I always thought it was perfect that the Buccaneers finally reached (and won) a Super Bowl in 2002 after the league’s divisional re-alignment. They never felt like an NFC Central team anyway. Here you had four cold-weather teams in adjoining states... and one team from Florida.
Perhaps that displacement caused the Bucs to be the NFC Central punching bag for so much of the team’s time in the “Norris,” as Chris Berman used to joke. After a short run of modest success from 1979 to 1982, the Buccaneers missed the playoffs for 14 straight seasons, with eight last place finishes in the division.
As a Bears fan, you could always count on two games against Tampa Bay to lift your spirits. During that run of Bucs futility, the Bears went 23-5 against their Floridian foes, including a 12-game winning streak from 1983 to 1988.
After 1996, the tables turned. Here are my favorite — and least favorite — Bears-Bucs games.
Favorite Bears-Buccaneers game
2001: Bears 27, Buccaneers 24
When the Bears broke out in 2001 as one of the NFL’s two premier “Where did they come from??” teams, I experienced something I had never seen before as a Bears fan: a relevant Bears-Bucs game.
When we played Tampa in Week 10, the Bucs were actually slumping at 4-5, but they still had the stink of respectability. We had to take them seriously — more to the point, beating them meant teams had to take us seriously.
While the second Bears-Bucs game of 2001 was a better Bears beatdown (a 27-3 romp), the first game is the one that stood out to me at the time and in retrospect. This game was in Tampa, where we’d lost five straight games.
This time, we pulled out a 27-24 nail-biter best remembered for Marty Booker scoring three touchdowns. See highlights below, starting at 14:05.
Least Favorite Bears-Buccaneers game
2008: Buccaneers 27, Bears 24 (OT)
The 2008 Bears produced one of the weirdest, ultimately most agonizing seasons I’ve ever seen. Last week we covered the crazy, heartbreaking Falcons game. That was Week 6. In Week 3, against Tampa Bay, we blew a game just as maddening.
This was the Brian Griese Revenge Game, with the ex-Bears QB fired up to start against his former team, in part because he’d largely languished on the bench during his two seasons in Chicago.
Up until late in the 4th quarter, revenge seemed unlikely. The Bears took a 24-14 lead with 6:45 remaining when Kyle Orton connected with Brandon Lloyd for a 19-yard touchdown pass. All we had to do was grind out stops against Tampa and Griese, who we’d already intercepted three times.
No problem, right?
The Bucs drove from their own 20 to the Chicago 17 on 11 straight passes, with seven completions, to set up a Matt Bryant field goal.
The Bears went 3-and-out, giving Tampa the ball back from their own 21 with 1:49 to play in regulation...
...and Griese took Tampa down the field on 12 plays, all passes, ending with a one-yard game-tying touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining. At one point, Griese completed the following stretch of plays:
- 3rd and 10, TB 32 — 18 yards to Jerramy Stevens
- 1st and 10, 50 — 13 yards to Michael Clayton
- 1st and 10, CHI 37 — 17 yards to Ike Hilliard
- 1st and 10, CHI 20 — incomplete
- 2nd and 10, CHI 20 — 19 yards to Antonio Bryant
The Bucs tied the game two plays later from the 1.
Then it got worse.
In overtime, we forced the Bucs to punt, only to have to punt ourselves. On Tampa’s game-winning drive, we gave up first downs on 3rd and 9 (on an unnecessary roughness penalty on Peanut), 3rd and 10 (on a 17-yard pass to Clayton), and 2nd and 10 (on a 38-yard pass to Bryant).
The Bucs won on a field goal. We dropped to 1-2.
Watch the horror here:
Bears-Buccaneers game I wish I saw
1984: Bears 44, Buccaneers 9
As always, I wish I was just a wee-bit older for the 1980s Bears. This 44-9 deconstruction in 1984 looks like a fun one. If you were around for that or other Bears-Bucs games of the 80s, please tell me about them! Seriously, I love to hear.
Favorite Bear who also played for the Buccaneers
I’m cheating here: it’s definitely Lovie Smith, who got a raw deal with the Buccaneers in his one season as head coach.
Weirdest wrinkle of Bears-Bucs, at least in my life
All of Tampa’s successful Hail Mary passes:
Here is the full head-to-head Bears-Buccaneers log. Refresh your memory and tell me:
What were your favorite Bears-Buccaneers games?