Bucs CB Ronde Barber could only cheer when twin brother Tiki Barber and the Giants helped Tampa Bay clinch a playoff spot
Ronde and Tiki Barber, the NFL's Pro Bowl twins, speak to each other after every game that either one plays. We can only assume that on Saturday night, Ronde, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback phoned his brother, the New York Giants running back, and delivered this simple message:
Or something to that effect. Tiki's Giants beat the Oakland Raiders, 30-21, on Saturday evening, a result that not only won the NFC East for New York but also, in a roundabout way, clinched a playoff spot for Ronde's Bucs. Two birds with one stone. Or, since the game was relatively tight, turning late in the fourth quarter on an impressive goal-line stand by the Giants, two Barbers with one close shave.
Tiki Barber's 95-yard touchdown run gave the Giants an early lead but Oakland, which had no playoff implications at stake, never gave in. Wide receiver Randy Moss' two touchdown catches kept the game in doubt until the closing minutes. In the end, though, it was the Giants who improved to 11-5 and removed any possibility of the Washington Redskins catching them for the division title.
Thus, Tampa Bay will head into its season finale against New Orleans with one piece of the puzzle already in place. The game is still enormous for the Buccaneers, however, as they need a win to take the NFC South division title. The Bucs could also win the division with a loss and an Atlanta win over Carolina on Sunday, but they don't want to leave their fate in another team's hands.
Barber could end up repaying his brother in an unkind way. If the Bucs win on Sunday, Tampa Bay will vault past the Giants into the third seed in the NFC field, bumping New York to fourth. Of course, the difference between the two seeds isn't massive. Both teams still get home games to open the playoffs next weekend and it's anybody's guess as to who the toughest opening opponent is between Carolina, Washington and maybe Dallas.
If both the three and four seeds win in the first weekend, the three seed goes to Chicago for the next round and the four seed goes to Seattle. The Giants nearly won in Seattle in Week 12, missing three potential game-winning field goals, including two in overtime.
The seedings and playoff destinations will be determined by a variety of the results on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, but at least the Bucs know they will be involved. That's an impressive accomplishment for this young team, which put its 5-11 2004 season in the rear view mirror and became contenders again more quickly than most observers expected. For Tampa Bay, it's the first time back in the Super Bowl tournament since they won it all following the 2002 season.
This marks the ninth time in 30 seasons that the Buccaneers have made the playoffs, and the sixth time in the last nine years. Despite the dip in 2003 and 2004, that is still an indication of sustained success equal to any team in the NFL over that span. The Bucs are one of five teams with six playoff appearances since 1997.
Most Playoff Appearances, NFL, 1997-2005
- Tampa Bay…6 * Denver…6 * Green Bay…6 * Indianapolis…6 * New England…6 * Miami…5 * Minnesota…5 * Philadelphia…5 * St. Louis…5