- Strange things sometimes happen in overtime, as they did on Sunday in the Bucs loss to Minnesota
- A 2005 game on Christmas Eve day ranks as one of the wildest OT wins in Tampa Bay history
- The Bucs won the toss but elected to kick in New England in 1988, but it might have been the right choice
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' lost a hard-fought game to the Minnesota Vikings in rather unusual fashion on Sunday, as the winning points came via a 27-yard fumble return by LB Anthony Barr on the first play of the extra period. The fumble was by rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who just minutes before had made a fantastic leaping touchdown catch to give the Bucs a 13-10 lead with two minutes left in regulation.
There was a sense of stunned disbelief on the Buccaneers' sideline, and obviously a hefty measure of disappointment, but that actually wasn't the first time a Tampa Bay game had ended on a defensive touchdown in overtime, or with some kind of strange twist. That's certainly not going to make any of the current Buccaneers feel any better about Sunday's outcome, but it's a reminder of how unpredictable NFL football can be. The Bucs have now played 35 overtime games in almost 39 seasons, and while a good number of them have ended in boring field goal drives, some of them have defied expectations.
Was Sunday's loss to the Vikings the strangest overtime outcome in franchise history? Well, it's certainly up there. Below are five others that no one saw coming.
5. New Orleans 26, Tampa Bay 20, Sept. 8, 2002
This was the first game of the Jon Gruden era, and it didn't start particularly well. The Bucs' offense gained only 161 yards through the first three quarters and trailed 20-10 going into the fourth period. New Orleans held the football for 21 of the first 30 minutes and allowed only 72 first-half yards while opening up a 13-13 lead.
After seeming to sleep-walk through three quarters, the Buccaneers woke up in the fourth behind the man that would come to be known as "The Bull," QB Brad Johnson. Johnson completed seven of 11 passes on a 73-yard touchdown drive that began with just over five minutes left in the game. After Tampa Bay's defense forced its third straight three-and-out, the Bucs got the ball back with two minutes to play. An 11-yard completion with only a few seconds left got the home team into position to try a 40-yard field goal and Martin Gramatica drove it home.
The Bucs seemed to have all the momentum and that continued when they won the coin flip to begin overtime. They drove into Saints territory but punted from the 39; minutes later they got the ball back and drove to midfield but had to punt again. The Saints never got much going on offense but managed to punt and tackle well enough to make the Bucs start at their own six with 4:14 to play. At this point, a tie might have been nice.
Instead, the Bucs went three-and-out and were forced to punt from their own seven, with P Tom Tupa standing near the back of the end zone. On the attempted punt, there was a breakdown in protection and several Saints players were upon Tupa before he had time to get his kick off. Seeing this, he pulled the ball down and looked desperately for another option. Tupa really had no hope – a safety would lose the game and a shanked punt would set up a certain field goal – and he tried to get off some kind of shovel pass to S John Howell. It was easily intercepted by James Allen and as soon as Allen secured the ball, the game was over.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins' late TD catch set up an unpredictable OT finish to Sunday's game against the Vikings
4. Tampa Bay 20, Minnesota 17, Nov. 27, 1994
The Buccaneers were not a particularly good team in 1994, and they were just 2-9 when they went to Minneapolis in Week 13 to take on the 7-4 Vikings. But S Tony Covington intercepted Warren Moon's first pass of the game, setting up a one-yard Errict Rhett touchdown run. Craig Erickson later threw 14-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Hawkins to counteract three Fuad Reveiz field goals and lead to a 14-9 halftime advantage.
It's important to note that 1994 was the year that the NFL adopted the two-point conversion option. This came into play when Moon threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail with just over 90 seconds to play in regulation. The Bucs led 17-9 before that play, so the Vikings naturally went for two and got it on a Moon-to-Cris-Carter connection. Each team had one more possession but the game went into overtime.
The Bucs won the toss and a very short kickoff by Reveiz allowed them to start at their own 38. A 16-yard catch by Hawkins got the ball over midfield but the Bucs eventually had to punt from the 49. Dan Stryzinski, who was adept at kicking the ball high and forcing fair catches, got just that from Eric Guliford at the Vikings 18. However, the Vikings had jumped offside on the kick and the Bucs elected to punt again. This time Guliford muffed the punt and the Bucs' long-snapper, Ed Brady, fell on the loose ball.
The Bucs didn't even bother to run a play from scrimmage. Michael Husted came on to win it with a 22-yard field goal.
3. New England 10, Tampa Bay 7, Dec. 11, 1988
You may have heard of this game. It's the one time in franchise history that the Buccaneers won the toss to start overtime and elected to kick.
