Last week we embarked on our first Path to Glory with a play from just two seasons ago. We asked if you could identify a memorable moment in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history based only on a diagram showing the movements of the principle players involved. As was evident in your Twitter responses before the answer was revealed, you were able to pick this one out pretty quickly as the incredible scramble play from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans against the Chicago Bears in 2016. Good work!
But we have 42 seasons from which to cull these mental highlights, and not all of them are going to be right at the front of your memory banks. Here's a hint: This week's Path to Glory, driven by Mercedes-Benz, is not from the current decade. We think there are plenty of Buccaneer fans who will remember it anyway.
Let's remind everyone how this works. First we'll show you a field with the paths of the players involved drawn on it, but without any other identifying characteristic. You've probably already noticed this week's diagram below; resist the urge to scroll farther down until you've tried to guess what memorable play it depicts. Some diagrams will show just one player's path, others will outline the motions of several players. If the football travels in the air between players during the play (including on a shotgun snap), that will be shown with a dotted line.
After you've had a chance to guess the play from the first diagram, we'll provide you with some hints and then show it to you again with some more details to help those who weren't able to pinpoint the play initially. Then, as your reward for guessing the play, we'll finish up with an animated diagram and the actual video clip of the play.
So, here's this week's Path to Glory:
Can you tell which play is being depicted? Let's break it down a little bit.
The initial line is straight back from the line of scrimmage and it's not dotted, so it's a direct snap and a drop-back by the quarterback rather than a shotgun snap. The quarterback then throws the ball out to the side to another player, and since that player started in the backfield, it would seem to be a running back.
That's when things get a little crazy. This would seem to be the end of the play for the passer, but his line continues on for a long time, with a number of strange twists and turns. The pass-catcher takes a curious little path with the ball, too, not one you would expect, and then there's a second dotted line, which means the ball is put in the air again. It's safe to say that's now how this play was originally drawn up.
As you'll see in the next diagram, the Buccaneers are losing by a score of 35-31 with little time left in the contest when this play happens. That's quite a shootout, especially by Tampa Bay standards. So a crazy, improvised play in a very high-scoring affair? That might ring a bell with some Buccaneer fans.
Let's take a look at the second diagram, which also includes the opponent and the jersey numbers of the player's involved:
We refer to this play as "The Pitch," and the two Buccaneers who handle the ball on the play are quarterback Shaun King (#10) and running back Warrick Dunn (#28). The diagram doesn't show any defenders, but there was a very prominent future Buccaneer who was central to the play's outcome, as well.
This play took place during a Monday Night Football Game at Raymond James Stadium that remains one of the most exciting evenings in franchise history. In fact, there are some who consider it the greatest Buccaneers regular-season game ever. The date was December 18, 2000; the opponent was the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams, who had defeated Tampa Bay 11 months earlier in another unforgettable Bucs contest, the 1999 NFC Championship Game.
That '99 game that sent the Rams to the Super Bowl, but not before an incredible fight by the Buccaneers' stifling defense, was a surprisingly low-scoring affair. The Rams won 11-6 on the strength of a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Warner to Ricky Proehl; prior to that Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and company had held "The Greatest Show on Turf" to just five points in 55 minutes of game play.
The 1999 Rams averaged nearly 33 points per game and would go on to win the Super Bowl against Tennessee. The 2000 St. Louis squad had to scratch and claw to make the playoffs and it failed to defend its title with a one-and-done cameo in the postseason, but its offense was no less explosive. In fact, the 2000 Rams averaged about one more point per game than the 1999 team. And this Week 16 Monday-night rematch in Tampa was played their way, turning into a shootout that produced more than 800 yards and 70 points between the two teams.
Tampa Bay led 31-21 to start the fourth quarter but Marshall Faulk's third touchdown run and Warner's 72-yard scoring pass to Torry Holt put the visitors up by four. The Buccaneers got the ball back for one last shot just before the two-minute warning. On second-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 35, King lined up under center with Dunn the lone back behind him. There was 1:48 on the clock, the Bucs were out of timeouts and the TV crew was openly deriding the home team's offense.
After taking the snap, King dropped back seven yards while Dunn darted out to his right. King quickly threw the ball out to the running back on what looks like a pass but is ruled a lateral. Unfortunately for Dunn, Rams defensive end Kevin Carter – the future Buccaneer – read the play perfectly and was on Dunn as soon as he caught the pass. Dunn tried to dance around Carter but the big end was able to keep him from escaping by getting a hand full of his red jersey. That grab caused Dunn to spin completely around until he was facing his quarterback. With his arms free, Dunn alertly pitched the ball back to King, who initially started to run to his left. With a gang of Ram defenders in his way in that direction, King reversed field, got around the end with help from an alert open-field block by Jerry Wunsch and was able to sprint all the way to midfield before stepping out of bounds. Linebacker Mike Jones arrived a little late with his hit and drew an additional 15-yard penalty, putting the ball at the St. Louis 35 with 93 seconds left.
Now watch the play unfold on this final diagram:
And here's how it looked and sounded:
So now you've seen the path that King and Dunn took to glory on that very memorable play from the 2000 season. Please come back each Thursday to see if you can identify another unforgettable Buccaneer moment simply from the play's diagram.