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1979 Buccaneers Season 4 Schedule

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1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season 4 Brief

The 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season was the team's fourth in the National Football League. After having won just seven games in the previous three seasons combined, the 1979 Buccaneers won ten games making this their first winning season. They finished as NFC Central division champions, and won the first playoff game in franchise history.

The Buccaneers added offensive threats to complement their solid defense; a healthy Doug Williams played his first full season and Ricky Bell became the team's first 1,000-yard back, rushing for a career-high 1,263 yards.

The 1979 team not only posted their first winning record, but earned a playoff spot by winning the NFC Central division title. The playoff spot was secured in the final week in a rain-sodden game against the Kansas City Chiefs, with the only score being a 19-yard field goal by Neil O'Donoghue. They then recorded their first-ever playoff win by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles behind Bell's 142 yards rushing. Tampa Bay hosted the 1979 NFC Championship Game the following week, but lost 9–0 to the Los Angeles Rams.

NFL Draft

Draft-Pick Trades

The Buccaneers had no selection in the first round, that pick having been traded to the Chicago Bears for defensive end Wally Chambers (the Bears used the pick to select Dan Hampton). The Buccaneers had extra picks in the second and third rounds in return for trading nose tackle Dave Pear to the Oakland Raiders. They also had extra third and fifth round picks from the Houston Oilers, as part of the 1978 trade for the Buccaneers' first overall pick. They received a third-round pick from the Baltimore Colts in return for running back Dan Hardeman. The Buccaneers' own third-round pick went to the Miami Dolphins as NFL-ordered compensation for signing Randy Crowder. Defensive end Council Rudolph was traded to the Dolphins in return for an eighth-round pick. Other picks were traded as follows: round 4 to the Detroit Lions for Rockne Freitas, round 5 to the Seattle Seahawks, round six to Oakland for Rik Bonness, round seven to the Washington Redskins for Frank Grant, round eight to the New York Jets for Darrell Austin, and round ten to the San Francisco 49ers for Jim Obradovich.

Draft Selections

The Buccaneers doubled the size of their scouting staff from two to four, hoping to get more mileage out of the later rounds of the draft. Greg Roberts was the 1978 Outland Trophy winner, and blocked for 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims. The Buccaneers had him rated as the best lineman in the draft, and expected him to have been selected long before the second round, where the Buccaneers had their highest selection. He is believed to have fallen to the second round due to an inability to pass-block, having played at the run-heavy University of Oklahoma. This resulted in a poor performance at the Senior Bowl. Gordon Jones, with a 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash, drew pre-draft comparisons to Lynn Swann, but dropped to the second round due to concerns over his speed. He was the third receiver selected overall. Roberts and Jones both left the Buccaneers after four seasons. Jerry Eckwood and Rick Berns were selected to address injury problems at running back. Eckwood had been second in the nation in rushing (behind Ricky Bell) before being injured in 1975. Berns was at the time the leading rusher in Nebraska history. Eckwood and Berns impressed McKay enough in mini-camp that he traded Louis Carter away. Gene Sanders played for several seasons, after successfully converting to offensive tackle. Twelfth-round selection Dave Logan, the lowest-round draft selection to stick with the team, went on to become one of the Buccaneers' best and most popular players.


Offseason Personnel Changes

Dave Pear, the Buccaneers' first Pro Bowl selection and most popular player, was traded to the Oakland Raiders for two draft picks. This was partly to get extra help in what was expected to be a strong offensive draft, but also because Pear had requested that he be traded if his contract could not be renegotiated. Dave Green, the punter and kicker through the first three seasons, had to be replaced when he tore his achilles tendon stepping over a tackling dummy in training camp.

Cancellation of Dolphins Scrimmage

Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie canceled the yearly preseason matchup in Tampa, claiming that the Buccaneers approached the matchup with excessive intensity, resulting in Dolphin injuries. A dispute with Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse was also a factor, as Culverhouse was promoting a proposed rule to ban NFL owners and their families from holding controlling interest in other sports teams. Robbie's wife Elizabeth was the owner of the NASL Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

Regular Season

The Buccaneers surprised the NFL by reeling off wins in their first five games, an accomplishment that left them as the season's last undefeated team and landed them on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It also put them in first place for good in the NFC Central. The team's youth became an issue later on, as they went into a late-season losing streak on the verge of earning their first playoff spot. It was felt that more veteran leadership would have helped the team during the stretch run. Linebacker Dave Lewis publicly stated that the team was "choking", while Selmon compared the difficulty of getting the playoff-clinching win to the difficulty of getting the expansion team's first win. After dropping three games in a row, of which winning any of the three would have clinched the division, McKay launched into an obscenity-laced tirade against reporters who called the team a "laughingstock" and "Chokeneers". Even against a schedule that featured only two opponents with winning records it took until the final game of the season for the Buccaneers to win their tenth game. A better conference record gave the Buccaneers the division win over the also-10-6 Chicago Bears. Of all NFC Central teams other than the Vikings, the Buccaneers became only the second to win the division since 1970, and the only one to advance in the playoffs. The Buccaneers were considered by many to be an unworthy division champion, even called "cheesecake champions" by opponents, until they advanced to the NFC Championship with a 24–17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. There, with several key players injured, they held the Los Angeles Rams to nine points, but were held scoreless on offense to end their season one game short of the Super Bowl.


