Last week, we presented you with a "Path to Glory" challenge that put on an emphasis on "Glory." Indeed, the moment in question – Ronde Barber's NFC Championship Game-clinching pick-six in January of 2003 – is considered by many to be the single most important play in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 42-season history.
And, let's be honest: This probably wasn't our most challenging Path to Glory quiz so far. Only the youngest Buccaneer fans are unfamiliar with Barber's shining moment, and the diagram of the play pretty clearly depicted an interception and a long return. It didn't take long for some correct guesses to surface on Twitter. Still, it was fun to relive that memory, and fans who took the challenge were rewarded with a video clip reminder of that night's glory.
Well, we're back with another Path to Glory challenge, and we're confident this one is a little tougher. For one thing, it didn't occur in a playoff game; it fact, the Buccaneers didn't even win the game in which it took place, nor did they make the playoffs at the end of the year. The primary player depicted in the diagram was only a Buccaneer for three years, and he had some highlight reel moments – such as the one outlined here – he probably wouldn't be considered a top 30 Buccaneer of all-time.
This was, in other words, a random but very exciting moment that we deemed worthy of breaking down here in our Path to Glory series. Let's see how quickly you can identify the play.
First, let's remind everyone how this works. To start things off, we'll show you a field with the paths of the players involved drawn on it, but without any other identifying characteristics. 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 play starts on the lower right. Since all the action took place on one half of the field, the snap looks like it takes place near the sideline but this was a typical middle-of-the-field start. For the first time in our Path to Glory series, the diagram does not include any dotted lines, which means the ball never traveled through the air. That should be a big hint as to the type of play at which we're looking.
The first line goes backward a short way, and then another line takes over in the opposite direction. Perhaps that's a quarterback handing the ball off to a tailback?
Here's another thing to consider: Of all the Path to Glory plays we've shown you so far, this one has the most visible Xs. Since the circles clearly depict the players with the football, the Xs are logically defenders, and there are a lot of them involved in this play. Yet the longest line of the diagram continues on quite a ways after the first few Xs get involved.
Finally the good news – assuming the team on offense here is the Buccaneers: The play comes to a stop in the end zone. It looks like it covers about half of the length of the field and ends in a score. That, too, might help you draw this play up from your memory banks. A clue: It happened this decade.
Okay, let's take a look at the second diagram, which also includes jersey numbers, the score of the game at the time and what we've called the play:
As you can now see, this play came at the expense of the Green Bay Packers and, given the title we've given it, you can guess that the primary line belongs to former Buccaneer running back LeGarrette Blount. This is not one of those memorable plays in which Blount hurdled a defender in the open field, but it probably was his single best moment over three seasons in Tampa.
The venue is a historic one: Lambeau Field. It was 2011, and the fortunes of the Buccaneers and Packers were going in opposite directions when they met on November 20. Tampa Bay had lost three in a row after starting out 4-2, and would go on to finish 4-12. Green Bay was still undefeated, 9-0 on the way to 13-0 and then 15-1 before an early playoff exit. And early on, the game seemed to reflect those disparate fortunes, as Green Bay raced out to a 14-0 lead by the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Blount got the Bucs back into the game with one rather beastly run; in fact, the network announcers immediately compared his efforts to the famous "Beast Mode" run by Seattle's Marshawn Lynch in the playoffs the previous January. On first 10 at the Bucs' 46-yard line, quarterback Josh Freeman took a handoff from under center, with Blount lined up directly behind him at the 39. Freeman turned to his right and gave the ball to Blount with his left hand, and the back headed towards the middle of the line.
Center Jeff Faine and right guard Davin Joseph did a fine job of opening an initial hole for Blount, and wide receiver Arrelious Benn sealed off the edge on the back side. However, linebacker Desmond Bishop is unaccounted for and he reacts quickly to meet Blount about a yard past the line of scrimmage. That didn't go well for Bishop, as Blount lowered his left shoulder and won the collision, dropping the defender to the turf, briefly bouncing off to his right and then immediately resuming his way upfield.
That quickly brings him in contact with safety Morgan Burnett, racing in from the left, and cornerback Tramon Williams coming up from the right. Blount splits those defenders, with Burnett hitting the turf and Williams briefly hanging on for a ride before the back slips him off. Linebacker A.J. Hawk also gets in a glancing hit at about the time Williams is falling away but Blount only stumbles a bit to his right and keeps going. At the point the contact began with Burnett and Williams, Blount had only gone eight yards past the line of scrimmage, but he then makes it to the Packers' 30 – with defensive end Ryan Pickett's dive from behind coming up short – before he has to make a quick cut inside cornerback Sam Shields.
At this point, wide receiver Sammie Stroughter has arrived to help out and he happens to get in the way of linebacker Erik Walden long enough for Blount to create a little distance and angle towards the sideline. Walden does manage to catch up with Blount at the seven-yard line but the bruising Buccaneer back keeps him at bay long enough to get the ball over the goal line.
The Bucs battled gamely from there against the unbeaten Packers and Blount would finish with 107 yards. The visitors trailed only by two, 21-19, early in the fourth quarter and then pulled to within 28-26 with 4:25 to go on a Dezmon Briscoe touchdown catch. Unfortunately, Aaron Rodgers, the NFL's MVP that season, countered with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson and Williams intercepted Freeman's next pass to seal the 35-26 victory.
Still, Blount managed to kick off a decent rally with his refusal to be tackled. Below you can watch the play unfold on this final diagram:
And here's how it looked and sounded:
So now you've seen the path LeGarrette Blount took in fashioning a memorable Lambeau Field moment for the Buccaneers. Please come back next Thursday for one more chance to identify another unforgettable Buccaneer moment simply from the play's diagram.