It’s “What if...” Week at SB Nation, so we’re taking a look at how things would be if Kellen Winslow, Jr. was never called for offensive pass interference against the Detroit Lions in 2010. Check out Bailey Adams’ “What if...” article about the Bucs and Derrick Brooks here.
A very long time ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had something people call a winning season.
The year was 2010. It was the dawn of a new decade in this glorious world of ours, and the Bucs were coming off of a dreadful 3-13 2009 campaign that offered basically no hope that anything was going to get any better.
Lo and behold, the Bucs finished the year with a 10-6 record. Usually, a playoff appearance would accompany a 10-win season, but in premium struggling franchise form, Tampa Bay missed out on the playoffs for the third straight season.
As if missing the playoffs with 10 wins wasn’t bad enough - at least they didn’t win 11 games and miss the dance like the 2008 Patriots - the NFL added insult to injury by completely botching an offensive pass interference call on Kellen Winslow that had a tremendous effect on the outcome of the game against the Detroit Lions.
In a quick, but not-so-painless revisit, we will travel back in time to that fateful day on December 19, 2010. It was Week 15 and the Bucs trailed 17-14 in the 4th quarter, but Josh Freeman found Winslow in the end zone for a 1-yard strike to put the Bucs in position to go up, 21-17 after the extra point attempt.
But then the yellow flag came flying in. At the time, no one had the slightest clue how costly this penalty would be.
Sure enough, Winslow was called for offensive pass interference on a play that, well, clearly wasn’t pass interference.
Tampa Bay settled for a field goal to tie the game, 17-17. To the Bucs’ credit, they were able to drive back down the field later and kick another field goal to go up 20-17, but the defense couldn’t hold on and the Lions were able to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Detroit would go on to win the game in the extra period, ending a historic 26-road game losing streak and basically ending the Bucs’ postseason hopes, as well.
Even worse, it was backup quarterback Drew Stanton that led the comeback for the Lions.
The NFL apologized for the bad call a few days later, but it was too late. Despite the Bucs winning their last two games, they lost out on a three-way tiebreaker between themselves, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Giants. The Packers would end up holding all the cards and made it into the postseason.
So what IF the refs allowed the touchdown to stand?
Assuming the Bucs didn’t have some crazy meltdown - which isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility - they would have certainly made the playoffs. In fact, they would’ve finished as the No. 2 seed and would’ve had a first-round bye.
The Chicago Bears finished as the No. 2 seed in the NFC with an 11-5 overall record and an 8-4 conference record in 2010. The Philadelphia Eagles were the No. 3 seed with a 9-7 overall record. If the Bucs beat the Lions, they would’ve finished with an 11-5 overall record and a 9-3 conference record.
What is the significance of conference records? Well, since the Bucs and Bears did not meet head-to-head in the regular season, the next tiebreaker for determining playoff seeding is games played within the conference, aka conference record.
There’s no telling what Tampa Bay could’ve done with the No. 2 seed that year. It was an extremely weak field in the NFC Playoffs, evidenced by the No. 6 seed Packers winning the Super Bowl.
(edit: I missed where the Saints would’ve finished as the No. 2 seed due to a better division record than the Bucs. When I was comparing schedules, I thought the Saints lost to the Falcons once, but in actuality, they swept the Dirty Birds. The Bucs still would’ve been playoff bound, though!)
Oh yea, which leads to the next part of the “what if” scenario.
Packers fans, y’all are welcome.
IF it weren’t for the bad call, then the Packers would’ve never have made the playoffs and Super Bowl XLV would have no association whatsoever with the loyal and faithful Cheeseheads of the North.
Again, y’all are welcome.
It’s just yet another page in the unfortunate history of the Bucs, something that could have been, but never was.
And it was a loss to the f%$@*! Lions.
Excuse me while I go puke.