It's a guaranteed lock now, no matter what, the Bucs have at least won 2 of the last 3 games. They may take a 3 game winning streak into the end of the season, something the Bucs have only done once in their complete history, in 1982. The Bucs beat the Bills, Lions and Bears to go 5-4 in the strike shortened season. They lost their playoff game, and lost the first 9 games of the next season. That doesnt really count though. We're talking about a winning streak, at the end of a bad year, that shows a change, and how the net result is felt.
Lets take a look back at some of the major winning streaks for the Bucs at the end of losing seasons, and what players and coaches got out of them going into the next year.
Only one such winning streak was successful. It was at the end of 1996; Tony Dungy's first year in Tampa Bay. After an 0-6 start and including a 1-8 beginning, Dungy's Bucs started to get it all together. The first sign was 4 straight games in keeping the other teams offense under 13 points. The Bucs Then won 5 of the next 7 games to end the year. The next season, the Bucs won the first 5 games in a row and Dungy Ball and Pewter Power were born. The rest is famous....now on to the NOT SO famous stuff.
Lets do this in order, and go back to 1988. The Bucs were 3-10, and at best were 2-3. After losing to Atlanta 10-17, the Bucs played inspired football at home against the 1988 AFC East Champion Buffalo Bills. These are the Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith Bills of SuperBowl (losing) fame. ON a heroic goal line stand led by linebacker Eugene Marve, the Bucs won 10-5. They went the next week to New England where an eventual 9-7 Patriots team in cold whether got a great game from the Bucs. Tampa Bay took New England into overtime, 7-7, But Ray Perkins great idea to kick off first backfired, as the Pats took the kickoff in OT and scored. Game over, 7-10. The next week. last of the regular season, the Bucs were home against the Detroit, and took control beating the Lions 21-10. Tampa Bay had won 2 of the last 3 games, and played the Pats into overtime. By goodness, the Bucs were going into 1989 with some momentum! And it worked!
Going into 1989, The Bucs opened at Green Bay in a game the Packers were considerably better than normal. The Bucs won 23-21 on the road, and then came home to play the World Champion San Francisco 49ers. Down 13-9, the Bucs scored a TD with 3 minutes left in the game. They left too much time for Joe Montana. On a second down, Ricky Reynolds dropped a pass in the end zone that would have iced the game. Joe escaped, as you never give no. 16 a second chance. 49ers 20 Bucs 16, a close game. Then the Bucs beat a good Saints team at home, and found themselves 2-2 with a home game against the Bears; a team they could not beat for 6 years, 12 games. The Bucs played a game to remember, and won 42-35. But Vinny was hurt, and with back up Joe Ferguson up on Detroit 16-10, Rodney Peete led Detroit to a last minute win the Bucs never recovered from. They lost 4 games in a row, then won two more to lose the last 4.
Result? The win streak at the end of 88 gave momentum into 89, but did not have a good enough team to do anything with it.
Similar thing happened in 1994. The Bucs were 2-9 and calling for Sam Wyches job. The last game of that winning streak, the Bucs got ripped off by officials, and should have beaten the Seahawks. The next week, in Minnesota, they took the Vikings into overtime, and a Viking punt returner muffed a punt and Bucs got the ball in FG range. Bucs won, and the next week beat Washington at home 26-21, then beat the Rams 24-14. It was a crazy three game winning streak, with two games to go. In Washington, the Bucs beat the skins to stretch the streak to 4 games. Last week of the Season, and the Packers came to town needing a win to get in the playoffs. The Packers got in, but the Bucs won 4 games in a row and 4 of last 5. Wyche saved his job.
The 1995 season started out with a dominating win over the Philadelphia Eagles. After two respectable losses, the Bucs beat Washington 14-13, Carolina 20-13, Cincinnati 19-16 and Minnesota 20-17. Sam Wych had his post game news conference when he blasted the media with talk of being 5 dash 2, and having won 9 of the last 12 games stretching back to the last season. Next thing you knew the Bucs were 5 dash 5. In week 14, the Bucs beat the Packers to go to 7-7 and alive in the playoff race, something unheard of back then. They finished 7-9, and the double digit losses ended.
Result? The Winning streak at the end of 1994 held over through 1995, but the team was just not good enough to go further with it. Tony Dungy came in the next season, and you know how that goes.
Thats it. In the Bucs history, three coaches had winning streaks at the end of a year to excite the fan base and the team. In each case, the winning carried over till the next year. Will it happen in 2010? We wait to see, for now we just need to figure out if its 2 of 3 or three in a row if we beat Atlanta.