It's not as crazy as it sounds.
At the time, the Buccaneers were playing in the coldest conditions they had ever faced. The late-afternoon temperature at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro was 17 degrees, but the howling, 30-mph winds made it feel like 25 below. The Bucs' defense had held the Patriots to 167 yards in regulation and had forced a 7-7 tie on Vinny Testaverde's 15-yard touchdown pass to Mark Carrier in the fourth quarter.
Ray Perkins was in his second year as the Bucs' head coach, and it was his choice what to do when the Bucs won the toss. Considering the force of the wind and the frigid temperatures, he elected to kick, figuring his defense would get another stop and the Patriots would have to punt into the wind.
It didn't work out that way, largely due to an acrobatic catch made by WR Irving Fryar, who suffered a hamstring injury on the play and had to be helped off. Fryar had also started the drive with a 21-yard grab, and this 26-yarder got it down to Tampa Bay's 14. Two short runs later, the Patriots lined up for a 27-yard field goal and Jason Staurovsky hit it for the win.
2. Tampa Bay 27, Atlanta 24, Dec. 24, 2005
Like Sunday's loss to Minnesota, this one had some rather amazing swings of emotion. At various points in the nearly 75 minutes of game play all three possible outcomes seemed almost certain – win, loss or tie.
The 60 minutes of regulation were crazy enough, with the Buccaneers putting up dominant offensive numbers but hurting themselves with two turnovers and 107 yards worth of penalties. When Atlanta's T.J. Duckett scored on a two-yard run, the Bucs had just over four minutes to salvage the game and stay on top in the NFC South race in the penultimate weekend of the season.
The Bucs leaned on star rookie running back Cadillac Williams throughout the game and in the final minutes of regulation. Facing a fourth-and-one at the Falcons' six-yard line with 30 seconds to play, the Bucs gave it to Williams and he not only moved the sticks but burst straight into the end zone to send the game to overtime.
The extra period almost ended as quickly as this Sunday's game did. The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive but Edell Shepherd fumbled the opening kickoff. Atlanta recovered the ball at the Bucs' 18, ran two plays and then brought on Todd Peterson for the formality of a 28-yard field goal. Amazingly, the kick was blocked by DE Dewayne White.
The Bucs then handed the ball repeatedly to Williams to set up a 27-yard field goal try of their own…and normally-reliable Matt Bryant stunningly hooked it wide. An exchange of punts left Atlanta at their own 16 with less than two minutes to go before the game would end in a tie. Both teams were still alive in the playoff race, and the Falcons reportedly called from the sideline to determine what a tie would do to their chances. Whether or not they got the correct answer, they chose to punt on fourth-and-two from their own 24 and Mark Jones ran it back 28 yard to midfield. Two Chris Simms completions to tight ends Alex Smith and Anthony Becht got Bryant into position for a 41-yard field goal to win it, and he drove it home.
1. Indianapolis 38, Tampa Bay 35, Oct. 6, 2003
Most long-time Buccaneer fans will recognize this game as perhaps the most painful regular-season day in franchise history.
The Bucs were the defending Super Bowl champs and were 2-1 coming off a bye week as they played host to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. A wild game that included a Keenan McCardell touchdown on a fumble recovery after an Indy interception (as well as two traditional McCardell TD catches) saw the home team take a 35-14 lead deep into the fourth quarter.
Manning stunningly led a 21-point rally in the last 5:22 of regulation, the details of which have been rehashed many times before. Suffice it to say that a long kickoff return, a successful onside kick and a Brian Kelly injury turned into the perfect storm to lead to overtime. The Bucs tried to avert that extra period by letting Martin Gramatica try a 62-yard field goal, but it was blocked.
In overtime, the Bucs took the opening possession into Colts territory, thanks in part to a running-into-the-kicker penalty on an attempted punt. But the home team eventually elected to punt from Indy's 41 and it went out at the 13.
Manning wasn't done and he converted two big third downs to get the ball down into field goal territory. The Bucs held on third-and-four from their 25, which brought on Mike Vanderjagt to try a 40-yard field goal. Important fact to know about Mike Vanderjagt: In 2003, he technically never missed, making all 37 of his attempts on the season. Of course, he did miss this kick, pushing it wide to the right. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, DE Simeon Rice was called for "leaping," a penalty designed to keep defenders from taking several steps and jumping over the pile.
That gave Vanderjagt another try from 29 yards out. His next kick seemed to be headed a little far to the right, too, but it was deflected by the hand of a leaping Buccaneer and it then flew straight through the middle of the uprights.