1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season
The 1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were regarded for the first time as a regular playoff contender. They were considered by some to be the best Buccaneer team yet, despite a mediocre offensive line and the lack of a feature running back. The team played only two games before the players' union called a labor strike, which resulted in a nine-game season. The season began with a three-game losing streak, as the Buccaneers outplayed their opponent statistically in each game, but showed a tendency for mental errors at crucial moments. The first game in which they were outgained by their opponent was their first win, a franchise-first victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The team made a playoff run against a difficult schedule, facing only two opponents with losing records. Their schedule included all four eventual Conference Championship participants. They overcame double-digit deficits to win on last-minute field goals in their final two games (kicker Bill Capece was the NFC's second-leading scorer), and had to survive opponents' last-minute rallies in all five of their victories. In the strike-season playoff format in which the top eight conference teams made the playoffs, the Buccaneers' seventh-place finish gave them a first-round matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Despite a poor performance by the offense, the Buccaneers carried a 17-16 lead into the fourth quarter, before the Cowboys rallied for a 30-17 victory following a controversial penalty call. This would be the last playoff appearance of the John McKay era, and was followed by 14 consecutive losing seasons.
The year began with longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bass and several players leaving for San Diego. Observers questioned why Bass, who had built the defenses that had ranked at or near the top of the league statistically over the last several years, would leave; and further, why so many of the team's top players and former MVPs had been traded away. The team unveiled a new, Wayne Fontes-designed defensive philosophy, featuring tighter coverage to reduce the number of small gains, and increased blitzing to thwart opponents' practice of double-teaming Lee Roy Selmon. The team continued to be regarded as having one of the quickest, hardest-hitting defenses in the NFL, a defense which ranked first in the NFC. In the later part of the season, the offense began to jell, taking a part in the victories more equal to that which the defense played. In particular, the line allowed the fewest sacks in the league, while providing an improved running game. The offense as a whole developed an ability to rally from deficits. However, they continued to be criticized as overly conservative, as they scored just 9 first-quarter points in their 10 games, and opened up their passing attack only when behind late in games. This became an issue in the playoff loss to Dallas, where Doug Williams was unable to recover from a bad start. Following the season, the Buccaneers were represented by Jimmie Giles, Hugh Green, and Lee Roy Selmon in the Pro Bowl.
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