CB Donnie Abraham is making a lasting place for himself in the Buccaneers' record book
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that finished the regular season with eight wins in its last nine games had an excellent run defense and a fine kicking game. What's that? Tell you something you didn't know? Well, how about this: the 1999 Buccaneers were the BEST run-defending and kicking team in franchise history.
Those titles can now be officially bestowed on this current group of Bucs, as the close of the regular season has allowed an updating of the team record books. Most impressive of the new additions is how difficult Tampa Bay was to run against. Consider the margins by which these records were re-written:
Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed, Season: Old: 1,551 in 1988 New: 1,407 in 1999
Fewest Rushes Allowed, Season: Old: 415 in 1998 New: 361 in 1999
The Buccaneers also tied their record for fewest rushing first downs allowed, set at 75 just last season. Lest you think the Bucs were ignoring the airways, however, be aware that the Bucs set an unusual pair of passing records as well:
Best Completion Percentage, Season: Old: 59.3% in 1984 New: 60.0 percent in 1999
Worst Opponent Completion Percentage, Season: Old: 55.8% in 1990 New: 52.7 in 1999
That's right…the 1999 Buccaneers were both the most efficient passing team and the most difficult team to pass against in franchise history, in terms of completion percentage. All of that led to some overall numbers that truly showed the dominance of this year's defense. Though the Bucs fell one spot in the NFL rankings from second in 1998 to third this year, they became tougher to score on or extend possessions against than ever before. To whit:
Fewest Total Points Allowed, Season: Old: 237 in 1979 New: 235 in 1999
Fewest First Downs Allowed, Season: Old: 228 in 1998 New: 244 in 1999
The 1999 Buccaneers were disciplined, as well. Though it happened fairly quietly, the Bucs committed fewer penalties for fewer yards this season than they ever had before. Compare:
Fewest Penalties, Season: Old: 77 in 1997 New: 75 in 1999
Fewest Yards Penalized, Season: Old: 660 in 1997 New: 583 in 1999
Oh, and we did mention the kicking game, didn't we. The Buccaneers' punting and kicking units, as well as its kickoff coverage squad performed at new levels this year, enormously helping a team that puts great emphasis on field position. And the Bucs did it with new players handling both halves of the kicking duties:
Most Points Scored, Individual, Season: Old: 99 by Donald Igwebuike in 1989 New: 106 by Martin Gramatica in 1999
Most Field Goals Made, Individual, Season: Old: 25 by Michael Husted in 1996 New: 27 by Martin Gramatica in 1999
Best Gross Punting Average, Individual, Season: Old: 43.07 by Tommy Barnhardt in 1996 New: 43.13 by Mark Royals in 1999
Royals also put up the second-best net punting average in team annals (37.4 to Barnhardt's 37.8 in 1996) and fell just one shy of the team's inside-the-20 record (24 by Dan Stryzinski in 1993). Gramatica also surrendered a possible record on the season's final day when a blocked kick gave him five misses in 32 attempts for a field goal success rate of 84.4%. Until that miss, he was in position to break Steve Christie's team record of 85.2%, set in 1990.
Other than Shaun King's rookie record-tying seven touchdown passes, no other Buccaneer individual cracked a top spot in the team's single-season record books. However, several well-known Bucs made significant moves up the team's career lists. For instance:
- LB Hardy Nickerson added 141 tackles to his ever-growing career list, in the process becoming the first player in team history to record over 1,000 stops as a Buccaneer. He now has 1,028 tackles in a Buc uniform and 1,454 stops overall in his illustrious 13-year career. Nickerson also was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl as a Buc, just one behind Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon's team record of six.
- FB Mike Alstott added a now-typical nine touchdowns to his career ledger, giving him 34 in just four seasons. That total ties TE Jimmie Giles' nine-year mark of 34 touchdowns for second place on the team's all-time list. Alstott is also tied with Giles for fourth on the Bucs' all-time scoring chart with 204 points each.
- CB Donnie Abraham snared seven interceptions on the season to tie for the NFC lead and record the second-best total (tied) in Buc annals. His career total subsequently jumped to 18 picks, moving him all the way from ninth on the team's career chart to third.
- Before suffering a broken shoulder in Seattle on November 28, QB Trent Dilfer threw for 1,619 yards in 1999, pushing his career total to 12,969. With that, Dilfer slid past Doug Williams (12,648 yards) into second place on the team's all-time passing list.
- And, of course, DT Warren Sapp racked up the best single-season sack total by a Buccaneer in 22 years, dropping opposing QBs 12.5 times to fall just one-half sack shy of Selmon's long-standing record of 13, set in 1977. Those prolific numbers also meant a move up the team's career chart; he now stands second only to Selmon (78.5) with 42.
That's a lot of numbers in a lot of different categories, but the math is still pretty simple. The outstanding play that is represented by the records above led to two other new standards that say it all:
Most Home Wins, Season: Old: 6 in 1981, 1984 and 1998 New: 7 in 1999
Most Regular Season Wins, Season: Old: 10 in 1979 and 1997 New: 11 in 1999