The 1976 Buccaneers, the 2008 Detroit Lions. Both came into the Superdome in New Orleans winless, among the most embarrassing teams in NFL history. The Buccaneers needed nearly 2 whole seasons to get their first win in franchise history, the Lions went from the days of Barry Sanders to the days of Dan Orlovsky. One of them left the Big Easy with their first, and only win in front of a crowd of about 1700. It’s the Buccaneers against the Lions using Whatifsports.com’s simulator, read on!
Narrated by John Facenda:
Tampa Bay kicked off to Detroit to start the game. I have no introduction because we’re talking about 2 teams that are remarkably, historically, inconceivably awful, and I don’t want to waste my breath doing an intro. Dan Orlovsky drove the Lions down the field against that inept Buccaneers defense. A 10 play, 75 yard drive took 6:16 off the clock. Sadly, we’ve got two winless teams, and Orlovsky could not hit Sean MacDonald in the end zone and they had to settle for a field goal made by Jason Hanson. 3-0 Lions
Tampa Bay, led by Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier, responded with a bang. A combination of an aerial assault with John McKay and Morris Owens with the running attack featuring Louis Carter and Ed Williams took the Bucs all the way down to the 29 yard line of Detroit. Spurrier cleaned up the rest with a touchdown pass on the next play to John McKay, giving the Bucs a stunning 7-3 lead.
Back came Detroit, neither defense could stop each other it seemed, until Bert Cooper piledrived Orlovsky into the ground when Detroit was driving. The Lions would go into the next quarter facing a 3rd and 19 at the Tampa Bay 27.
A daunting task for the 0-16 Lions, a 3rd and 19 just when they were ready to pick apart the Bucs for more points. Orlovsky would not be denied, finding Michael Gaines, shedding a tackle and getting into the end zone. Lions 10 Buccaneers 7
Spurrier replied by playing pitch and catch with Morris Owens, all the way to the Detroit 29. The Lions defense stepped up though, and forced the first major mistake of the game. Jared DeVries pressure Spurrier, resulting in a sack and a fumble, which the Lions wouls recover at their own 34. The first turnover of the game meant the Lions had a chance to take a two possession lead.
Once again, a determined Lions offense beat up Tampa Bay, with Orlovsky completing 5 of his 8 passes in a 10 play drive. The 3rd down pass from the 5 hit Calvin Johnson, who scored his first touchdown of the game. The Lions capitalized, and took a 17-7 lead.
Late in the first half Hanson tacked on another short field goal, already Detroit’s 3rd red zone drive, but twice it ended in a field goal. Detroit was suffocating the Bucs, and went into the locker room with a 20-7 lead.
Lions coach Rod Marinelli only said to his team to do their best, while Tampa Bay coach John McKay (yes, there were two John McKays on the team, a coach and a player) reminded them that they couldn’t stop the Detroit Lions on defense, otherwise they were doing well. Whatever else was said obviously worked for Tampa Bay, because the Lions showed once again why they were winless, getting only 1 first down in the 3rd quarter and punting it 4 times. However, Tampa Bay did even worse, and didn’t get a first down until the final play of the quarter. Running back Rod McNeill picked up 34 yards on a draw play, rumbling to the Detroit 30. Heading into the 4th, the Lions were in the lead, but Tampa Bay had a chance to close that lead. Lions 20 Buccaneers 7
The very first play of the 4th quarter would be a touchdown for the 1976 Buccaneers. Spurrier, who finished the game completing less than half of his passes, hit Bob Moore, who outran the Lions defense for a 30 yard touchdown. Back in the game, down just 20-14.
Back came Detroit with a 10 play, 70 yard drive of their own. It was another drive dominated by the passing of Dan Orlovsky, but once again in the red zone they faltered, settling for another Hanson field goal. 23-14 Lions with 8:57 left in the game. For Detroit, 4 red zone posessions, only 1 touchdown to show for it.
Tampa Bay replied with an 8 play, 73 yard drive in just 3:07, huge considering time was running out, and Spurrier threw his 3rd touchdown pass, this one to Morris Owens for 14 yards. However, it wouldn’t be a battle of winless teams without a simple goof-up. Kicker Dave Green missed the extra point, and the Lions lead was 23-20 with 5:41 to go. A field goal would only tie, and not win the game thanks to that crucial screw up.
Don’t worry, the Lions would make a game-changing play. Orlovsky was replaced by Jon Kitna, trying to prove he can still play in the league. Kitna was 1-3 in his only series, the revived Bucs defense would not be fooled by Marinelli’s surprise, and Ken Stone picked off Kitna and returned it to the Lions 34 yard line with 3:55 to go.
Tampa Bay had a chance to win it in regulation, slowly pounding the football and just killing time off the clock. With just 1:32 to go, the Bucs were inside the 5 facing a 2nd and goal. The only thing stopping Tampa Bay from a comeback victory, was Detroit’s tiring defense, and sheer incompetence. Spurrier’s pass for Williams was incomplete, 3rd and goal. Only 1 more stand needed, and they would get it.
SLAM!!!!! Down went Spurrier at the 9 yard line, former Seattle Seahawk, Chuck Darby came up huge and sacked the quarterback to force Tampa Bay to kick the field goal to force overtime. It was now or never, Green already missed an extra point, and if he missed this chipshot field goal, the Lions would leave the already emptying out Superdome with a win. The snap was down, the kick was perfect, and with :39 left, overtime was imminent. Not only did Kitna’s interception give Tampa Bay life, it proved costly. Detroit’s attempt to win it with little time failed, overtime with the score tied at 23-23.
Detroit won the coin toss and elected to receive. They were devastated, already blowing a 13 point lead in the final quarter, knowing a missed extra point prevented this game from going into overtime. It was a disaster, Kevin Smith lost 4 yards on 1st down, Orlovsky scrambled for 6 yards on 2nd and 14. For some reason, Marinelli called a running play on 3rd and 8, and they got no yards. Just like that, Tampa Bay got the ball back.
The Buccaneers’ ground game gained 54 yards on their drive which started at their own 31, Spurrier threw just 1 pass, a completion to Owens for 15 to the Lions 35. Carter, Williams, McNeill, and Essex Johnson pounded the rock, wore down the Lions defense. Then, with the ball at the 7 yard line, went for the kill:
“Handoff to MacNeill, left side with a big hole!! TOUCHDOWN TAMPA BAY!!! TOUCHDOWN TAMPA BAY!!!! BUCS WIN!!! AT LONG LAST!!! WE HAVE A WIN BABY!!! TOUCHDOWN!!!!”
The drought was over. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Detroit Lions in a thrilling comeback win, and the 1976 team got their win after all, while the Lions went frustratingly into their locker room cementing themselves as the worst NFL team of all time. Coach McKay was showered in Champagne, Coach Marinelli congratulated his guys for trying.
Steve Spurrier won the MVP award for the game, completing 11-24 for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions.
A game in which both teams made many mistakes as expected, the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were victorious.