The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been to a Super Bowl before, but they've never been on a run quite like this.
Obviously, it takes two or three consecutive wins in the postseason to make it to a Super Bowl, but Tampa Bay's current run goes back well into the regular season. The Bucs won their last four games following a Week 13 bye and then barreled through a series of road playoff games at Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay.
The result is a seven-game winning streak that is the longest in franchise history – regular season, postseason or both. The team's previous record was six straight wins in the second half of the 1999 season, but that run was interrupted in Week 15 by an out-of-the-blue 45-0 defeat at the hands of an Oakland Raiders team that was 6-7 at the time. That '99 team rebounded two win two more in the regular season and then advance to the NFC Champioship Game in St. Louis.
The Bucs haven't lost since their bye week, which was as late in the season as it could possibly be, and Head Coach Bruce Arians thinks the players took his words during the break to heart.
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"Just a little bit of looking inside and knowing this is a really good football team," said Arians of his bye week message. "We lost some close games to some really good teams. We have to find a way to win and it's going to take everybody. There [are] things that are going to happen, but if everybody just digs a little deeper, we'll figure out ways to win games. Once we get going, we're going to be hard to stop."
Arians says the Buccaneers have been able to avoid a letdown on any given weekend over the last two months because they are determined to being accountable to each other, which is the driving force in a a successful team culture change.
"I think what we're going through as a country and what we're going through with the virus and everything, you just have to be committed. For me, it's easy [because] we have a cause. When you get committed to a cause – and our cause is to put rings on our fingers – you do everything you can to reach that goal."
Not only have the Buccaneers won seven in a row, but they've set another team record with eight straight road wins. They're last loss away from home was in Week Five on a Thursday night in Chicago. Tampa Bay surprisingly does not own the longest active streak of road wins, as their Super Bowl LV opponents, the Chiefs, have won 11 straight times away from home. But the Bucs have been dominant in their own streak, outscoring their opponents by an average of just over two touchdowns in those eight wins.
The Buccaneers' offense has had no trouble putting up points in those eight road wins, particularly in the playoffs. The Bucs beat Washington, 31-23, won in New Orleans by a 30-20 decision and finished the run with Sunday's 31-26 downing of the Packers. Remarkably, that streak makes the Buccaneers the first team in NFL history to score 30-plus points in three straight road playoff games.
The 2002 Buccaneers team that captured the franchise's first Super Bowl title was definitely firing on all cylinders at the end, as it outscored its three playoff opponents by a margin of 106 points to 37. But that team lost to Pittsburgh in Week 16 and at New Orleans in Week 13. The 2020 team has not tasted defeat since November. If the Bucs can stretch their streak to eight games, they'll have another Lombardi Trophy to pair with that one from 2002.