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Season By Season History of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1981

The Bucs rebounded after a disappointing 1980 season and returned to the playoffs. If only Bucs fans had known to savor this success while it lasted...

Jimmie Giles emerged as a star at tight end in 1981.
Jimmie Giles emerged as a star at tight end in 1981.
J. Meric

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 1981 season, which saw a return to something more closely resembling 1979's surprising success.

Season Recap

Record: 9-7 (1st in NFC Central)

Playoff Result: Lost in the divisional round to the Dallas Cowboys

Points scored: 315 (18th in NFL)

Points against: 268 (4th in NFL)

Best wide receiver: Kevin House - 56 catches for 1176 yards, 9 touchdowns

Most interceptions: Cedric Brown - 9 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns)

Most Tackles: Cecil Johnson - 174 tackles (also had 5 interceptions) (Per BucPower)

Key Games

Playoff Clincher: 20-17 win against the Detroit Lions in Week 16. The Bucs and Lions both entered Week 16 with identical 8-7 records (Along with the Packers, who were playing the Jets), and squared off with the playoffs on the line at the Silverdome. Cedric Brown added two interceptions to his tally to stop two important Detroit drives and earn the Bucs a trip to the playoffs.

Playoff Embarrassment: 38-0 loss against the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Bucs entered their third playoff game in team history as underdogs, and lived up to that expectation in a blowout loss. Doug Williams threw four interceptions as the Cowboys ran all over the Buccaneers, outgaining them on the ground by a margin of 212 to 74.

Major Storylines

The Buccaneers spent the 1981 offseason retooling after the disappointment of the 1980 season, and helped out their franchise by nailing their first two picks in the NFL Draft that year.

Tampa Bay added Hugh Green and James Wilder with their first two picks, providing young cornerstone players on either side of the ball that would help rebuild after the disappointment of the year before. Green instantly became one of the team's best defensive players, racking up tackles, sacks and interceptions as a rookie, while Wilder showed glimpses of what he would do in coming years as a record-setting running back.

The Bucs got off to a 4-2 start with a win over the Green Bay Packers, and seemed to have put their frustrating losing ways behind them. The 1980 team was gone, and John McKay had his team back on the winning track.

But the Bucs would stumble during the middle of the season, and fall to 5-6 before a 4-1 finish capped with a victory over the Lions would earn them the NFC Central title.

Doug Williams and the passing attack were as good as they had ever been, prompting the Bucs QB to say "What we did today was show the country we're capable of beating anybody in the league," after his 300 yard performance against the Falcons to bring the team to 8-6.

Williams finished the season with a completion percentage over 50% for the first time in his career, but he was never meant to be the most efficient QB in league history. Instead, Williams provided deep play ability, and that showed in the production of second-year receiver Kevin House, who finished seventh in the league in receiving yards on only 58 catches.

Tight end Jimmie Giles began his record-setting ways in 1981 as well, posting an impressive 17.5 yards per catch and hauling in six scores while earning a Pro Bowl berth at his position. The Bucs offense was finally coming together, and the defense proved (at least for now) that the 1980 season was a fluke.

But a draft gaffe and a labor strike were on the horizon, along with plenty of what we now know to be "old school" Buccaneer football.