the Buccaneers a 1st & goal at the 3 yard line. A field goal was the result.

Minnesota went on a long field goal drive, and improved their lead to 13-6 at the half.

Tampa Bay's defense took over in the second half. The Buccaneers took the second half kickoff, and Garcia methodically drove the offense into the red zone. At the Minnesota 17 yard line, a series of penalties disrupted the drive. A holding call on Jerramy Stevens pushed them back 10 yards. Antonio Bryant the electrified the crowd with an apparent 27-yard catch and run touchdown. The touchdown, however, was called back for holding. An offsides penalty on Minnesota set up 2nd & 25 at the 32. Garcia connected for a 31-yard pass to Stevens, and the Buccaneers ultimately tied the game at 13-13.

Minnesota's first drive of the third quarter saw them drive to their own 49 yard line. They went for it on a 4th & 1, but failed, turing the ball over on downs. Tampa Bay again drove into Minnesota territory, but Clifton Smith fumbled. The turnover came up empty, however, as the Vikings were forced to punt.

With 14:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay started a 13-play, 69-yard, drive of almost 9 minutes, capped off by a go-ahead field goal. Maurice Hicks fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and Tampa Bay scored yet another field goal. Two drives in the final 4 minutes by the Vikings came up empty, a turnover on downs, and a fumble, and Tampa Bay held on to win 19-13.

In the first quarter, the Buccaneers started out flat, and found themselves trailing 17-0 to the winless Detroit Lions. After trading possessions to open the game, quarterback Daunte Culpepper led the Lions on a seven-play touchdown drive to go up 7-0. On the following drive, Jeff Garcia ran into running back Carnell Williams and fumbled the ball. Daniel Bullocks recovered the ball and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. The Lions added a field goal late in the first quarter, and led 17-0.

Early in the second quarter, Jeff Garcia quickly moved the Buccaneers down the field for their first touchdown. The Lions went three-and-out, and the Buccaneers went on another touchdown drive to trim the deficit to 17-14. Less than two minutes later, Ronde Barber intercepted Daunte Culpepper at the Detroit 24. On the very next play, Garcia connected with Jerramy Stevens, and the Buccaneers took their first lead of the game at 21-17.

On their first possession of the second half, the Lions again went three-and-out. Nick Harris punted, and Clifton Smith returned the punt 70 yards for a touchdown. Later in the third quarter, Ronde Barber intercepted Culpepper for the second time, this time returning the ball for a touchdown. Culpepper was benched and back-up quarterback Drew Stanton stepped in. By the end of the third quarter, the Lions trimmed the deficit to 35-20.

Warrick Dunn broke off a 40-yard run, and a roughing the passer penalty put Tampa Bay in the red zone. An unnecessary roughness penalty, along with Garcia being tripped by him own man, however, forced the Buccaneers to settle for a fourth quarter Matt Bryant field goal.

With 8 minutes remaining, the Lions received a punt and Daunte Culpepper returned to the game. Culpepper's pass was complete to John Standeford, but he fumbled and Tampa Bay recovered. They did not surrender the ball again, and ran out the clock to seal the victory.

New Orleans took the opening kickoff, and quarterback Drew Brees drove the Saints to the Tampa Bay 30 yard line. On a 4th down & 1, however, they were stopped and turned the ball over on downs. At their own 41 yard line, Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia threw an apparent completion, but was intercepted by Jonathan Vilma. The turnover led to a Saints field goal. Midway through the first quarter, heavy rain began to fall.

Tampa Bay took their next possession to the New Orleans 21, and tied the score at 3-3. Late in the second quarter, Clifton Smith returned a New Orleans punt 42 yards to the 39 yard line. The good field position led to a second Matt Bryant field goal. Brees took over with just over two minutes left in the half. He quickly led the Saints on a 6-play touchdown drive, and took a 10-6 lead into halftime.

