Monday, October 18, 2010

Bucs Throw Away Win Against L.A., 10/13/85

On October 9, 1985, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers parted ways with linebacker Hugh Green, who was the team's first overall selection in the 1981 draft. The disgruntled Green -- a two-time Pro Bowler for the Buccaneers -- had recently made his unhappiness known around One Buc Place, skipping a practice and criticizing the team's defensive scheme.

Green and his agent essentially demanded that owner Hugh Culverhouse trade him to another team. Unable to swing a deal that involved two first round draft picks for Green, the Buccaneers were able to find a willing partner in the Miami Dolphins, who instead sent Tampa Bay first and second round picks in the 1986 draft.

The Green drama provided a bridge between two significant weeks in the 1985 season for Tampa Bay. The previous Sunday, the undefeated Chicago Bears shuffled into Tampa Stadium, and despite trailing 12-3 at the half, upended the winless Buccaneers, 27-19.

Tampa Bay would face another undefeated team at home the coming Sunday against the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams, but this time without one of their defensive stars.

The loss of Green -- unquestionably the team's best linebacker -- could not have come at more inopportune time as the Buccaneers had to find a way to slow down superstar running back Eric Dickerson. The owner of the league's single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards in 1984, Dickerson had an outstanding game against Tampa Bay that season with 191 yards rushing and three touchdowns in L.A.'s 34-33 victory over the Buccaneers.

Would history repeat itself against a thin Buccaneer defense? If anything, Tampa Bay's defense would rise to new heights.

On October 13 in front of just 39,607 at Tampa Stadium, the 0-5 Buccaneers gave the Rams all they could handle.

James Wilder -- the other star running back in the game -- opened the scoring for Tampa Bay with a 1-yard touchdown run. A fake field goal helped set up the score, as holder Alan Risher called an audible prior to the snap and ran 10 yards to the Tampa Bay 2 for a first down.

Trailing 7-0 after the first quarter, the Rams then scored back-to-back touchdowns to take the lead. A 23-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Duckworth from Dieter Brock evened the score at 7 a piece. A Nolan Cromwell interception of Steve DeBerg set up the next Rams score, a 6-yard run by Dickerson to give his team a 14-7 lead.

The Buccaneers would fight back, however, with 17 unanswered points to close the second quarter. Donald Igwebuike's first field goal of the day, a 34-yarder, narrowed the score to 14-10, and Chris Lindstrom's fumble recovery at the L.A. 29-yard line set the stage for a 17-yard pass from Steve DeBerg to Kevin House to give Tampa Bay a 17-14 lead.

Igwebuike later nailed a 49-yard field goal as time expired in the half to extend the lead by six, 20-14, over the undefeated Rams.

Tampa Bay had a chance to blow the game open in the third quarter when linebacker Keith Browner intercepted Brock. On his way into the end zone for a sure touchdown, Browner fumbled at the 3-yard line, however, and the ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback, giving the Rams new life.

Los Angeles took advantage and controlled the rest of the third quarter, allowing Tampa Bay just six total yards of offense. Mike Lansford chipped in a 27-yard field goal to narrow the score to 20-17, and Carl Eckern intercepted a DeBerg pass and ran it in 33 yards for the go-ahead score.

By this point, the boo-birds were out at Tampa Stadium and calling for DeBerg's backup, Steve Young, with chants of "We Want Young!"

DeBerg responded by putting the Buccaneers back on top 1:47 into in the fourth quarter. A beautiful 13-yard pass from DeBerg to Gerald Carter gave Tampa Bay a 27-24 lead and, once again, a major upset seemed to be in the works.

Rams cornerback LeRoy Irvin, however, made the play of the game to prevent that from happening. Irvin snagged an underthrown pass from DeBerg to Theo Bell and returned it 34 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Now trailing 31-27, DeBerg's first pass of the ensuing drive was again picked off by Ivory, sealing Tampa Bay's fate. His fourth interception of the game had cost the Buccaneers any chance of making a late comeback.

Defense made the difference on the day for the Rams, as they held Tampa Bay to 210 total yards and forced five turnovers. Wilder, who scored Tampa Bay's first touchdown, was held to 49 yards on 24 carries on the day.

The final score belied how well the Buccaneer defense played. Tampa Bay barely felt the loss of Hugh Green, sacking Dieter Brock seven times, recovering three fumbles, and essentially neutralizing Dickerson, holding him to 75 yards on 25 carries.

Critical turnovers by the offense, and the inability to open holes for Wilder to run, clearly cost the Buccaneers a chance at an upset.

There would be fewer and fewer chances as the season progressed. The Buccaneers nearly shocked the Dolphins at Miami the following week in a 41-38 loss, but Tampa Bay would fall to 0-9 before winning their first game against the St. Louis Cardinals on November 10.

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