1982 - STRIKE 1! THE CARDIAC KIDS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
The seventh season that the Buccaneers played in the NFL was a memorable one for the Bucs UK and for yours truly, as had it not been for their appearance on Channel 4's second-ever American Football show, this club would probably not exist and you would not be reading this website! It was in those heady early days of Nicky Horne and Miles Aitken, when the game of the week was always the preceding Monday Night game. And hence it came to pass that the Miami Dolphins did visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a show viewed by a gridiron-ignorant teenager, who saw the team in orange win, and decided that they must be a pretty good team and hence worth supporting!
But before that victory in November, a considerable amount had happened within the NFL that affected the Buccaneers. The first all-out strike in NFL history that saw regular season games cancelled. There had been an abortive strike during a pre-season in the mid 1970s, but nothing as serious as the battle between the NFL, the owners, and the NFLPA union led by Ed Garvey. Nothing was actually gained during the strike by either side, the owners losing the revenue from seven cancelled games, and the players actually accepted the original offer made to them in July of that year. Of course, the fans missed out on the action and the NFL quickly abandoned the usual play-off format, in favour of two 14-team divisions with the top eight making an expanded knockout format competition.
Back in April, the Bucs had strengthened their offensive line by selecting guard Sean Farrell in the first round of the draft, Farrell going on to play five successful years at both guard positions, before winding down his career with Seattle and New England. Later selections of Jerry Bell, John Cannon and Jeff Davis were all solid picks, and even 12th round pick Michael Morton contributed as the franchise's leading kick-off returner. But the 1982 draft will remain for the most ghastly reach of all-time, the trading of a 1983 first-round pick to the Chicago Bears for the right to move up in the second round to draft Booker Reese. Although Reese had shown touches of brilliance at Bethune-Cookman, this Class 1-AA college was a long way from the NFL level of play, and Reese never showed anywhere near the ability needed to play in the pros.
1982 was the year of the Cardiac Kids though, so named for their ability to secure victory from the most unlikely and improbable of situations. Doug Williams was still throwing the ball, the defense ranked No.1 in the NFC, but a few new heroes emerged in the ff8c00 and white during the strike-shortened nine game regular season. Dave Stalls led the team in sacks beating even LeeRoy Selmon for a rare season, James Wilder led a run-by-committee backfield that included James Owens and Mel Carver, while the kicking game resided on the right foot of the youthful Bill Capece, and saw him hoisted high several times during the season as the Bucs made the play-offs for the third time in four years.
After a season-opening loss in the Metrodome when a late Doug Williams drive was halted by a deflection and interception inside Viking territory, over 66,000 people sat through a torrential downpour in Tampa Stadium as the eventual SuperBowl champion Washington Redskins splashed their way to a 21-13 victory. The game saw no less than eight Buccaneer fumbles, both teams miss extra points when the kickers slipped over, and a host of near-drownings between the hash marks. It was a combination of a blocked Tampa punt for a score, and the reliability of John Riggins that gave the Redskins the win, and sent the Bucs to 0-2. A tough loss in Dallas after the eight-week strike lay-off extended that losing streak to three games, Doug Williams' final minute pass to Kevin House in the Cowboy endzone being ruled out-of-bounds, when television replay showed that the Bucs had been robbed of a winning score.
And so it came to the Monday Night Game against the Dolphins, a pre-season rivalry that had only seen one regular season game, the tough loss during the disastrous first 1976 campaign. The Bucs relied on a solid running attack against The Killer Bees of the Miami defense, Doug Williams scoring a key touchdown. The Tampa secondary came up with five interceptions of David Woodley and Don Strock, including one by Mike Washington inside the final minute that sealed the 23-17 triumph. Just think, if that pass for Jimmy Cefalo had been completed and the Dolphins had won ....
The second win of the season came on a 13-10 victory in New Orleans when Morten Andersen missed a 60-yard fieldgoal in the final minute, wide rather than short, this having been set up by a Dave Stalls sack of Kenny Stabler. The Bucs did fall to 2-4 after a freezing weather loss to the Jets in the Big Apple, before the true reputation of the comeback kings started. The Bucs led the Bills 24-23 at Tampa Stadium after Buffalo had missed an extra point, and Joe Ferguson had the AFC team deep inside Tampa territory late in the game when LeeRoy Selmon forced a fumble to preserve the win.
Seven days later, the Bucs were 21-6 down to the Lions in the third quarter when Williams scored one touchdown, threw another, and then set up Capece for a game-winner with 25 second left. And the coup-de-grace was issued in the final game against Chicago when the deficit was 23-6 with seven minutes left in the third quarter. A pair of Williams to Jimmie Giles scores preceded Capece's game-tying kick from 40 yards, and then game-winner in overtime to put the Bucs in the play-offs.
There was to be no miracle ending for the 1982 Buccaneers however, as the Cowboys turned over a 17-16 fourth quarter lead to down the Bucs 30-17 at Texas Stadium. Video replay has shown that officials' mistakes cost the Bucs 17 points in that game, but the third play-off appearance of the orange and white was never really going to be a winning one. Little did Tampa Bay fans know it would be their last for the next 14 years.