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Series History: Buccaneers-Cardinals

Posted Oct 11, 2017

The Buccaneers have a chance to tie the all-time series with Arizona with a win on Sunday, which would also represent some payback after a lopsided loss in Glendale a year ago

There are a lot of little trends and numerical oddities in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-time series with the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals, if you look closely enough. We did, and we found one to our liking. The last four results in this head-to-head battle can be described as such: low-scoring Buccaneers win, high-scoring Buccaneers win, low-scoring Cardinals win, high-scoring Cardinals win. All the Bucs need is to start that rotation over on Sunday.

Don't believe in that kind of trend? Well then, how about a carrot instead? Arizona's 40-7 win just last year in Glendale broke an all-time series tie, putting the Cardinals up, 10-9. Sunday's game will give the visiting team a chance to knot it back up for the sixth time. The series was also tied at the end of the 1986, 1992, 1997, 2007 and 2013 seasons.

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Here's another odd thing about the Bucs-Cards all-time series: The two teams have never been in the same division but they have played each other twice in the same regular season three different times, in 1986, 1987 and 1992. In '92, the Buccaneers' first and last games on the schedule were against the (then-Phoenix) Cardinals.

Also, when the Cardinals put together a five-game winning streak against the Buccaneers from 1986 through 1988, they scored exactly 30 or 31 points in four of those outings. On the flip side, when Tampa Bay beat the Cards in their new stadium in 2010, 38-35, it tied for the most points the Bucs have ever allowed in a victory.

There have even been a couple notable milestones for Tampa Bay in its shared history with the much-traveled Cardinals. The Bucs' 17-7 win over St. Louis on Dec. 18, 1977 was the first home victory in franchise history, one week after they got their first win overall in New Orleans. Twenty years later, when a key Karl Williams fourth-down conversion helped the Bucs pull out a 19-18 victory over Arizona at old Tampa Stadium, it was their fifth win in a row to start the season. That tied a franchise record. And, speaking of unusual endings: In 1985 the Buccaneers were 0-9 and had were giving up more than 30 points per game when St. Louis paid a visit. The result was a 16-0 anomaly, only the second shutout ever pitched by the Buccaneers.

Again, though, Arizona won the last two and was dominant a year ago in Glendale. That 33-point win featured three touchdown passes by Carson Palmer and four interceptions by the Arizona defense, two of them by Marcus Cooper. He returned one of them 60 yards for a touchdown. As noted above, the Bucs' first visit to University of Phoenix Stadium, in 2010, was much more enjoyable, ending in a wild shootout win. Linebacker Geno Hayes scored on both an interception return and a fumble return and cornerback Aqib Talib also had a pick-six, but the two offenses combined for 803 yards on the day, split almost exactly down the middle. The game is probably best remembered for the work of Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount, LeGarrette Blount hurdling clean over an Arizona defender on a 48-yard ramble, part of a 120-yard day.

The Cardinals got their revenge three years later at Raymond James Stadium, though in a game featuring far fewer fireworks. After being so felonious with the football in Arizona, the Buccaneers were far more giving in the rematch, coughing up two costly turnovers to fuel a furious fourth-quarter Cardinals comeback. Tampa Bay had started the season 0-3 but managed to build a 10-0 halftime lead over an Arizona team that would eventually finish 10-6. It was still 10-0 in the fourth quarter when a botched snap by the Bucs set up a Cardinal field goal and Patrick Peterson's interception of Mike Glennon led to Palmer's 13-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald. An ill-advised kickoff return by Jeff Demps out to the Bucs' 10-yard line followed, and then a sack of Glennon at the one and a punt that gave the ball back to Arizona at Tampa Bay's 38. The game-winning field goal was little more than an afterthought at that point.

The Bucs and Cardinals also split their first two games in the NFL's new rotating-division scheduling format, with Arizona winning at home in 2004 and the Bucs doing the same in 2007. The '04 game was the finale of one of the most forgettable Buccaneer seasons of the new millennium, and it fittingly featured just 471 combined yards of offense to go with five turnovers. If you must know, Michael Clayton scored the Bucs' only points on a 75-yard touchdown catch, but the Cardinals countered with four scintillating Neil Rackers field goals. The 2007 game was certainly more meaningful for the Buccaneers as they won it, 17-10, in Tampa to start a streak of five wins in six weeks that carried them to their most recent division title. Earnest Graham ran for 124 yards and a score, Joey Galloway caught a 37-yard TD pass and Tanard Jackson broke up five passes as the Bucs' defense allowed only 195 yards.

