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Great Games in Bucs History: 1979 Divisional Playoffs: Tampa Bay 24, Philadelphia 17

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Throughout the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' history there were worst to first stories. This one was the first.

The Buccaneers were in year four of Head Coach John McKay's five year plan. After a fast start at 5-0, Tampa Bay struggled down the stretch, relying on a late field goal in a monsoon soaked Tampa Stadium to clinch their first NFC Central Division title and a first round bye in the playoffs.

The laughable, lovable losers who just two years previous snapped an NFL record 26 game losing streak hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1979 Divisional playoffs.

Indeed, twenty-one years before the Bucs and Eagles would meet on what seemed to be annual post season showdown, the young Bucs had a chance to create some history in front of a rabid, sold out Tampa Stadium crowd.

Once the butt of many a joke - no one was laughing now.

Just like so many games the Bucs had faced in their early years, Tampa Bay was the underdog. It was a role they relished and at least in this season, excelled at overcoming.

The Bucs took the opening kickoff and seemingly didn't want to give the football up. 18 plays, 80 yds and 9 minutes and 25 seconds of clock time later, Ricky Bell ran in a 4 yard touchdown to stake the Bucs to a 7-0 advantage.

After a trade of punts, Ron Jaworski drove the Eagles into striking distance. The Eagles tried a little chicanery, faking a 47 yard field goal attempt - but they failed to get the play off in time and took a penalty. Their 52 yard field goal attempt would be no good.

The Bucs mixed a steady diet of Bell and Eckwood with some timely passing of Doug Williams to move down to Eagles 22 yard line before settling for a Neil O'Donohue field goal of 40 yds to build a 10-0.

After a penalty set the Eagles deep in their own territory, Philadelphia running back Wilbert Montgomery fumbled the football at the Eagle 5 yard line and it was recovered by Bucs NT Randy Crowder. The turnover set Tampa Bay up in point blank range and the offense did not fail.

On fourth and goal from the one yard line, Bell plowed in off Right Tackle to extend the Bucs' advantage to 17-0 with 5:12 left in the first half.

Ron Jaworski wasn't going to be denied an entire half. Philadelphia took advantage of a Williams interception that set the Eagles up in point blank range late in the first half.

Two plays later, Jaworski fired a touchdown pass into the endzone to shave the lead to 17-7 before halftime.

The Eagles got the opening kickoff of the second half and promptly drove right down the field on the Bucs' vaunted defense. Pushing 45 yards in 8 plays, all the way down to the Tampa Bay 25, Philadelphia was forced to settle for a Tony Franklin 42 yard field goal.

The Bucs lead had been cut to only 7 points.

The team would exchange punts until the 7:08 mark of 4th quarter, when Doug Williams hit Jimmie Giles on 9 yard strike to give the Bucs a commanding 24-10 advantage.

The Eagles wouldn't quit, though, as Jaworski again passed the Eagles down the field on a 9 play, 80 yard drive that ended with a 37 yard touchdown pass to Harold Carmichael.

The Bucs clung to a 24-17 lead with 2:11 left in the game when Jaworski took the football again, hoping to force overtime.

Staring the drive on their own 19, Jaworski hit Carmichael for a 16 yard gain. He would hit Carmichael again for another 18 yard gain but an offside penalty on the Eagles would call the play back. The Eagles' gutty QB wouldn't be denied, he it Charlie Smith on a 25 yard gain to the Tampa Bay 45.

Unfortunately for Jaworski and the Eagles, the Bucs' pass rush made an appearance. Tampa Bay's defensive line took over, charging the Eagles quarterback and forcing three consecutive incompletions.

On 4th and 10 from the 45, Jaworski would again be under pressure and his attempted pass to Carmichael would be overthrown.

With just 0:43 left, Tampa Bay was able to sit on the football, allowing the Buccaneers to claim their first ever playoff victory.

The next day, the Los Angeles Rams upset the top seeded Dallas Cowboys, allowing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to host the 1979 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately for the Bucs, their Super Bowl dreams ended there as the Rams upset the Bucs 9-0.