Tampa Bay's opening drive of the third quarter was capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run by Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, his first touchdown since returning to play a week earlier. New Orleans went 3-and-out on their next drive, while Tampa Bay stretched their lead moments later with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant. Looking to answer, Brees was intercepted in the endzone by Cato June.

Early in the fourth quarter, Brees again drove deep into Tampa Bay territory. An apparent interception in the endzone was negated by a penalty, and the drive continued. With new life, Brees connected to Pierre Thomas, and trimmed the defecit to 20-17.

After Tampa Bay was held to two 3-and-outs, Josh Bidwell shanked a punt, setting New Orleans up at the Tampa Bay 49 yard line. A field goal tied the score at 20-20 with less than six minutes remaining. With 2:33 to go, Jermaine Phillips intercepted Drew Brees, and returned the ball to the New Orleans 17. Matt Bryant kicked the go-ahead field goal at the two-minute warning. With 1:45 left, Brees was intercepted by Phillip Buchanon to ice the victory.

The win marked head coach Jon Gruden's 100th career NFL victory.

Tampa Bay visted division foe Carolina on Monday Night Football with first place in the NFC South on the line. The Buccaneers went 3-and-out on their first drive, while Carolina scored a field goal for the first points of the game. Late in the first quarter, Tampa Bay drove to the Carolina 22, but Matt Bryant's field goal bounced off the upright no good.

In the second quarter, Jake Delhomme drove the Panthers into Tampa Bay territory. At the 19 yard line, Ronde Barber intercepted. The Buccaneers then drove to the Carolina 1 yard line, but their red zone woes continued. They failed to score a touchdown, and Matt Bryant instead tied the game at 3-3.

DeAngelo Williams rushed for a 40-yard gain late in the second quarter, setting up a Jonathan Stewart touchdown run at the two-minute warning. Carolina took the lead into halftime 10-3.

A penalty on the second half kickoff set Carolina up at their own 7. DeAngelo Williams again broke another long rush (28 yards), and Carolina crossed midfield. Jermaine Phillips made a "circus catch" interception, and the Buccaneers took over at the 47. Two plays later, Jeff Garcia connected to Antonio Bryant for a 50-yard touchdown bomb, tying the score at 10-10. After back-to-back "shootout" touchdowns, the score was tied 17-17 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, the rushing duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart steamrolled a weary Buccaneers defense. Two touchdowns early in the fourth put the Panthers up 31-17. Garcia attempted to mount a comeback, and led the Buccaneers on an 82-yard touchdown drive. After a blocked extra point, and a failed onside kick, Carolina took over with 2:28 remaining. Facing 3rd down & 4, DeAngelo Williams stymied the Buccaneers with a breakaway 36-yard touchdown run.

Carolina racked up 299 yards rushing, and took over sole possession of first place in the NFC South division.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia, as well as Cato June, sat out of the game with injuries, and Brian Griese started for the Buccaneers. Penalities and defense dominated the game, a key matchup in the NFC South playoff race.

Leading 10-0 in the second quarter, Matt Ryan threw deep to the endzone, but was intercepted by Aqib Talib. On Atlanta's nxt drive, Ronde Barber intercepted Ryan, setting the Buccaneers up at the 33 yard line. With 15 seconds remaining in the half, Brian Griese connected for a 20-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant.

Midway through the third quarter, Matt Ryan completed a pass to Jason Rader, who ran for the endzone. Before he crossed the goal line, however, Jermaine Phillips punched the ball from his grasp, and it was recovered in the endzone by Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers' ensuing possession, however, came up empty, as Griese himself was intercepted past midfield.

The next five possessions by both teams resulted in punts. In an attempt to tie the score with 3:43 remaining, Matt Bryant's field goal sailed wide left. The Falcons were held to a 3-and-out, and lined up for a punt with 2:37 to go. Michael Koenen's punt was blocked, and Sabby Piscitelli returned it to the 22. After driving to the 9 yard line, the Buccaneers settled for a game-tying field goal, and forced overtime.

