Now that the season is finally about to begin, I thought it would be fun to take a break from the breakdown of the 2010 Buccaneers and take a little trip down memory lane. The 2002 Buccaneers captured the franchise's first and only Superbowl to date, and entered the 2003 season with nearly the entire roster in tact with aspirations of repeating. Many expected a letdown in week 1 with a very difficult road test, but the team passed with flying colors and looked well on their way to another dominating season.
January 19, 2003. Most likely the happiest day in the lives of many a Bucs fan. Of course it was not the greatest of starts, which included an opening touchdown by Eagles running back Duce Staley. The rest, as they say, was history. The Buccaneers completely outplayed the Eagles the rest of the way, resulting in the team's first NFC title. This was famously the last game ever played at Veterans Stadium, a place that ironically had been a difficult place to win for quite a number of years previously. The team went on to beat Oakland the following week in Superbowl XXXVII, by a score of 48-21. The party was truly on for all Bucs fans.
Fast forward 8 months. The Bucs were forced to open on the road, which was a bit unusual for a defending Superbowl champion. They faced the same team who they defeated on that fateful January day at their brand new facility, Lincoln Financial Field. The crowd was just as intense and rowdy as they had been in their old stadium, and there was a confidence in Philadelphia that this would be the their year. However momentum was still on the Bucs side, who slugged out a 17-0 victory. This game is most remembered by fans for the pair of incredible touchdown catches made by wide receiver Joe Jurevicius in the second half. The first, on a fade throw to the corner of the end-zone by QB Brad Johnson right over the leaping Lito Sheppard. This gave the Buccaneers a crucial two-score advantage. The second came on a "volleyball tip" as announcer Gene Deckerhoff described it. Johnson got the ball out quickly in the direction of Jurevicius as a result of a blitz by the Eagles, but the ball was thrown behind him. Because he had his cape on this Monday night, he managed to reach back, tip the ball, run around the defender, leap in the air and catch the ball for a score.
One play that I personally remember was in the fourth quarter that set up the Bucs final score. Johnson found Warren Sapp open for a big fourteen yard gain that got the offense near the goal line. Wait, What? Warren Sapp? Yes, his first career catch came in this match-up as well, dragging Eagles defenders on his way down. It gave another reasons for Bucs fans to cheer on a night that was quickly resembling a dream. The first road game of 2003 was a perfect way to begin a defense of the Lombardi trophy, but instead it was their Week 2 performance that served as a preamble as to how things would go.
What did fans think about this game? Of course 2003 is remembered for a string of frustrating defeats that led to a losing season. This week 1 triumph could have started another dominating season for the Bucs, but the amount of breaks needed to win a second Superbowl proved too much. Tensions mounted both on the field and off, leading to a major upheaval. But lets focus on the positive. What do fans think of when they recall this opening day match-up? Let's hope for the same result this Sunday.