48-10! - DeBerg, Bucs' defense do number on Falcons
Tom Ford, The Tampa Tribune, published September 1987

No sorrowful looks this time. There were smiles all around. No excuses. None were necessary. ""I've seen a lot of sad faces in this locker room, myself one of them. Many times I felt like crying because of the way things turned out for me and the team. But you can't dwell on the past. If you do, you can never take a step into the future."

The speaker was Ron Holmes, Buccaneers defensive end, and Sunday at Tampa Stadium, Holmes and his team-mates felt joy instead of despair; they experienced laughter instead of tears. The Bucs kicked off the Ray Perkins era in a record-setting manner by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 48-10 in front of 51,250 fans who have grown accustomed to such beatings with the opponent administering the punishment.

"In the first game, you're really untested; you're just not sure, and for this to happen is fantastic," said defensive end Kevin Kellin. ""I have to admit, I'm a little bit happily surprised that we did as well as we did." This one got out of hand so early that fans began chanting the loser's national anthem, ""Na-na-na-na, hey-hey, good-bye," in the second quarter with the Bucs ahead 27-3.

From start to finish, the Bucs had the Falcons down, opening with a two-touchdown quarter and ending with a 14-point period. The 48 points set a team record, exceeding the 41 scored by the 1984 Bucs in the season-finale against the New York Jets. That 41-21 win marked John McKay's final game as a head coach. The 38-point margin of victory broke the previous record of 34 in a 37-3 victory over the Green Bay Packers in 1981.

""I expected to win the game," said Perkins, who ran off the field in such a state of excitement that he grabbed the cowboy-style hat from a state trooper and galloped into the locker room with it on his head. "I thought we would win the game," added Perkins. ""I didn't have any idea we would win it in the fashion we did." No one could have anticipated that Steve DeBerg, 33, would perform like a rookie phenom, passing for a team-record five touchdowns, playing what Perkins said was ""one of the best games of any quarterback I've ever been associated with."

Some company. Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Johnny Unitas were once Perkins' team-mates. DeBerg, who beat out No. 1 draft choice Vinny Testaverde during the exhibition season, completed 24 of 34 attempts for 333 yards and the five TDs. He suffered one interception, but showed no mercy when the Bucs needed a big play: Tampa Bay was 14 of 16 on third-down conversions.

In this 60-minute game, the Bucs controlled the ball 38:12 to the Falcons' 21:48. The Bucs' 30 first downs set a team record, and their 20 passing first downs tied a team mark. "The execution was perfect at times," said tight end Calvin Magee, who caught one of DeBerg's TD passes on an 11-yard reception in the second period. Gerald Carter scored on 6- and 3-yard passes, rookie Mark Carrier had a 24-yard touchdown catch and Phil Freeman got it started with an 11-yard TD reception in the first period.