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Data Crunch: Stadium Introductions

Posted Nov 24, 2017

The Buccaneers are about to play their first game in a particular venue for the 62nd time in the regular season as they head to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Atlanta Falcons on their home turf on Sunday, and for the first time since 1993 that does not mean a trip to the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons first moved into the Georgia Dome in 1992 after playing their first 26 seasons in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The Buccaneers played the Falcons that season, but only just once since the two teams were not yet division mates, and that game took place in Tampa. The Buccaneers first visit to the new dome came in 1993 and was a happy one, as Craig Erickson threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 victory. Horace Copeland caught two of those scoring passes and introduced his signature backflip in the end zone to celebrate beating the great Deion Sanders.

That game aside, the Buccaneers' various stadium debuts over the past 42 seasons have not all been worthy of flipping over. Overall, the Bucs have played regular-season games in 61 different venues, including their own, which means they've had 61 first visits to a stadium. Tampa Bay's overall record in those games is 18-43. (The entire list is at the bottom of the page should you want to go through the game-by-game history of Buccaneer stadium debuts.)

This is relevant at the moment because the Buccaneers are about to play their first game in the Falcons' new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the home team currently has a 2-2 all-time record in regular-season games. Tampa Bay lost its first game in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1979, 17-14, so Sunday's game is something of a tiebreaker in the head-to-head series. That remains true if one includes the first Bucs-Falcons game in each of Tampa Bay's two homes. Atlanta's first visit to Tampa Stadium in 1977 was a Falcons victory, but its introduction to Raymond James Stadium in 1999 resulted in a 19-10 decision in the Bucs' favor.

The Buccaneers' .295 winning percentage in stadium debuts does not really indicate any particular problem getting acclimated to new surroundings. Tampa Bay's record in such games closely mirrors how successful the team was overall at the time. The Buccaneers famously struggled in its first few years, and then again through the second half of the '80s and the first half of the '90s. Tampa Bay lost its first 27 games overall and 14 of those were stadium debuts for the team, for the obvious reason. Since the franchise's resurgence under new ownership, beginning with a return to the playoffs in 1997, the Buccaneers are a much more respectable 11-14 in stadium debuts, only one of which was a home game. (Technically, the games in London in 2009 and 2011 were Buccaneers home games, but only in name.)

The Buccaneers have a unique opportunity this Sunday to win in the new stadium of one of its foes on two separate occasions. Tampa Bay has two stadium-debut wins over three teams: the Bears, Cardinals and Saints. However, in none of those cases were both games played in what were truly new venues for the home team.

The Buccaneers beat the Bears in their first game at Raymond James Stadium and, four years later, closed out the regular season in their Super Bowl year with a 15-0 victory at Champaign, Illinois (home of the University of Illinois) while Soldier Field was being renovated. The Bucs win over the Cardinals in their first visit to Phoenix, after that franchise moved from St. Louis, was at Sun Devil Stadium, the longtime home of the Arizona State team. The second one on the list, in 2010, was at a new home for the Cardinals, University of Phoenix Stadium. As for the Saints, the Bucs' memorably scored the first victory in their franchise history with a visit to the Superdome in 1977, but the second game on the list came at LSU's Tiger Stadium while the Saints were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Below are all 18 of the Buccaneers' victories that came in their first game in a particular venue.

Opponent Season Stadium W/L PF PA
Saints 1977 Louisiana Superdome W 33 14
Vikings 1978 Metropolitan Stadium W 16 10
Chiefs 1978 Arrowhead Stadium W 30 13
Packers 1980 Milwaukee County Stadium W 20 17
Cardinals 1989 Sun Devil Stadium W 14 13
Falcons 1993 Georgia Dome W 31 24
Panthers 1995 Memorial Stadium (Clemson) W 20 13
Bears 1998 Raymond James Stadium W 27 15
Rams 2001 Dome at America's Center W 24 17
Bengals 2001 Paul Brown Stadium W 16 13
Ravens 2002 Ravens Stadium W 25 0
Lions 2002 Ford Field W 23 20
Bears 2002 Memorial Stadium (Champaign, IL) W 15 0
Eagles 2003 Lincoln Financial Field W 17 0
Saints 2005 Tiger Stadium (LSU) W 10 3
Browns 2006 Cleveland Browns Stadium W 22 7
Cardinals 2010 University of Phoenix Stadium W 38 35
49ers 2016 Levi's Stadium W 34 17

 
There are a few things worth noting on that list. Surprisingly, three of those 18 games were won by shutout. That's a high percentage of shutouts in new venues given that it represents 30% of the 10 times the Buccaneers have blanked an opponent in franchise history.