NFC Divisional Playoff: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Buccaneers won their first playoff game in team history by holding the Eagles to 48 rushing yards, while running back Ricky Bell recorded 142 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Bell's 38 rushing attempts set a playoff record, tied later by John Riggins in Super Bowl XVII, while the Eagles' Wilbert Montgomery was held to 35 yards on 12 attempts. The Buccaneers' opening drive resulted in a Bell touchdown, and a Neil O'Donoghue field goal gave the Buccaneers an early 10–0 lead. Wally Chambers forced a Montgomery fumble that was recovered by Randy Crowder on the 4-yard line and led to Bell's second touchdown run, giving the Buccaneers a 17–0 second-quarter lead. Trying to extend that lead before halftime, Doug Williams hurried a pass that wound up in the hands of Eagles linebacker Jerry Robinson at the Tampa Bay 11-yard line. This set up Ron Jaworski's touchdown pass to Charles Smith. After the Eagles narrowed the gap to 17–10 on a Tony Franklin field goal, a series of Lee Roy Selmon sacks of Jaworski killed the Eagles' rally. A 9-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Giles completed the Buccaneers' scoring. It was only in the final minutes of the game that the Eagles were able to put together a long drive, ending in a touchdown pass to Harold Carmichael. The Buccaneers held the ball for over 36 minutes of the game. The Buccaneers' defensive strategy revolved around stopping Carmichael and Montgomery. At one point, when Leroy Harris was gang-tackled following a short reception, the entire Buccaneer defense was penalized for unnecessary roughing. The Buccaneers' hard-hitting play intimidated the Eagles' receivers into dropping 10 passes. Going into the matchup, the Eagles were expected to have edges in playoff and quarterback experience. Jaworski was the third-rated quarterback in the NFC, while Williams had the lowest rating of all NFC starting quarterbacks. The game represented a rematch of old coaching rivals, McKay of USC and Dick Vermeil of UCLA. The game was the Buccaneers' first on national television. Word of the upset spread as far as Iran, where the hostages were surprised to learn of the Buccaneers' contention for the Super Bowl.

NFC Championship Game: vs. Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams, who had been hobbled by injuries much of the season, entered the playoffs with the worst record (9–7) of the six division winners. Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood played the game with a hairline fracture of his left leg, and Vince Ferragamo continued to start in place of the injured Pat Haden. On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers lost Lee Roy Selmon and Cecil Johnson with ankle injuries, Doug Williams with a torn bicep, and Wally Chambers with a knee injury. Mike Washington and Dave Lewis also missed part of the game with injuries. The game was the Rams' second consecutive playoff win against a team that had beaten them decisively during the regular season. Each team had a touchdown called back due to a penalty. The Rams also had a touchdown called back when it was ruled that receiver Preston Dennard did not maintain possession of the ball. The Rams offensive line was intact, unlike in the regular-season matchup. This provided for 216 yards rushing and gave Ferragamo much time to complete passes. Another change from the earlier game was that Wendell Tyler had become the starting halfback for the Rams. With Tyler's speed enabling the Rams to run outside, the Buccaneers were no longer able to clog the inside lanes with defenders and put the linebackers into coverage on passing downs. The Buc defense's focus on Tyler freed Cullen Bryant to run for 106 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Buc quarterbacks Williams and Mike Rae were 4–26 on pass attempts. It took until the third quarter for the Buccaneers to even pass midfield, on a halfback option pass from Jerry Eckwood to Larry Mucker.

Date   Opponent Week/Record Outcome
Aug. 4
Redskins Washington Redskins
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 1
Lost 7-9
Aug. 11
Dolphins Miami Dolphins
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 2
Lost 7-13
Aug. 18
Saints New Orleans Saints
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 3
Won 14-7
Aug. 25
Bengals @ Cincinnati Bengals
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
PS - wk 4
Won 24-13

1979 Season Results

Record: 10-6, DIV: 6-2 (1st - Won NFC Central)
Date   Opponent Week/Record Outcome
Sep. 1
Lions Detroit Lions
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 1
Won 31-16
Sep. 9
Colts @ Baltimore Colts
Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, MD
RS - wk 2
Won 29-26
Sep. 16
Packers @ Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
RS - wk 3
Won 21-10
Sep. 23
Rams Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 4
Won 21-6
Sep. 30
Bears @ Chicago Bears
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
RS - wk 5
Won 17-13
Oct. 7
Giants @ New York Giants
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
RS - wk 6
Lost 14-17
Oct. 14
Saints New Orleans Saints
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 7
Lost 14-42
Oct. 21
Packers Green Bay Packers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 8
Won 21-3
Oct. 28
Vikings @ Minnesota Vikings
Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, MN
RS - wk 9
Won 12-10
Nov. 4
Falcons @ Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, GA
RS - wk 10
Lost 17-14
Nov. 11
Lions @ Detroit Lions
Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, MI
RS - wk 11
Won 16-14
Nov. 18
Giants New York Giants
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 12
Won 31-3
Nov. 25
Vikings Minnesota Vikings
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 13
Lost 22-23
Dec. 2
Bears Chicago Bears
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 14
Lost 0-14
Dec. 9
49ers @ San Francisco 49ers
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
RS - wk 15
Lost 7-23
Dec. 16
Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 16
Won 3-0
Date   Opponent NFC/Superbowl Outcome
Dec. 29
Eagles Philadelphia Eagles
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
NFL Divisional Playoff
Won 27-17
Jan. 6
Rams Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
NFC Championship
Lost 0-9

ALL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Links
1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
2021 2022 2023

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