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Season By Season History of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1979

The Buccaneers, only a couple of years removed from a 26-game losing streak, made an improbable run to the NFC Championship game. Relive those days with the next part of our history series.

John McKay's statue at USC.
John McKay's statue at USC.

Before the start of training camp and the official kickoff of the 2014 Buccaneers season, Bucs Nation will take you through every season in Buccaneers history, one by one, to paint the whole picture of how the Buccaneers got to where they are today.

Next up is the 1979 season, and you don't need to be a Bucs historian to know the significance of this year.

Season Recap

Record: 10-6 (First in NFC Central)

Playoff Result: Lost in NFC Championship Game

Points scored: 273 (21st in NFL)

Points against: 237 (1st in NFL)

Leading rusher: Ricky Bell - 283 attempts for 1263 yards, 7 touchdowns (plus 2 receiving touchdowns)

Most Touchdown Receptions: Jimmie Giles - 7 touchdowns

Defensive MVP: Lee Roy Selmon - 117 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 fumbles recovered, 1 touchdown (some stats per BucPower)

Key Games

The Rain/Mud/Monsoon Bowl: The Buccaneers clinched the NFC Central and a trip to the playoffs by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 3-0 in a torrential rain storm. The Bucs only score came on a 19-yard field goal, while Kansas City failed to gain even 90 total yards in the sloppy conditions. Said defensive back Danny Reece of the defense's performance "We could have played in overtime, we could have played all month, and Kansas City would not have scored."

The NFC Championship Game: 1999 wasn't the only year that saw the Buccaneers fall short of the Super Bowl thanks to the Rams, as the Los Angeles-based Rams knocked the Bucs out of the running for an NFL title with a 9-0 victory at Tampa Stadium. Three short field goals were the only scoring the Rams could muster, but that was enough to overcome a lackluster Buccaneer offense that managed only 177 total yards.

Major Storylines

The Buccaneers, led by an improved Doug Williams and an even better defense than the year before, shocked the NFL with a 5-0 start to the 1979 season, ultimately leading to the franchise's first winning record and playoff berth.

Lee Roy Selmon was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979, thanks to his usual double-digit sack production to go with a ton of tackles, a defensive touchdown, and being the leader of the best defense in the league against the run and pass. Selmon said in an interview during the season that being around his teammates was a lot more fun than previous years, because of the winning environment.

But Selmon didn't, and couldn't, do it alone. Jeris White, Mike Washington and Cedric Brown continued to disrupt passing games from their defensive back positions, while Richard Wood and Dewey Selmon racked up tackles for the front seven. The defense was dominating, even in the season-ending loss to the Rams, while the offense sputtered and stalled more often than it ran smoothly.

Doug Williams was the best quarterback the team had seen, but he was hardly efficient, finishing last in the NFL in completion percentage among starters. He had big-play potential, however, and it was his deep ball and playmaking ability that kept the Bucs' defensive dominance from being an effort in vain.

He combined with Jimmie Giles (the player obtained in the trade down that landed Williams in the previous NFL Draft) to form the flair of the Tampa Bay offense, which took pressure off of the running game, and allowed for more room to run for Ricky Bell. Bell had a breakout season, and was a reliable workhorse for John McKay's offense.

There would be only one more winning season with a full slate of games before late 90's (spoilers, sorry), so the team didn't really build off of their strong performance in 1979. But the once lowly Bucs got their moment in the spotlight, and showed that a strong defense with timely offense can be the right formula for a deep playoff run in the NFL.

They've stuck with that identity ever since. It's a part of being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer player or fan. It's not always pretty, and it's not always going to work as intended, but it's what defines the franchise we love and support as Bucs Nation.