Bucs still feel their losses in playoffs

by Gary Shelton on January 9, 2021

in general

Dungy's team lost to the Rams in '99./JEFFREY S. KING

Saturday, 4 a.m.

As the guy trying to fly said, it isn't the fall to earth that gets you. It's the sudden stop at the end.

One good thing about a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in forever (or since 2007) is this: You forget how lousy it feels to lose in the playoffs.

It's rotten, okay? Here you are, feeling like your team can go deep into the playoffs, and if it gets a break or two, maybe all the way to the Super Bowl, and then -- thud! -- the players are trying to reserve tee times. And the fans feel a season-long investment (or longer) come to a half.

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That's what is at stake for the Bucs today. Win over Washington -- considered to be the worst team in the playoffs -- and it's just a first step. But lose, and it all seems like a waste. The signing of Tom Brady, the adding of Antonio Brown, the addition of Tristan Wirfs. All of it.

It would be, frankly, among the worst losses in Bucs' history.

Oh, you remember another trip to Washington, don't you? In a regular-season game in 2015, the Bucs blew a game to Washington despite leading late into the game. But a touchdown pass by Kirk Cousins with 24 seconds to play pulled out a 31-30 game.

At the time, some called that the worst-ever loss. Others pointed to a 2003 38-35 overtime loss to the Colts.

No, I said. A team's most crushing loss ever doesn't come in the regular season. Something more has to be at stake. It takes a playoff game or it can't hurt enough.

So here goes: The Bucs' worst five playoff losses.

  1. St. Louis 11, Tampa Bay 6, 1999: With a controversial call at the end (the Bert Emanuel catch), the Bucs were stopped just short of the Super Bowl. They played lights out defensively that day, shutting down the Greatest Show on Turf. But they lost 11-6. It still stings.

2. Philadelphia 31, Tampa Bay 9, 2002 (2001 season): Not only did the Bucs lose badly to the Eagles in the bitter cold, it was Tony Dungy's final game before being fired. The Bucs won the Super Bowl the next year, which eases the memory, but at the time, Philly felt like hell itself.

3. Los Angeles Rams 9, Tampa Bay 0, 1979: The first great season for the Bucs, and the defense was splendid. But the Bucs couldn't muster any offense and fell one game short of the Super Bowl.

4. Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 3, 2000: Longtime Bucs fans will tell you this was the year the Bucs should have won a Super Bowl. They had Green Bay on the ropes in the regular season, but Martin Gramatica missed a short field goal. Instead of having a bye week the next week, the Bucs had to go to Philadelphia to play. It didn't end up well.

5. Washington 17, Tampa Bay 10, 3006 (2005 season): This one was lost when Edell Shepherd couldn't come down with a catch in the end zone on what would have been a 35-yard touchdown, bringing the Bucs' bench to cheers. However. replay confirmed that Shepherd had not caught the ball.

For their history, the Bucs have suffered nine playoff losses (against six wins).

This shouldn't be one of them.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, Washington 14.

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