When the Bucs and Rams were a big draw
Think back a decade to one of the greatest regular season games that the Buccaneers have ever played. A classic 38-35 shootout with the St.Louis Rams on Monday Night football in Tampa. All of America wanted to see the rematch of the previous year's NFC Championship game and neither team disappointed.
Both teams went up and down the field all night (yep, even a Tony Dungy offense did that occasionally) and thanks to the legendary Shaun King - Warrick Dunn sandlot play, the Bucs took the lead in the final minute and won an absolute classic.
And of course it was a revenge match which made it all the more special, following on from the 1999 NFC title game which was the unstoppable object against the immovable force. The highest-scoring offense in NFL history with Kurt Warner throwing touchdowns at will to Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, with all-purpose back Marshall Faulk tearing up fantasy league defenses around the world.
Against them was the best Buccaneer defense in franchise history. Forget your Super Bowl edition, this was the ultimate pressure on the QB, shut down the run, make big play defense that the current Buccaneers ... err .... don't quite have.
If only the 1999 Buccaneers had possessed a decent QB behind center. But with Trent Dilfer nursing a broken collarbone and Eric Zeier being well, Eric Zeier, the Bucs were down to third-string rookie Shaun King whose job was to hand it off, occasionally get in fieldgoal range and don't throw interceptions.
Unfortunately he did just that with the Bucs leading 6-5 late in the game and Tampa Bay didn not have a Rafael Soriano in the bullpen ready to close this one out. Warner hit Ricky ******* Proehl with the winning score and every cat in my neighbourhood realised just how much trouble it was in and wisely disappeared from the streets of Weybridge.
The TV networks realised this was a big match-up and scheduled repeat peformances for 2001 and 2002 both of which won by the Buccaneers. By 2004 though, the novelty had worn off and the 28-21 Rams' victory on ABC that season was a pretty low-rated and low-key affair.
But did you know the Bucs and Rams played a similar revenge game on national TV some 20 years earlier?
The then-Los Angeles Rams shutout the Buccaneers 9-0 in the NFC title game and ended the "Worst to First" run of John McKay's team. ABC television realised this was a story worth repeating and hence in Week 2 the following season, in a special Thursday night edition of Monday Night Football (I know, sounds wrong doesn't it?), the Gifford-Meredith-Cosell crew descended on Tampa for a wild evening.
The Rams led 9-3 late on until Doug Williams led a late drive, completed a key 4th down run and then powered over from the one-yard line to clinch a 10-9 victory with 57 seconds remaining.
So compared to these classic Ram-Buc match-ups, all the other encounters in their 18-game series have been pretty tame and even a surprising start by both franchises in 2010 will not see huge interest outside of Tampa and St.Louis in this 19th match-up.