Bad weather Buccaneers
The NFL Network has recently launched a series called “Top Ten.” Each week the staff of NFL Network votes on the “Top Ten” of a variety of topics. So far the topics have ranged from Greatest Single Season Performance (Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 rushing yards) to the Greatest Linebacking Corps (The 1991 New Orleans Saints!?!?!?!?).
A recent episode ran down what the NFL Network considered to be the Top Ten Bad Weather Games of All Time. There was little doubt in my mind what the number one bad weather game would be. The number one game was the 1967 Ice Bowl between Green Bay and Dallas that was played with a kickoff temperature of 13 degrees below zero.
What pleasantly surprised me was the number eight bad weather game of all time. The choice of NFL Network was the 1979 season finale between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tampa Stadium. The Bucs 3-0 victory that propelled them to their first ever playoff appearance was played in a torrential downpour that made the field almost unplayable. I have yet to find a copy of the broadcast of this game, but the NFL Network piece had clips and angles that were not in the 1979 team highlight film, so it was a treat indeed.
I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with the 1979 Buccaneers so learning that the NFL Network voted one of their games into a top ten list was nice. But as a Buccaneer historian I wonder if this game was truly the worst weather game in franchise history. Given the significance of the victory, it is no doubt one of the top five seminal moments in Tampa Bay football. But the worst weather game the Bucs have played? I don’t know.
I was able to think of four others pretty quickly and I would like to present them for your consideration. You will see I did not factor in hot weather. I did entertain that thought as the heat at an early-season Buccaneer home game can be unbearable, but I could not recollect any memorable or record setting heat games that the Bucs have played in. So, in no particular order, my most memorable weather games are:
1. December 1, 1985: Green Bay 21 Tampa Bay 0
The Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field may have been colder, but the Snow Bowl between the Bucs and Pack had more snow. Have any of you seen the movie Dr. Zhivago? Lambeau Field made Siberia look like a tropical paradise on this day. A foot of snow was on the ground at kickoff and some estimates reported four to six inches more fell during the game.
Of course the Bucs wore white uniforms so whenever a receiver ran a pattern of more than five yards down the field, quarterback Steve Young could not see him. I remember sitting in my t-shirt and shorts in Tampa Bay watching the game on TV and thanking the Lord I didn’t live up north. I thought you’d have to be an idiot to live in such conditions. So of course, I now live in the middle of the Snow Belt!
Do yourself a favor and read the great feature Paul Stewart attached to the game description about the flight home from this game. You’ll never quite believe what Scot Brantley made the pilot do!
2. November 20, 1983: Chicago 27 Tampa Bay 0
This game is often forgotten because of how woeful the Bucs played, but just as much rain fell on Tampa Stadium during this game as in the 1979 season finale. I miss the sight of water cascading down the concrete steps of the old Sombrero. What people don’t realize when they see films of those stair-aided waterfalls is that all of that liquid had to go somewhere. That somewhere was on the field.
The entire field was a quagmire, but only the Bucs were bogged down by it. Or maybe they were just bogged down by the Jerry Golsteyn-Jeff Komlo quarterbacking tandem they trotted out. The Bears certainly weren’t concerned as they rolled all over the Bucs in front of some very soggy spectators.
I’ll never forget a picture of Jeff Komlo hydroplaning backwards down the field after getting absolutely blindsided by Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael. Komlo went one way, the ball went the other and the Bears recovered for a touchdown. SPLASH!
3. December 11, 1988 : New England 10 Tampa Bay 7 (OT)
I consider this the worst loss of the Ray Perkins era. The Buccaneers trotted out in their Florida Orange and Red parkas looking a little like a cross between the Sir Edmund Hillary expedition and the cast of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” I loved the old Bucco Bruce uniforms, but the color scheme did not work on winter wear. The wind chill during the game was 25 degrees below zero. With the playoffs out of the question, one would have expected the Bucs to just roll over, but they did Tampa Bay proud by fighting tooth and nail against the Pats in wind gusts of 30 mph.
The Bucs tied the score in the fourth quarter to force overtime. With the momentum on their side the Buccaneers won the overtime coin toss. Inexplicably, head coach Ray Perkins elected to kick off and of course the Patriots marched down the field to kick a game winning field goal. Actually, Perkins had a very good reason for kicking off, his brain was frozen. If you never saw this game you won’t believe what I’m going to tell you.
In an effort to show his team mental toughness, Perkins stood on the sideline for the whole game in sub-freezing temperatures WITHOUT A HAT!!!!!! I don’t know if he made his point, but he made a memory for me. I am never out in the cold without a hat. Thanks Coach.
4. December 24, 1989: Pittsburgh 31 Tampa Bay 22
The coldest home game in Buccaneer history as the kickoff temperature was 39 degrees. My father and I had tickets to this game but we didn’t use them as there was a chance of snow in Tampa!!! We didn’t miss much of a game as the Steelers clinched a playoff berth and I stayed nice and warm in my family’s living room listening to Gene Deckerhoff’s teeth chatter. It’s the only time in my life that I did not use Bucs tickets. Hopefully, it will always be the only time.
Snow never did fall during the game, but when we woke up Christmas morning there was ice everywhere. My first White Christmas was in Tampa!! So, maybe the game wasn’t really a bad weather game, but it was memorable nevertheless because of the temperature. There’s not been a colder game in Tampa since and chances are there won’t be again. 39 degrees at one o’clock in the afternoon just isn’t a Tampa occurrence unless the Lightning is in town.
These are the games I think of when I think of bad weather Bucs. I am sure I left some out and I’d be curious to see what games come to your memories as well.
Denis Crawford, July 2007