TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS v SEATTLE SEAHAWKS FEATURE
17 October 1976 – The Expansion Bowl


Introduction
Ah the 1976 season – the year that both the Buccaneers and Seahawks joined the NFL. And a season that has gone down in infamy for Tampa Bay fans for one immortal and unforgettable reason – the fact that the Bucs lost every game.

0-14. The imperfect season. I don’t know about you, but just as the 1972 Miami Dolphins used to always celebrate the last unbeaten team taking its first loss of the season, I always do the same when the last winless team notches up a victory. I want that piece of immortality to remain.

But when the 0-5 Buccaneers met the 0-5 Seahawks almost 32 years ago to this day, someone had to walk away a winner. Or did they?

The background
There was no free agency back in 1976. So the only way that the two new franchises could build themselves up was through the draft. Actually make that drafts in the plural because there were two. There was an expansion draft held in April that year but one that was so loaded in favour of the existing teams that it became ridiculous.

Both the Bucs and Seahawks were given the lists of available players just before the actual day of the draft and many of the players made selectable had injury worries or other concerns. Yes the Bucs did acquire the likes of OL Dave Reavis and SS Mark Cotney in this way, but they also ended up with the likes of Bubba Bridges, Ira Gordon and Morris LaGrand. Who? Exactly.

The Seahawks also selected 39 veterans themselves, amongst them future Dolphin DB Lyle Blackwood and former Colts’ standout LB Mike Curtis, the latter being someone whom would go on to play a big-part in this Week 6 match-up.

It had taken the Bucs three weeks to even score a point before K/P Dave Green kicked three fieldgoals in a loss to the Bills, and it was only late in their fourth game when narrowly trailing the Colts 42-3, that DB Danny Reece scored their first touchdown. The week before the Seattle game, the 1976 Bucs were shut-out again, losing 21-0 in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.

The game
This was “The Expansion Bowl”. One of the new teams was going to get their first win but neither coaching staff expected to go through the whole year without recording at least one victory. But no-one expected this game to make the NFL record books for the amazing tally of 35 penalties for an incredible 310 yards that were walked off. There were more yellow hankies thrown in this game than passes caught by the two teams.

The Bucs took an early lead on Dave Green’s 38-yard fieldgoal but QB Jim Zorn answered with a 15-yard TD pass to WR Sam McCullum. Zorn had been Dallas' last cut in 1975 and scrambled somewhat by design, but mostly to save his life. The offensive line wasn't one of Seattle’s strong points.

Neither were their running backs. Of the five on the roster going into the Bucs game, four were added the week of the opener against St. Louis prompting the Seahawks to go with either one set back and four receivers or five receivers.

But trailing 13-3 late in the third quarter, the Buccaneers did make their own little piece of history with their first-ever touchdown pass, albeit one that has never been repeated in the same style since.

On 3rd and goal from the one-yard line, RB Louis Carter went up the middle and was stood up at the line of scrimmage, Before the referee’s whistle blew, he two-handed the ball across to his right where WR Morris Owens was standing alone having missed his block. Owens caught the pass and stepped into the end-zone for a remarkable score.

The penalties continued to fly with holding proving the most popular call, although a few offside, personal foul and clipping calls were being thrown in for novelty value. But the Bucs did have one last chance as QB Steve Spurrier hit Owens and then TE Bob Moore to move inside the Seattle 20-yard line.

Dave Green was again called upon to attempt the potential game-tying 35-yard fieldgoal, only to see it blocked by Mike Curtis. And just to add salt to the wound, a penalty was called on the Bucs that would have negated it anyway.

The aftermath
The Seahawks would go on to finish 2-12 in their first NFL season and would defeat the Bucs again the following year in a 30-23 encounter at the Kingdome that would see both Gary Huff and Steve Myer throw four touchdown passes.

The Bucs would go on to lose another 20 straight games over the course of the 1976 and 1977 seasons before breaking their duck in New Orleans. And it was Tampa Bay who became the first of the two expansion teams to reach a Championship game (1979) and win a Super Bowl (2002). But the first bragging rights belonged to the team from the North-West coast.

Click here for more details on this game

Paul Stewart, Buccaneers Review, October 2008