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.
Today we focus on the 1998 season, which saw the Bucs take a bit of a step back, but with plenty of continued hope for the future.
Record: 8-8 (Third in the NFC Central)
Points scored: 314 (18th in NFL)
Points against: 295 (5th in NFL)
Dunn and Alstott: The Buccaneers had a better duo of backs than any in the history of their franchise, and both of them put on a show in 1998, as Dunn rushed for 1000 yards and Alstott added another 800 with nine total scores. The two backs combined to form the foundation of a Tampa Bay offense led by a still inefficient Trent Dilfer, and a receiving corps with no standout star like a Mark Carrier or Kevin House from years gone by.
Sack Masters: Brad Culpepper, Warren Sapp and Regan Upshaw combined for 23 sacks in 1998 as the Bucs' defense continued to set the tone for the franchise. As a result of this tremendous pressure on opposing QBs, the Bucs allowed the fewest first downs in the league, and also allowed the fewest passing touchdowns.
The Worst Kind of Foreshadowing: Bert Emanuel was denied what appeared to be a clean touchdown catch in a vital moment late in a low-scoring game against the New Orleans Saints, and the Bucs would go on to lose 9-3. Reidel Anthony said of the play later that season "The touchdown they missed to Bert. When they missed that call, it seemed like they missed all the obvious calls after that. That's what started our streak of bad luck."
Bent and Broken: The "bend, don't break" Tampa Bay defense broke in a vital moment against the Jacksonville Jaguars, allowing a 70-yard run from Fred Taylor with less than three minutes remaining to squander away a victory and fall to 4-6. The Bucs took a fourth-quarter lead thanks to a long touchdown from Anthony, but allowed nine unanswered points and fell to their in-state rivals.
Heartbreaking losses, frustrating mistakes, and close calls were the story for the 1998 Buccaneers, who seemed to take a step back after a successful 1997 campaign.
The offense remained average, with Trent Dilfer struggling to remain consistent, but with backs Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott shouldering the burden of finding the end zone on a regular basis.
And the defense was just as strong as the year before, finishing in the top-five of nearly every statistic for a defense.
But it was a series of costly errors which would doom the Buccaneers season, including the unfortunate foreshadowing to the 1999 NFC Championship Game mentioned above in a loss to the Saints.
The Bucs had five one-possession losses, with a sixth loss by nine points thanks to a late 71-yard touchdown run by Steve McNair of the Oilers. The Bucs were a tackle here or a missed call by an official there from the best record in team history, but would find themselves at home during the playoffs instead.
There was still plenty of reason to believe that the Buccaneers would be back in the playoff hunt in the near future, and it didn't take the Buccaneers long to shake off the cobwebs and contend once again.