In overtime, the Buccaneers won the toss, but were forced to punt. With just over 4 minutes remaining in the overtime period, Jason Elam kicked a game-winning field goal for the Falcons.

Tampa Bay hosted San Diego, with both teams alive for playoff contention. With quarterback Jeff Garcia back in the lineup, the Buccaneers drove into San Diego territory early in the first quarter. At the 36 yard line, an Antonio Bryant fumble was recovered by San Diego. Phillip Rivers quickly led San Diego down the field for their first score. On the ensuing kickoff, Clifton Smith returned the ball 72 yards to the San Diego 11 yard line. Four plays later, B. J. Askew tied the score at 7-7.

Trailing 17-7 late in the second quarter, Tampa Bay drove to the San Diego 31, where Matt Bryant kicked a field goal with 22 second left in the half. A quick 25-yard pass by Rivers, however, allowed Nate Kaeding to kick a 57-yard field goal, and take a 20-10 lead into halftime.

Tampa Bay took the second half kickoff, and Garcia led the Buccaneers on a long scoring drive. After a scramble to the 7, Garcia scrambled once more for a 7-yard touchdown run. On their next possession, Garcia connected deep to a wide-open Antonio Bryant for a 71-yard touchdown. The third quarter ended with Tampa Bay leading 24-20.

The fourth quarter saw Tampa Bay's hope fizzle. Two touchdowns by the Chargers, and an Garcia interception saw the Buccaneers trailing 34-24 with time running out. With less than 7 minutes to go, Garcia found himself scrambling again, this time for a 7-yard first down run. Quentin Jammer slammed into Garcia's helmet, and Garcia began to bleed visibly from him nose and forehead. Driving across midfield with just over 3 minutes to go, Garcia was intercepted by Antoine Cason, who returned the ball 59 yards for the game-icing touchdown.

With the loss, their first home defeat of the season, the Buccaneers failed to secure a playoff berth. A win in week 17 against the Raiders, coupled with a loss by Dallas, would have been required for Tampa Bay to qualify for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay concluded the 2008 regular season against the Oakland Raiders, coach Jon Gruden's former team, and the team they beat in Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa Bay needed a victory, and a loss by Dallas to clinch a wild card playoff berth.

The first quarter was a defensive battle, with both teams struggling to cross midfield. Early in the second quarter, Johnnie Lee Higgins returned a punt for Oakland to the Tampa Bay 40. Michael Bush scored a touchdown run, the first rushing touchdown given up by the Buccaneers at home, to give Oakland a 7-0 lead. Jeff Garcia followed up with a 10-play, 80-yard drive, including a 29-yard pass to Michael Clayton.

Both teams started the third quarter with 3-and-out drives. Ont the next drive Jeff Garcia connected for a 25-yard pass to Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, then a 58-yard bomb to Clayton for a touchdown. Nearing the end of the third quarter, Tampa Bay again went on a long scoring drive, capping it off with a Matt Bryant field goal, and a 17-14 lead.

With 12:25 remaining, JaMarcus Russell was intercepted by Sabby Piscitelli at the 5 yard line. Piscitelli returned the ball 84 yards to the Oakland 11. Two plays later "Cadillac" Williams was in the endzone for his second touchdown of the day.

A pass interference call on Will Allen moved Oakland to the Tampa Bay 12 yard line, and led to a Raiders touchdown. Leading 24-21 with just under 10 minutes to go, Tampa Bay looked to run the clock out. "Cadillac" Williams rumbled for 28 yards, but fell with an apparent serious knee injury, the second of his career. Tampa Bay ultimately turned the ball over on downs at the Oakland 33. On the very next play, Michael Bush busted through the Buccaneer defense to score a go-ahead, 64-yard touchdown run. After a Jeff Garcia interception, and a late Oakland field goal, the Buccaneers fell to the Raiders 31-24, and thus once again the home team hosting the Super Bowl will not play in it, having failed to even make the post-season.

With a disappointing finish, Tampa Bay's season ended at 9-7.

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Source : Wikipedia