TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 04: Former tightend Jimmie Giles #88 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is inducted into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor at halftime of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
It was a joke. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers - that funny little expansion team that wore those strange orange uniforms with the winking pirate logo were never going to win a game. An NFL record 26 consecutive losses had Tampa Bay staring at becoming the first modern team in the NFL to go winless in back-to-back seasons.
Their opponent for Week 13, the New Orleans Saints, were going through their own sorry season at 3-9 but were supremely confident that they'd break their two game losing streak at home against Tampa Bay.
Favored by 11 points, Saints QB Archie Manning told the New Orleans newspapers it would be "a disgrace" if the Saints lost to Tampa Bay.
On December 11th, 1977 the unthinkable happened. It was a day that would cost Saints coach Hank Stramm his job and one that Buccaneer fans had been waiting for.
Only 300 or so Bucs fans who made the trip to the big easy would see their team's first victory - one that would put the Bucs firmly on the course of Head Coach John McKay's "five year plan" that would peak in 1979 with the Bucs hosting the NFC Championship game.
The Bucs offense was as bad as you can get. Last in just about every offensive statistical category, this was a team that had been shut out six times during the season and had only managed 53 points in their first 12 games. They had scored just 7 points in their last four games and were coming off consecutive shutout losses.
So when the Bucs drove to the Saints' 16 yard line on their opening drive of the game, a few eyebrows were raised. Of course, in typical Bucs fashion, kicker Dave Green pushed a 33 yard field goal wide left.
The Bucs defense kept Manning in check on the next drive and a 20 yard return by Danny Reece put the Bucs deep in Saints' territory again. Again, the putrid Bucs offense would settle for a field goal attempt but this time Green would put a 40 yder between the uprights to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
The teams traded punts as the game moved into the second quarter. Manning threw a dying quail that was intercepted by Bucs' CB Mike Washington, setting Tampa Bay at the Saints' 33 yard line.
The Bucs would use the running of Rickey Bell and Jimmy DuBose to pound the football down to the 8 yard line before Tampa Bay settled for a 25 yd Green field goal and a 6-0 advantage.
Again, the team would trade punts, setting up the Bucs' final drive of the first half.
It would be a rare good drive for Tampa Bay QB Gary Huff. With 3:27 left in the first half, Huff connected on a 39 yard strike to WR Morris Owens to set the Bucs into Saints territory. He followed it up with an 8 yard connection to DuBose and a 13 yard dump off to reserve back Louis Carter to set the Bucs up first and goal at the Saints 5 yard line.
Instead of trying to pound it in - Huff play actioned to Bell and found Owens wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown. It was Huff's first touchdown pass since Week 5.
Tampa Bay wrapped up the first half with a 13-0 advantage, the biggest lead in franchise history.
At half-time, Stramm benched Manning for Bobby Scott. His first pass would lose for yards. His second pass would be intercepted by Mike Washington and returned 45 yards for a touchdown, building the Bucs' advantage to 20-0.
Scott's second drive would only be slightly better. He would be intercepted by Richard "Batman" Wood, who returned it to the Saints' 47. The Bucs wouldn't take advantage, failing on a 4th and one at the Saints' 32 yard line.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Scott's bad luck struck again. Trying to hit a Saints receiver over the middle, he found "Batman" Wood again. This time the Tampa Bay linebacker took it the distance. Green would botch the extra point attempt, leaving Tampa Bay with a 26-0 advantage and a franchise record for points scored in a game.
Stramm came to his senses and injected Archie Manning back into the game. Manning would put the Saints on the board with a 2 yard bootleg run, cutting the Bucs advantage to 26-7 with 7:07 left in the game.
After the Bucs failed to do anything with their next possession, they were able to pin New Orleans inside their 10 yard line. On 2nd and 12 from their own 9 yard line, Manning's pass would be batted into the air and caught by backup Bucs DE Greg Johnson for a walk in touchdown.
Tampa Bay led 33-7 with 1:55 left to play and the celebration began on the Bucs' sideline. A late touchdown pass by Manning with a handful of seconds remaining made the score seem a little closer but there was no hiding the ugly truth for the 40,000 Saints fans who booed their team off the field.
"I can't wait to get into the dressing room so I can cry," said linebacker Richard (Batman) Wood told reporters, "A grown man ought not to cry out here in front of these people."
The Bucs defense ruled the day in this one: 6 interceptions, a forced fumble, 5 sacks and 3 defensive touchdowns were the difference. Future Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon had three sacks and that fumble recovery on his own.
"I didn't think it set too well with anybody when Coach McKay told us what he (Manning) had said before the game," Lee Roy Selmon said after the game.
"This is a habit I could grow accustomed to," McKay said after the game, his voice cracking several times during the post game interviews.
Bucs fans would witness their first home victory in the season finale the next week, as the Bucs crushed the St. Louis Cardinals 17-7, leading to a rowdy celebration at the Old Sombrero (not so old back then) that culminated in fans tearing down the goalposts.
Bucs fans began looking up the record for consecutive victories. The seeds of worst to first had been planted.
Did you watch the Bucs' first victory?
Absolutely! (29 votes)
I saw it years later on video tape (11 votes)
I was just a youngin' (52 votes)
It was well before my time. (146 votes)
238 total votes