Tampa Bay actually won its first three games at the Louisiana Superdome against the Saints. The Bucs also beat Minnesota in their first two trips to Metropolitan Stadium. Unfortunately, the Vikings moved into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1982 and the Bucs were their first regular-season opponent in that new home. The Vikings won 17-10. Now the Vikings have moved to the new U.S. Bank Stadium and the Buccaneers made their first visit there earlier this season, falling 34-17. The Buccaneers will play an away game each of the next two years against an NFC North team with which they finish in the same spot in their respective division standings. That won't be the Vikings next year, almost assuredly. If it isn't Minnesota in 2019, then the Buccaneers' next chance to win at U.S. Bank Stadium will be in 2023.

That's one of eight stadiums in which the Bucs have only played once. They will never get another shot at the Orange Bowl and probably will never return to Champaign or Baton Rouge, nor are they likely to play at Memorial Stadium at Clemson, as they did in the Panthers' first season, 1995. The other four on the list will eventually welcome the Bucs back, including U.S. Bank Stadium, as noted above. The other three are Cowboys Stadium (Dallas), Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis) and Levi's Stadium (San Francisco).

From 2001 to 2005, the Buccaneers played in seven stadiums for the first time, remarkably, and won them all. Those were victories over the Rams, Bengals, Ravens, Lions, Bears, Eagles and Saints, in that order. The most recent victory for a Tampa Bay team in its first game in a particular venue was last year at San Francisco, when the Buccaneers enjoyed a 34-17 drubbing of the 49ers at Levi's Stadium.

Here are all 61 times the Buccaneers have played in a stadium for the first time:

Opponent Season Stadium W/L PF PA
49ers 1977 Candlestick Park L 10 20
49ers 2016 Levi's Stadium W 34 17
Bears 1978 Soldier Field L 3 14
Bears 1998 Raymond James Stadium W 27 15
Bears 2002 Memorial Stadium (Champaign, IL) W 15 0
Bengals 1976 Riverfront Stadium L 0 21
Bengals 2001 Paul Brown Stadium W 16 13
Bills 2009 Ralph Wilson Stadium L 20 33
Broncos 1976 Mile High Stadium L 13 48
Broncos 2008 Invesco Field L 13 16
Browns 1983 Cleveland Municipal Stadium L 0 20
Browns 2006 Cleveland Browns Stadium W 22 7
Cardinals 1986 Busch Stadium L 17 21
Cardinals 1989 Sun Devil Stadium W 14 13
Cardinals 2010 University of Phoenix Stadium W 38 35
Chargers 1976 Tampa Stadium L 0 23
Chargers 1990 Jack Murphy Stadium L 10 41
Chiefs 1978 Arrowhead Stadium W 30 13
Colts 1976 Memorial Stadium L 13 42
Colts 1987 Hoosier Dome L 6 24
Colts 2015 Lucas Oil Stadium L 12 25
Cowboys 1977 Texas Stadium L 7 23
Cowboys 2012 Cowboys Stadium L 10 16
Dolphins 1985 Orange Bowl L 38 41
Dolphins 1991 Joe Robbie Stadium L 14 33
Eagles 1977 Veterans Stadium L 3 13
Eagles 2003 Lincoln Financial Field W 17 0
Falcons 1979 Fulton County Stadium L 14 17
Falcons 1993 Georgia Dome W 31 24
Giants 1978 Giants Stadium L 14 17
Giants 2012 MetLife Stadium L 34 41
Jaguars 1998 Alltel Stadium L 24 29
Jets 1976 Shea Stadium L 0 34
Lions 1977 Pontiac Silverdome L 7 16
Lions 2002 Ford Field W 23 20
Packers 1978 Lambeau Field L 7 9
Packers 1980 Milwaukee County Stadium W 20 17
Panthers 1995 Memorial Stadium (Clemson) W 20 13
Panthers 1996 Ericcson Stadium L 0 24
Patriots 1988 Sullivan Stadium L 7 10
Patriots 2005 Gillette Stadium L 0 28
Patriots 2009 Wembley Stadium L 7 35
Raiders 1976 Oakland-Alameda County Stadium L 16 49
Rams 1977 L.A. Coliseum L 0 31
Rams 1986 Anaheim Stadium L 20 26
Rams 2001 Dome at America's Center W 24 17
Ravens 2002 Ravens Stadium W 25 0
Redskins 1989 RFK Memorial Stadium L 28 32
Redskins 1998 Jack Kent Cooke Stadium L 16 20
Saints 1977 Louisiana Superdome W 33 14
Saints 2005 Tiger Stadium (LSU) W 10 3
Seahawks 1977 Kingdome L 23 30
Seahawks 2007 Qwest Field L 6 20
Steelers 1976 Three Rivers Stadium L 0 42
Steelers 2006 Heinz Field L 3 20
Texans 2007 Reliant Stadium L 14 28
Titans 1976 Houston Astrodome L 0 20
Titans 2001 Adelphia Coliseum L 28 31
Vikings 1978 Metropolitan Stadium W 16 10
Vikings 1982 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome L 10 17
Vikings 2017 U.S. Bank Stadium L 17 34