We’re one week closer to the Buccaneers opening up their 2019 season against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium. The countdown is now at 10 weeks.
Every Sunday leading up to kickoff of the new season, we’ll be taking a look back at old Bucs seasons, correlating with how many weeks are left in the countdown. Last week, we returned to the 2011 season. So, with 10 weeks to go now, we’re taking a look back at Tampa Bay’s 2010 season.
2010 Season in Review
My man Evan Winter of Bucs Nation hit the “what ifs” with the 2010 season earlier this week. Yes, it was painful to miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker after putting together a 10-6 record. Despite that, though, 2010 was a successful year for the Bucs. In year two under head coach Raheem Morris, the team completed its best turnaround in franchise history — a seven-win improvement.
Tampa Bay got out to a 2-0 start, beating Cleveland and Carolina in back-to-back weeks. The Bucs then fell to the Steelers, 38-13, to head into the bye week at 2-1. From there, they won three of four and five of seven. Sitting at 7-3, the Bucs were in excellent position with six games to go. But over the final six weeks, Morris’ young team lacked consistency. Back-to-back losses dropped Tampa Bay to 7-5, but the losing stopped in Week 14 when the Bucs held on late for a 17-16 road win over the Redskins. At 8-5, the team was still very much in play for a return to the playoffs.
Then came the infamous Week 15 home loss to the Lions. Yup, the one covered in the aforementioned “what if” piece from Evan Winter. Tampa Bay looked to have taken a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Kellen Winslow Jr., but a phantom offensive pass interference call forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal. The two teams then traded field goals to end regulation in a 20-20 tie. Detroit won the coin toss, drove down, and kicked a field goal to hand Tampa Bay its sixth loss. Yes, the Bucs ended up leading 20-17 in the fourth quarter anyway and blew that lead, but that offensive pass interference call remains a big “what if” in team history.
That “what if” still looms so large because the Bucs went on to win their final two games to finish 10-6. However, the final NFC playoff spot was left to a tiebreaker between the Bucs, Giants and Packers. The Packers ultimately won the tiebreaker, giving them a playoff spot that they took advantage of. Green Bay went on to win the Super Bowl.
Regardless, there was a lot of progress for what was still a young team in Tampa Bay. Things were looking up for the first time since early 2008, but as we discussed last week, the momentum gained in 2010 quickly faded just a year later. The Bucs are heading into 2019 looking for their first season with double-digit wins since 2010.
2010 Notes and Highlights
- In Week 1, the Buccaneer defense shut out the Browns in the second half en route to a 17-14 victory. The victory was Tampa Bay’s first on opening day since 2005.
- The Bucs’ Week 5 victory over the Bengals in Cincinnati was a thriller. Trailing 21-14 with 2:28 to go, the Bucs had no timeouts left and the Bengals had the ball. A first down would finish off the win for Cincinnati. Instead, Aqib Talib intercepted Carson Palmer. On the fifth play of the next drive, Josh Freeman found Mike Williams for a 20-yard touchdown. The game looked destined for overtime, but Sabby Piscitelli intercepted a tipped Palmer pass to give Tampa Bay one more shot in regulation. Freeman quickly found Michael Spurlock for a 21-yard gain to set up Connor Barth for a game-winning 31-yard field goal.
- In Week 7, the Bucs overcame a 17-6 deficit to beat the Rams 18-17 at Ray Jay. Connor Barth kept the offense in the game for the majority of the day, connecting on four field goals. Trailing 17-12 with less than five minutes left in the fourth, Tampa Bay found life. A 16-play, 81-yard drive ended with a game-winning one-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Cadillac Williams with 10 seconds left.
- One week after the comeback win over the Rams, Tampa Bay won a 38-35 shootout in Arizona. Geno Hayes and Aqib Talib had pick sixes, while LeGarrette Blount ran for two touchdowns. Tampa Bay once led 31-14, but ended up falling behind 35-31 early in the fourth quarter. The second of Blount’s two scores helped the Bucs overcome that deficit, marking the team’s fourth fourth-quarter comeback win of the season. The Cardinals threatened to win the game late, but Talib’s second interception of the day ended it.
- In Week 10, the Bucs beat the Panthers 31-16 at home to finish a season sweep of their division rival.
- The Bucs shut out the 49ers 21-0 on the road in Week 11, dealing San Francisco its first shutout loss at home since 1977. It was also Tampa Bay’s first win at Candlestick Park since 1980 and only its second ever in 13 games. Cadillac Williams scored a touchdown, Freeman connected with Mike Williams for a score and Donald Penn caught a one-yard touchdown in the win. The defense was dominant. The unit racked up six sacks, including the first of Gerald McCoy’s career. The 49ers only totaled 189 yards in the game.
- Ronde Barber grabbed his 40th career interception in the win over San Francisco. It made him the first player in NFL history with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. Charles Woodson eventually accomplished the feat as well, but Barber is still the only guy with 40+ interceptions and 25 sacks.
- The Bucs wore their throwback uniforms in Week 13. During halftime of their 28-24 loss to the Falcons, they inducted former head coach John McKay into the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. McKay was the second member of the Ring of Honor, following Lee Roy Selmon.
- The Bucs did get the short end of the stick in Week 15 against the Lions, but they nearly got a raw deal the week before, too. Late in their Week 14 road game against the Redskins, the officiating crew seemed to give Washington five downs. On the fifth, Donovan McNabb hit Santana Moss to make it 17-16 and set up a game-tying extra point. The Redskins were set to send the game to overtime, but ball don’t lie. A wild snap led to Tampa Bay holding on for a one-point win. The entire sequence can be seen below:
- Josh Freeman tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes in a Week 16 home win over the Seahawks. After falling behind 7-0, Tampa Bay scored 31 unanswered before eventually winning 38-15.
2010 Buccaneers Player of the Year
It’s tough to decide between Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount here. Blount ran for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry on the year. This could easily go to him, but I’m leaning toward Freeman. In his first full year as a starting quarterback in the NFL, the 2009 first-rounder completed 61.4 percent of his passes and threw for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns to six interceptions. He also ran for 364 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Blount was an effective runner and a large part of the Bucs’ success in 2010, but between the fourth-quarter comebacks, clutch throws and overall offensive outbursts, Freeman was the man for Tampa Bay throughout that season.
The 2010 season was a giant step forward for the Bucs. It was a year full of exciting games, comeback efforts and big-time performances. Despite missing the playoffs, a 10-win season in year two under Raheem Morris was nothing to scoff at. The fact that the team failed to build upon that year is still, to this day, a monumental letdown. There was so much promise from that 10-6 season. Freeman looked like a franchise quarterback, Mike Williams, with his 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, looked like a true No. 1 receiver and Blount broke out as an explosive runner. The defense was solid and suddenly, Morris appeared to have something special brewing in Tampa Bay. The fact that everything went to trash cans the very next year is all kinds of disappointing.
We’re 10 weeks away from kickoff, Bucs fans. Stay tuned to this rewind series every Sunday until Week 1 of the 2019 season.