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The 2004 Bucs-Cardinals meeting broke up a seven-year drought in the series since the previous meeting in 1997, which was at the end of that five-game winning streak for the Bucs. It looked like the streak might end at four when future Hall-of-Famer Aeneas Williams returned a Trent Dilfer interception 42 yards for a touchdown and an 18-12 lead in the second half. However, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Dilfer converted a fourth-and-six by hitting Williams on a crossing route, and Williams took it all the way to the end zone for the go-ahead score in a 19-18 decision.

The first five games of the Bucs-Cardinals series were played in Tampa, with the home team winning three of them. That included the first home field victory in franchise history in 1977, as noted above. After the brand-new Buccaneers, in an era of unforgiving team-building conditions for expansion teams, lost their first 26 games in 1976-77, the club finally got a "W" in New Orleans in Week 13. The following Sunday, in the '77 season finale, Tampa Bay downed the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, 17-7, to make it two in a row. WR Morris Owens caught four passes for 138 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown, and both Mark Cotney and Mike Washington picked off St. Louis QB Jim Hart.

That 16-0 shutout win for the Buccaneers in 1985 was also the team's first victory under first-year Head Coach Leeman Bennett after nine losses, and one of only four the Bucs would take in Bennett's two years at the helm. James Wilder ran for 120 yards and Donald Igwebuike booted field goals of 46, 47 and 50 yards. The Cardinals' top highlight in that stretch was a 34-27 victory in 1983 in which both Neil Lomax and short-lived Bucs starter Jack Thompson tossed three touchdown passes.

A 30-19 win for the Cardinals at Tampa Stadium in October of 1986 began a weird stretch in which the two teams played each other twice each in both '86 and '87 despite not being in the same division, which was relatively rare back then (and impossible with today's scheduling format). The Cardinals scored an average of 28.5 points per game while sweeping all four contests. The most exciting of those games was played in St. Louis in 1987, as Neil Lomax threw two touchdown passes to WR J.T. Smith in the fourth quarter to turn a 28-17 deficit into a 31-28 win. Lomax, who would go to the Pro Bowl in 1987, threw six touchdown passes against the Bucs that year.

The Cardinals extended their winning streak in the series to five games in 1988 but the Bucs got back on top in '89 in their first visit to Sun Devil Stadium after the Cards' 1987 move from St. Louis to Phoenix. Vinny Testaverde's five-yard touchdown pass to WR Mark Carrier with 47 seconds to play gave visitors a 14-13 decision, but not before Phoenix K Al Del Greco hooked a 47-yard field goal attempt wide left. In 1992, the Bucs gave first-year Head Coach Sam Wyche a win in his debut with a 23-7 final in which the defense allowed just 181 total yards. Weirdly, the 1992 Bucs also closed out their season with a win over the Cardinals, this one in Phoenix.


Bucs-Cardinals Game-by-Game Record:

1977 W, 17-7 Tampa
1981 W, 20-10 Tampa
1983 L, 34-27 Tampa
1985 W, 16-0 Tampa
1986 L, 30-19 Tampa
1986 L, 21-17 St. Louis
1987 L, 31-28 St. Louis
1987 L, 31-14 Tampa
1988 L, 30-24 Tampa
1989 W, 14-13 Arizona
1992 W, 23-7 Tampa
1992 W, 7-3 Arizona
1996 L, 13-9 Arizona
1997 W, 19-18 Tampa
2004 L, 12-7 Arizona
2007 W, 17-10 Tampa
2010 W, 38-35 Arizona
2013 L, 13-10 Tampa
2016 L, 40-7 Arizona


Series Notes:

  • Overall Series: Series tied, 9-10
  • Bucs' Home Record: 6-5
  • Bucs' Road Record: 3-5
  • Current Streak: Lose 2 (2013-16)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (1989-92)
  • Cardinals' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (1986-88)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 333, Cardinals 358
  • Most Points in a Game, Tampa Bay: Buccaneers 38-35 (2010)
  • Most Points in a Game, Arizona: Cardinals 40-7 (2016)
  • Most Points, both teams: 73, Buccaneers 38-35 (2010)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: 7, three times (1992, 2004, 2016)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Cardinals: Buccaneers 16-0 (1985)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 10, Buccaneers 7-3 (1992)