The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars have a history of very close games together, a blowout in 2011 notwithstanding.
Jacksonville was on the winning side of that most recent meeting, a 41-14 decision in 2011 that came during a 10-game losing streak for the Buccaneers. Prior to that, however, the two teams had met four times, with all four games decided by one score, and each team recording a one-point victory. All four were decided in the fourth quarter, usually in the closing minutes.
Overall, Jacksonville has a 4-1 lead in the all-time series and is riding a four-game winning streak against the Bucs.
The Jaguars and Carolina Panthers began play in 1995 as twin expansion franchise as the NFL inflated its ranks from 28 to 30. The Jags drew a trip to Tampa during their inaugural season, and they brought a 3-7 team to town in mid-November to face a 5-5 Buccaneer squad. That was the last of Sam Wyche's four seasons at the helm, and his team had lost three in a row after a "five-dash-two" opening to the campaign.
With far more favorable expansion rules for new teams in '95 than, say, the Bucs' own experiences from 1976, Jacksonville was able to build a competent squad quickly. Not only did the Jaguars win three of their first eight games, including two on the road, but the following year they would advance all the way to the conference championship game (as would expansion sister Carolina). Still, the Buccaneers took a 10-0 lead into halftime, by which time they had allowed only 84 yards and one third down conversion. Errict Rhett scored the first of his two touchdowns on a one-yard run just before the intermission.
The Jaguars woke up after halftime, however, and were able to tie the game a few seconds into the fourth quarter on Mark Brunell's nine-yard touchdown scramble. Jacksonville gained 266 yards after halftime while the Bucs' offense went stagnant and got just 74 more. Still, Tampa Bay did manage to answer Brunell's score with a 62-yard drive ending in Rhett's second TD and a 17-10 lead. At this point, Steve Beuerlein was leading the Jaguars' attack because Brunell had injured a hamstring on his touchdown run. Beuerlein's crew got the ball back at their own four with just inside four minutes to play and somehow put together a 96-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard touchdown catch by tight end Pete Mitchell with 37 seconds to play. Mitchell was unstoppable on the day, catching 10 passes for 161 yards. Jags coach Tom Coughlin elected to go for two and the win but CB Charles Dimry had tight coverage on WR Jimmy Smith and Beuerlein's pass was incomplete. That seemed to seal the Bucs' win…until moments later when Jacksonville successfully pulled off an onside kick. That left it to CB Martin Mayhew to finish the Jaguars off with an interception on the next play.
The Bucs and Jaguars next met in 1998, with both teams coming off playoff seasons, in Tampa Bay's case its first postseason run in 15 years. However, the Buccaneers had a one-year lull in their extended playoff run from 1997-2002, going 8-8 in '98, while the Jaguars were in the midst of a three-year run in which they went 36-12. Still, it was a close game once again as the Buccaneers made their first trip upstate to play in Jacksonville in Week 11. In fact, Tampa Bay actually had a 24-23 lead with three minutes to play before RB Fred Taylor took a handoff out of the shotgun and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. Coincidentally, and painfully, the Buccaneers had lost to Tennessee the week before when QB Steve McNair took off on a 71-yard touchdown run in the game's final two minutes.
Taylor only had 58 rushing yards in the game otherwise, but he scored three touchdowns, negating a big-play day by Bucs WR Reidel Anthony. Anthony only caught two passes from QB Trent Dilfer, but one was a 79-yard touchdown and the other was a 47-yard score.
The NFL would realign to eight four-team divisions before the Bucs and Jags would meet again, adopting a rotational scheduling plan that would pair up the NFC South and the AFC South every four years. That rotation for the instate rivals would begin in 2003, when the Buccaneers were the defending Super Bowl champs and the Jaguars were at the tail end of four straight losing seasons. Thanks to some key injuries and bizarre late-game finishes earlier in the year, the Buccaneers went to Jacksonville for a Sunday night game in Week 13 with a 5-6 record and a desperate need to beat the 2-9 Jaguars if they wanted to keep their title defense alive.
Instead, the visitors were plagued by penalties, a sputtering offense and a key Brad Johnson interception that set up the game's first score early in the second quarter. Rookie QB Byron Leftwich put the Jaguars up with a 10-yard touchdown pass to TE Kyle Brady, but the Buccaneers answered on their next drive with Thomas Jones' five-yard scoring run. It was 10-10 into the final period until a pass-interference call on Dwight Smith got the Jaguars across midfield and Leftwich then heaved a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith. A failed conversion on fourth-and-four near midfield ended the Buccaneers' last drive of the day, although Ronde Barber appeared to get the ball back to the offense with an interception two plays later. However, the play was challenged and the call was changed to an incomplete pass. Barber had made an amazing leaping interception when the Jaguars tried to catch the Bucs sleeping with one more deep shot to Smith, but the replay showed the ball shifting slightly in the defender's hands when he hit the ground.
The Buccaneers and Jaguars were once again both playoff bound in 2007 when Jacksonville came back to Tampa for the first time in a dozen years. And once again shared a back-and-forth affair that saw the Jaguars make the big play at the end. Jacksonville's defense picked Buccaneer QB Jeff Garcia off three times and allowed him just 19 completions in 41 attempts, but Garcia did get six passes to WR Joey Galloway for 115 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown in the second period, which trimmed Jacksonville's lead to 17-10. Backup QB Quinn Gray only threw 16 passes for Jacksonville, completing seven for 100 yards, but he didn't turn the ball over. In fact, Jacksonville as a team gained just 219 yards to the Bucs' 385, but its plus-three mark in turnover ratio told the story. The Jaguars managed an anemic 3.5 yards per play, but they got seven points on Aaron Glenn's pick-six in the first half. After a 19-yard touchdown run by Michael Bennett and a 42-yard field goal by Matt Bryant turned a 17-13 Buc deficit into a 23-17 lead in the second half, Gray and company mustered one more scoring drive, culminating in Gray's eight-yard TD pass to WR Matt Jones. Tampa Bay still had most of the fourth quarter to answer but punted on their next two drives and saw the last one ended by Reggie Nelson's interception with 19 seconds left.
As noted above, the last meeting, in 2011, bucked the trend of close games decided in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay brought a six-game losing streak into Jacksonville but looked like they might be pulling out of it when they rushed out to a 14-0 first-half lead. LeGarrette Blount capped an 80-yard game-opening drive with a one-yard touchdown run and Barber's interception off rookie Blaine Gabbert set up QB Josh Freeman's 13-yard TD scramble. However WR Preston Parker fumbled away two punts in the first half, and on the second one the Jaguars scooped up the loose ball and scored from eight yards out. That opened the floodgates, the Jags would score on another fumble recovery in the end zone after a sack of Freeman and it was 28-14 by halftime. RB Maurice Jones Drew scored twice on the ground and twice through the air as Jacksonville recorded the final 41 points of the game.
Bucs-Jaguars Game-by-Game Record:
1995: W, 17-16, in Tampa
1998: L, 29-24, in Jacksonville
2003: L, 17-10, in Jacksonville
2007: L, 24-23, in Tampa
2011: L, 41-14, in JacksonvilleSeries Notes:
- Overall Season Series: Texans lead, 4-1
- Bucs' Home Record: 1-1
- Bucs' Road Record: 0-3
- Current Streak: Lose 4 (1998-2011)
- Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 1 (1995)
- Jaguars' Longest Winning Streak: 4 (1998-2011)
- Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 88, Texans 127
- Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Jaguars 29, Buccaneers 24 (1998)
- Most Points in a Game for Jacksonville: Jaguars 41, Buccaneers 14 (2011)
- Most Points, Combined: 55, Jacksonville 41, Buccaneers 14 (2011)
- Fewest Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Jaguars 17, Buccaneers 10 (2003)
- Fewest Points in a Game for Jacksonville: Buccaneers 17, Jaguars 16 (1995)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Combined: 27, Jaguars 17, Buccaneers 10 (2003)